GOWEN, Mich. — A crowd gathered outside of a home in Gowen on Saturday to honor a pair of World War II veterans.
One of them was there, but the other was not.
“It give[s] closure,” said Leonard Gyles, a 100-year-old Army veteran from Holt.
The ceremony ended a lifelong mission.
“It took 75 years, took 75 years to get us together,” said Gyles.
Decades ago, Gyles started a search. He wanted to find his Army buddy Cecil “Pete” Fisk, who lived in Sand Lake. The two grew close while serving overseas in the 69th Infantry Division.
“It seemed like wherever I went, Cec went with me,” said Gyles. “Wherever Cec went, I went with him.”
Gyles says he not only wanted to catch up, but say thank you.
“He stayed with me, put pressure pads and sulfur to coagulate the blood,” said Gyles.
In March 1945, enemy fire seriously injured Gyles, but he says he lived because of Fisk’s efforts.
After spending more than three quarters of his life searching, a 100-year-old World War II veteran finally found the man who saved his life in West Michigan.
“He was there for four hours, keeping me alive until the medics came and the chaplain came, but then I lost track of him,” said Gyles.
After a nine month hospital stay and multiple surgeries, Gyles returned home and was determined to locate Fisk.
“Marie and I went up in ’47, tried to find him, ’48 tried to find him, and no avail,” said Gyles. “I wrote him a letter and I had the wrong address. In ’80, I got my computer … and they told me different ways we could find Cecil, but I never did.”
However, that changed this past spring. Gyles’ daughter found Fisk’s obituary online. He passed away in 2007.
Gyles’ family then called the funeral home and asked to get in touch with Fisk’s family.
She then called the funeral home who posted
“There was a message on the answering machine to call the funeral home and get in touch with Leonard’s daughter,” said Kevin Fisk, Cecil’s oldest grandson. “That’s kind of what got the ball rolling.
Fisk’s family says they welcomed the surprise.
“My grandpa always talked about his buddies from the war,” said Kevin Fisk. “To finally get to meet them in person and finally be able to put in context who these people were and what their experiences were together during the war, it’s a treasure.”
Gyles says he’s thankful to connect with a part of his past that gave him his future. He went on to get married, have four children, and work as a barber.
“Never give up,” said Gyles. “Someday you’ll make connections one way or another.”
Gyles is still searching for another friend named Ed. Gyles’ daughter learned he pass away in 1999, but they hope to connect with his family.