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You are here: Davis of Iowa > Jim Davis's Biography > Part XIX     

Part XIX





(2023 – 2023)


Francine and I flew back to Phoenix on New Year’s Day, head colds and all.  Maggie was absolutely delighted to have us home – as were we.  Fran had retained a young lady who pet and house sits to be with Maggie for the nine days we were travelling.  Francine was so miserable the following day that we went to an Urgent Care Treatment facility nearby for testing and  medications to gain her some relief.  An anti-biotic was prescribed and it helped her recover from her very heavy head cold, which persisted about ten days.


Despite not playing golf for almost a month, I played a round the following Saturday and despite the 43 degree temperature and brisk wind, managed to shoot my age once more.  A favorite other member and I frequently tee off using the first tee time of the day and play the round in two and one half to three hours.  I was nearly over my cold.


The following Saturday, which was also quite chilly, while playing with three other members at 8:20 AM on the par 3 Hole #3, I experienced my second hole-in-one!  It was a 145 yard, eight iron shot which went precisely where I wanted, short and slightly right of the green. The ball landed softly and rolled directly into the hole!  Luck, yes but at least I hit the ball where I intended.  An update to this golf lack of expertise is the following Saturday playing with  Francine, I had the delight of having two birdies on the back nine –  on hole #13 par 4, I sunk the third shot from about 15 feet off the green, about 20 feet in all and on hole #16 par 3, I sunk my second shot from a greenside bunker a shot of about 35 feet!  Never again will I demonstrate such skill!  However, I am not getting my final score back into the mid-80s.



Jim’s Second Hole-In-One


Celebrating Francine’s 80th birthday -


That evening Francine and I hosted 20 long-time friends of Francine at The Estancia Club for dinner and birthday wishes..  It was a wonderful small party with dear friends which Francine thoroughly enjoyed.


Francine’s 80th Birthday Party


On January 16th, Francine’s birthday the two of us had a quiet dinner at her favorite steakhouse, Dominick’s in The Quarter.  It was a wonderful celebration of Francine’s 80th birthday.


Francine Celebrating Her 80th Birthday


Kim and Dave were understandably increasingly concerned with the condition of downtown Pittsburgh and their residence being in the center of the deteriorating center city, with  its crime, homelessness and drugs.  Dave’s employer pressured them to move their home.  Consequently, they purchased a condo under construction in Sewickley, a Pittsburgh suburb. They occupied the new home on March.  Later in March, Kim and Dave brought Veronica, Jackson and Emerson to Scottsdale for spring break. It was wonderful to be with them the better part of a week. Brian also came to Arizona while Kim’s were here, as he had enrolled  golf lessons at the golf school he attended previously.


The second anniversary of Putin invading Ukraine passed with the Russian’s pretty much getting their noses bloodied but also totally destroying Kiev and a number of eastern Ukraine cities with almost continual rocket bombing.  Later in June the Ukraine military took the initiative with a major attack on the part of Ukraine that Russia controlled.  The U.S. national inflation rate reached 10% in early 2022 resulting in the Federal Reserve raising the interest rate ten times in the following fourteen months to 5%.  Inflation has cooled to about a 5% level by mid-2023.  Crude

oil prices have been very volatile throughout Biden’s administration reacting to Covid, the administration’s war of fossil fuels, the draw down the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve and the Ukraine war.  The Republican controlled House of Representatives was able to negotiate an improved budget deal with the administration in June which will modestly supposedly curb federal spending and ease future fossil fuel permitting.


President Biden announced that he is running for a second term as president of the U.S. He will be 82 years old when the next president is inaugurated.  Age, mental capability and physical stamina are all major questions as to his viability as a presidential candidate.    Additionally, congress is investigating the president’s possible corrupt actions when he was vice-president.  As of this writing (September ’23) there are four other announced Democratic candidates with Robert Kennedy, Jr. nephew of President Kennedy and son of Attorney General and Senator Robert Kennedy, garnering about 20% of the votes.  Past president Trump had long ago announced as the Republican candidate.  As of this writing there are twelve  announced candidates for the Republican nomination.  President Trump leads in all polls by a wide margin with typically over 50% of the votes. The current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis  is next with about 20% of the votes.  However, President Trump faces serious personal legal hurdles, having just lost a trial for paying hush money to a NYC woman, indited on felony charges in regard to the political uprising on January 6 and as of this writing just being indicted on assorted felony classified document violations.   The current political condition of the U.S. is as bad as I have experienced.


Brett married Judy Zhou on June 3, in Costa Rica.  All of  our immediate family excepting great grandchildren other than Jackson and Emerson, both of whom were in the wedding party, gathered in Costa Rica for the celebration.  It was a wonderful wedding and an enjoyable but short family reunion.  Prior to the wedding they celebrated a Chinese Wedding Tea Service with Judy/s parents and one of her aunts and uncles and with Brett’s parents and grandparents (Francine and me).  It was a moving celebration with the bride and groom  each serving tea to the other’s parents and immediate families.


Both the bride and groom will soon be 34 years old.  Costa Rica is the 44th country on my list of countries that I have been fortunate to visit - some of them several times.



Brett and Judy At Their Japanese Wedding Tea Service


The war in Ukraine continues to go relatively poorly for Russia and Putin.  On June 24th a mercenary group employed by Putin to aid in Russia’s fight with Ukraine, whose commander and owner is a Russian oligarch, turned on Putin and his military commanders, threatening to march into Moscow in protest for the poor performance of the Russian military and its commanders.  This threatened action severely disrupted Putin’s perceived control of the Russian government. It also provided a significant opening for Ukraine to take advantage of the 25,000 mercenary force’s absence and the disarray in Russia’s defense of the portion of Ukraine that Russia had captured over the past several months with the significant help of this mercenary force.  It is unclear as to the extent of this disruption however, Putin is clearly weakened and the Ukrainians are more emboldened.  It is widely reported that the Russian troops’ morale is depressed while the  Ukrainians are fighting to defend their homeland and are highly motivated. Several weeks later this mercenary leader was killed along with his close advisors when his private jet crashed upon leaving Moscow.  It is widely believed that the plane crash was no accident.




July 4, 2023, At Estancia


Francine and I celebrated July 4th at our club with several friends.  I had been working several months on reducing my weight by a combination of eating some Nutri-system meals and otherwise eating healthily as well as working out more, especially walking on a treadmill at our club’s gym.  I lost 23 pounds and was back down to 190 pounds.  I also wear a recording oximeter each night to watch my oxygen level while sleeping.  The readings have all most without exception been good to excellent.   


In early August we traveled to Pittsburgh to visit Kim, Dave, Veronica, Kyle, Jackson and Emerson  and for them to  help me celebrate my 88th birthday.  We had a wonderful but short  visit with them  and then flew to NYC to visit Lindsey and Lewis in Statin Island for a few days.   We returned to Scottsdale to prepare for our trip to Normandy, France three weeks thereafter.  Francine had planned the trip in considerable detail three years previously and the upcoming trip was pretty much a “dusted off” version of what was previously planned.


Our Normandy Trip-


A visit to Normandy, France to view the Normandy landing beaches, the terrain immediately accessed from the beaches, the memorials and tributes to the massive D-Day Invasion and to better understand the invasion itself has been a “bucket list” trip of mine for some time.  I am not sure that it was a sudden realization as much as a steadily increasing recognition that this world shaping event needed to be added to the list of my personal visits.  I had traveled fairly extensively both domestically and internationally during my business career.  Additionally, Francine and I have enjoyed a number of trips both with family and as a couple. 


Francine knew how important visiting Normandy was to me and since she too, although visiting France numerous times previously had never visited Normandy, she advanced the planning of a Normandy visit to the head of our “bucket list of future destinations”.  She  planned the trip for 2020 right after the 75th Normandy Invasion celebration, however Covid entered the picture and we delayed the trip because of both travel restrictions and substantial closing of various Normandy Invasion venues and hosting facilities. 


In September, Francine and I finally made it happen.  Most of the previously planned trip was reinstated, i.e., hotels, travel guides, etc., and we accomplished our Normandy trip just short of the 80th anniversary of the epic landing, 


We arrived in Normandy on Sunday, September 10th and settled into our wonderful chateau accommodation some ten miles south of the Omaha Beach.  The chateau La Cheneviere was constructed in the eighteenth century on an seventeenth century estate as a family home. It is located on grounds in which an exceptional variety of very mature trees guard the grounds on which the chateau is sited.  During the Germany occupation of France in the 1940s German officers occupied some of the facilities and the chateau was the German officer’s headquarters. 


Today, the chateau is well maintained,, has some 25 rooms in the main building and in surrounding nearby buildings. It has a  nationally recognized restaurant serving French cuisine and wines and a breakfast buffet that is the best I have ever enjoyed. 


Francine had arranged for a private tour of Normandy area for the two of us beginning on Tuesday.  Our guide for the first two days, Pierre Samuel Natson, a 36 year-old Frenchman born in the major seaport of Cherbourg, about 50 miles west of the Normandy beaches .  He was educated in both France and England and  has been guiding small and large tour groups in Normandy for ten years.  He is an extremely bright, knowledgeable and pleasant man with a  personal collection of maps and photos he collected over his guiding career.  As we visited key sites, he described the Normandy Invasion and subsequent battles in the Normandy area in considerable detail and enhanced the discussion with numerous photos, maps and other documents.  He was an absolute delight to be with.  Our guide for the following three days was Jonathan Dale also in his mid-30ies, who had been guiding for ten years and who lived in Bayes, the town nearest our chateau.  He too was exceptionally knowledgeable about the Normandy Invasion.



Describing the events leading to the D-Day Normandy Invasion-


Before describing our Normandy tours, I want to briefly review the WWII history leading to the Normandy Invasion, which was covered briefly and globally in Part II of this autobiography. 


Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and launched or certainly “amped up” the Nazi movement which resulted in WWII.  Joseph Stalin led the Russian Communist Party from 1924 until his death in 1953.  Both men were ruthless,  power grabbing leaders of their parties and their countries.  Both began expanding their countries by allying with and then occupying/capturing weaker neighboring countries.   A number of vulnerable smaller countries between Germany’s eastern and Russia’s western borders were “gobbled up” by Germany and Russia.  Hitler and Stalin reached a truce/treaty in 1939 to  “collaborate” on each  county’s expansion plans and to reduce tensions between these two warring powers.


However, once each country had “annexed” the countries to which each aspired and had somewhat observed the 1939 treaty, both countries began encroaching and poaching the other’s expansions and eventually on June 22, 1942 Germany invaded Russia.  Germany had declared war on the U.S. immediately after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.  The result of Germany declaring war on Russia was  to align Russia with the British and the U.S.  Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met in person several times there-after and coordinated the European portion of WWII. Germany, Italy and Japan were similarly aligned.  In 1941 the U.S. had an Army of 1.446 million, a Navy of 0.28 million and Marine Corps of 0.054 million.  (These expanded to 8.26 million, 3.28 million and 0.474 million respectively in 1945!)


By this time, the Germans had already occupied all of western Europe except for a few “neutral” countries, e.g., Switzerland and Sweden. The British and U.S. fought the Italians and Germans in north Africa as there was no other way at that time to confront the Germans.  The Russians were defending their country from the invading Germans.  The U.S. concentrated on building its military and in manufacturing the needed war equipment and supplies.  The Germans’ focus was in Russia where it was meeting considerable resistance and losing a large number of its soldiers  – as were the Russians.  The U.S. supplied the Russians with a  substantial amount of military equipment and supplies to help keep the Russians fully engaging the German war machine.  This was to the U.S.’s advantage as the U.S. and British’s battlefield casualties were relatively speaking, significantly less than the casualties of both Russia and Germany.


Russia (Stalin)  put  considerable pressure on Roosevelt and Churchill to establish a “second front” in the European theater to draw some of the German troops to the western part of Europe.  The advance of the U.S. and British troops from north Africa to southern Europe was not progressing fast enough to reduce Germany’s focus on the Russian front – Italy was the primary opponent in north Africa and of course in Italy as the allies moved into southern Europe, primarily through Italy.  Neither the British nor U.S. believed that the allies had enough resources to open a second front.  The allies undertook a major bombing operation on German military facilities, particularly military equipment and supply manufacturing operations and major transportation facilities to obstruct German military movements.  Indeed, these campaigns established allied control over all air operations, which was critical to the success of an ally invasion into western Europe.


The Normandy Invasion:


By late 1943 the Russians,  who had suffered immense military and civilian casualties were making progress in pushing the Germans from Russia.   The British and U.S. knew that ready or not a second front in Europe needed to be opened.  General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower was tasked with organizing and planning such invasion.  The British assigned General Bernard Montgomery as the senior commander of the Commonwealth Forces – primarily, Britain and Canadian, with troops from several other countries.  General Eisenhower assigned General Omar Bradley as General of the U.S. forces.  These officers and a large team of less senior officers representing every military discipline potentially involved in the subsequent invasion planned the operation from Great Britain.  The planning included a significant intelligence gathering effort, in part provided by the French resistance individuals on the ground in France.  The landing site chosen was Normandy, France with a significant amount of feinting  to Calais, FR and Cherbourg, FR as the planned landing sites.  The landing operation was code named “Neptune” with the overall Allied operation in western Europe code named “Overlord”.  The scale and detail of this planning was immense.

 The Normandy Invasion remains the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly three million Allied troops crossing the English Channel from Britain to Normandy.  D-Day involved the use of some 6000 ships, including some 750 war ships providing naval bombardment of the landing sites in the early morning hours as well as other support for the landing.  Additionally, the allies had carried out intensive ariel bombardment of the planned and decoy sites in the weeks ahead of and during the invasion.  Our guide reported that the Allied air forces carried out some 19,000 flights/sorties prior to and during the invasion compared to some 300 sorties by the German Luftwaffe. The Allied control of the air was a significant factor in the success of the Normandy Invasion.  However, both the ariel bombing and naval bombardment were largely ineffective against the very heavy defensive fortifications constructed by the Germans.


The invasion was meticulously planned to coordinate with the most favorable tides to maximize the success of the landing and to minimize the casualties.  The dates of  June 4th, 5th  or 6th  of 1944 were considered ideal  with respect to the tides and the moon’s support of the airborne landings however, the forecasted weather was terrible on both June 4th or 5th and the forecasts for the 6th were “iffy”.  Regardless, General Eisenhower decided that the invasion could not be delayed and made the “Go” decision for June 6, 1944.


Our Normandy Tours-


Our first stop was Sainte Mere-Englise, a small town located 10 miles south of Utah Beach which was liberated by troops during the early morning hours of June 6th from the 82nd Airborne Division.  The 82nd Airborne planned to drop paratroopers in three landing zones near the village and to capture and hold three strategic road and bridge sites to prevent the Germans from reinforcing the Normandy coastal defenses protecting the beaches.  Because of bad weather and various errors the 82nd Airborne troops were scattered and many of them landed miles from their intended drop zones.  A similar fate occurred with the 101st Airborne’s paratroopers which had three similar drop zones and missions somewhat west of the 82 Airborne’s assigned drop zones.  Regardless, a sufficient amount of the 82nd Airborne troops reached their objectives, liberated the village which was lightly defended by the Germans – the first French town liberated by the allied troops - and held their assigned positions preventing  Germans troops from reinforcing the German coastal defenses from this particular sector.  Some of the paratroopers landed in the town square and incurred murderous fire from the German troops occupying the village.  Two of the paratrooper’s parachutes were caught on the town’s cathedral located in the center of the village where they were “sitting ducks” for the German shooters on the ground.  The battle of Sainte Mere-Englise and bravery of the 82nd Airborne paratroopers is memorialized in the Airborne Museum located in this village which is the first of the many museums, monuments and locations we were to visit.

The Cathedral In Sainte Mere-Englise (Notice the dummy parachutist -upper left)


Our next stop was at the very small nearby La Fiere Bridge on a narrow two lane roadway which was one of the roads that German reinforcements  could travel to assist with  the coastal defenses.  I had not known that much of the lowland terrain a few miles inland from the Normandy beaches is normally flooded in  wet weather.  Additionally, small streams flowing through this lowland are capable of being dammed to intentionally flood the lowland farms to add in the farming  operations.  The La Fiere bridge on the modestly elevated roadway, like many of the bridges in the area, was equipped with gates/dams which when closed were effective dams causing flooding of these lowlands.  The Germans knowing that flooded terrain, even a few inches of surface water would seriously hinder the progress of invading armies had flooded much of this lowland as part of their coastal defense.  The battles at the La Fiere bridge prevented German reinforcements from reinforcing the coastal defenses on the Utah Beach via this avenue.


The Normandy Cliffs


The Normandy shore generally consists of cliffs as seen in the photo above, most of which were some 100 feet high.  There were a few “exits” from these beaches where there was a narrow but reasonably gentle slopping opening to the beaches.  Access to these exits were critical to moving troops, equipment and supplies from the landing locations to the Normandy interior.  However, these exits were heavily guarded with by the Germans with well placed fortifications.  The vegetation was cleared from most of these exits thereby eliminating natural cover for the troops.  Consequently, many Allied troops scaled the cliffs to attack these fortifications from the rear where the fortifications were the weakest.


Francine And Jim (Notice this location is one of the exits from Utah Beach)


From the  La Fiere Bridge we drove to coastal defensive fortifications overlooking Utah Beach – one of five landing beaches and the western most landing beach of the invasion.  The Germans had constructed all along the Normandy and other potential continental landing sites, emplacements/bunkers some of which contained large caliber naval guns to fire on ships – particularly any ships supporting a possible invasion. These bunkers were constructed with very thick steel reinforced concrete which was largely undamaged by the heavy Allied  bombing prior to the invasion and the heavy naval shelling in the hours prior to the invasion.  The range of these guns, some as large as 155 mm, was up to 15 miles.  In addition to the large guns there were numerous smaller caliber machine gun nests/bunkers located with advantageous fields of fire covering the beaches and more importantly the exits from the beaches through the tall coastal cliffs on the Utah Beach.  Among the five landing beaches for invasion there were a limited number of narrow exits from the beaches to the  inland of  Normandy. When the troops exited the beaches they attempted to use these exits but the Allied troops in these exits were highly exposed to the German’s gunfire.


The Utah Beach (One section without the huge cliffs)


The Utah Beaches at the base of these cliffs were quite open and gently sloping into the English Channel.  The Germans had constructed and placed many steel and concrete obstacles on the beaches to hamper the landing of various crafts.  The tides in this portion of the Channel were about 18 feet making the tides a critical element of the landings success, e.g., the landing of troops, the immediate supply/resupply of the needed war materials and the evacuation of the wounded.  At high tide many of these obstacles were covered by seawater.  At low tide the open beach was some 300 yards of open beach and where the Allied troops were highly visible to the German defenders.  Additionally, all of the beaches were heavily mined.  Hitler assigned General Rommel, who was highly successful commanding German tank operations in North Africa earlier in the war, to command the coastal defenses of western Europe.  Rommel planned to stop the invasion on the beaches.  As part of those defenses, he requisitioned some 20 million anti-personnel and anti-armor mines.  Many of those mines were installed on the five beaches targeted by the Allies.


Regardless, the Utah Beach landings were quite successful with the landing of some 28,000 American troops.   These troops suffered 1% KIA and another 2% WIA and MIA.   The troops were able to by and large scale many of the cliffs and attack the Germans defending the beaches and particularly the exits from the beaches from behind.  The Utah Beach was secured in less than an hour.


We next visited the Pointe-du-Hoc site which was a sharp point of land out into the English Channel on the western edge of Omaha Beach.  The Pointe was 100’ above sea-level. The Germans had constructed an immense observation bunker on edge of the point which had a field of vision of some 240 degrees along  the Normandy coast line  - most of Omaha Beach and that portion of the English Channel.  The bunker served as the eyes and ears of the German forces defending this portion of the beach.  The Germans had planned to place six 155 mm guns in bunkers behind the observation bunker.  All of these bunkers were built using very thick walls of steel reinforced concrete.  The allies sent an advance team – two battalions  of Army Rangers  - to neutralize this observation bunker and the six guns  - which could fire rounds some 15 miles into the Channel and severely damage ships of the invasion force.  The Rangers were to destroy the guns and  to hold the position during the landing.  The Rangers, despite very heavy casualties were successful however  the Germans had not  installed the guns  in the completed bunkers.  The Rangers found the guns in a hedge row  several miles south of the beach and rendered each of them useless with thermite grenades.  The lead battalion on the assault suffered very high casualties.  The second battalion of Rangers was redirected to participate in the Omaha Beach landings.



Inside The Observation Bunker on Pointe du Hoc


One Of The Bunkers On Pointe du Hoc (Notice how these bunkers survived the very heavy

aerial and naval bombing/bombardment.)


The Pointe du Hoc Monument Placed On The Observation Bunker


Next we visited the Normandy German cemetery  which contained the graves of some 21,300 German soldiers.  Each grave consisted of two coffins but shared only one head stone which listed only both men’s names and ranks. 

The Normandy German Cemetery


We visited several sites along Omaha Beach, including walking a portion of the beach and examining a number of bunkers many of which were still  in very good shape.  The battle for Omaha Beach was more difficult than for Utah Beach with casualties of some six times more severe than on Utah Beach.  The  wind  and water currents on Omaha Beach significantly disrupted the landing.  A battalion of tanks which were to provide cover and fire support for the infantry troops in the landing lost all but two – of 31 tanks -  because the tanks were discharged from the landing craft too soon in water too deep.  There were only five exits from the Omaha Beach other than scaling the up to 100 feet tall cliffs. In total some 32,000 American troops landed on Omaha Beach which suffered some 1800 KIA and 3200 WIA and MIA.   


Omaha Beach (This photo taken in one of the five exits from Omaha Beach)


Omaha Beach (Notice somewhat lower beach cliffs in this section and the long flat slope to

the Channel.  The tide in this photo was about mid-high and low.)


We visited the Normandy American Cemetery to view the precisely placed crosses of some 9386 American service men killed or died of wounds suffered in Normandy during the war.  There are also 307 “unknowns/unidentified” buried there.  Each grave marker included the service member’s name, date of birth and death, and rank. This was an emotional visit although neither Fran nor I knew anyone who was buried there.  In addition, there is a wall surrounding a   portion of the cemetery memorial with the names of some 1357 missing soldiers.  These are mainly men lost at sea during the landing whose bodies were never recovered.  Also, there were some 14,000 soldiers whose bodies were originally buried in temporary graves in the Normandy area that were sent home at their families’ request. The cemetery borders a portion of the Omaha Beach and is immaculately maintained. Visitors are not permitted to leave the walking paths to visit specific graves unless accompanied by a cemetery official.  


The Normandy American Cemetery



The Normandy American Cemetery Is Located Along Omaha Beach (Notice the English Channel Behind Jim.)


The third day we visited the fortifications and walked some of both Gold and Juno Beaches.  Gold Beach was immediately east of Omaha Beach and it was bordered on the east side by Juno Beach. Immediately east of Juno Beach was Sword Beach.   Gold and Sword Beaches were assaulted by  24,000 and 28,000 British soldiers respectively.   These British soldiers were augmented modestly by troops from a number of other allied countries, e.g., Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, New Zeeland, Australia, Poland and Austria. 


One Of Many Gun Bunkers On Juno Beach


Often forgotten, Canada, proportionally to its population, made the most significant contribution to the Allies war effort. On D-Day, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was tasked with storming the longest beach, Juno. It then fought against the infamous 12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend” in what were some of the most brutal actions of the battle.  Juno Beach was assaulted by 17,000 Canadian forces.   Juno Beach was secured in the second shortest time of 2.5 hours. 


The progress by the British forces was more strongly opposed with very little progress made in the first day on Gold Beach.  Conversely, the progress on Sword Beach was reasonably successful.   One of the most successful and audacious actions by the British was the  6th British Airborne Division’s  to secure the Pegasus Bridge.  Three glider units  from this division were assigned responsibility to land close to this critical bridge and to hold the bridge from Germans who might destroy it to impede progress of the Allies.  Amazingly, these three gliders all landed within about 50 feet of the bridge on a remarkably small patch of open area, captured the bridge and held it until relieved by soldiers landing on the beach some three miles away.  This bridge was critical to the advance of the British forces.


We also saw a few remnants of the Mulberry harbor - one of two harbors built by the Engineers to enable large quantities of men, equipment and supplies to be off-loaded from various ships and to quickly move these men, equipment and materials to where they were needed.  These harbors were amazing feats.  Pontoon causeways were assembled on top of huge concrete piers built in the U.K. and floated across the English Channel.  When the piers were located in the proper position  they were filled with water to sink to the Channel bottom and to be held in place. The causeway extending several hundred yards from the beach into the Channel was then constructed.  These causeways could accommodate up to 26 ships concurrently.  An immense number of men and vehicles and an immense tonnage of supplies and materials were handled through these two harbors.  Unfortunately, a severe storm in the Channel destroyed one of the harbors and badly damaged the second one, causing downtime for the repair of one remaining causeway.


Concrete Pillars On Which A Causeway Was Constructed To Unload Transport Ships


On our final day we drove about 90 minutes to visit Mont Saint-Michel a small Medieval town built entirely on an island of granite located in a large bay off the English Channel about one kilometer off shore at high tide from France.  The  tides in this bay have been known to be as much as 50 feet.  The huge beach of this bay at low tide consists extensively of essentially quick sand making it dangerous to walk to the island  when the tide would otherwise permit doing so. Although licensed guides are permitted to lead groups to the island on foot.  Motorized vehicular access is now available for tourists from a remote parking site.


The island was a major Christian pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages and the location of the renowned Benedictine abbey.  The abbey was designed and built on the island’s steep granite rock and is surrounded by a small village of retail shops  and residences increasingly serving the booming tourism to the abbey.  The abbey is recognized as one of the finest examples of medieval monastic architecture.


Mont Saint-Michael


The site is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the “Wonders of the Western World”.  The village surrounds a large legendary Abbey church.  Built originally to accommodate some 60 monks working on transcriptions of various religious books and to greet the faithful.  Today only about six monks occupy the Monastery.   After touring the Monastery, including climbing the 388 steps to the top level, we drove back to Bayeux and stopped on the way to our chateau at the famed Bayeux Tapestry.  The 68-meter long (223 ft.) embroidered linen cloth illustrates a unique description of a famous part of British history, the Norman Conquest of England in 1066.


Thus ended our wonderful and educational tour of Normandy.  We spent two days in Paris enjoying a bit of the local sites, which both Francine and I had visited in the distant past but not recently.  It was a nice reminder of our earlier times in Paris.  On our return to Scottsdale, we spent two days in Boston, visiting Brian, Jill, Brad, Tedy, Astrid, Adam, Kevin, Mandy, Eva and Levi.  And then back to Scottsdale to enjoy Maggie.


In September, the Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh on whose board Kim is a member launched in conjunction with Allegany Health Network, of which David is CEO a mobile veterinary clinic to take animal health care to underserved Pittsburgh neighborhoods.  The van and its purpose was an idea which Kim promoted, fundraised for and significantly made happen, is dedicated to Cindie our daughter, sister and family animal lover.  Allegany Health hopes to expand the services to include basic humane medicine to the owners of these animals who are also underserved with healthcare.   The launch of the program was a featured article in USA Today newspapers around the U.S.


The Placque On The Side Of  HARP’s Mobile Veterinary Clinic


On October 10th, Courtney gave birth to Siobhon Cindie Holub a healthy 7lb  4oz baby girl.  Both mother and daughter did well and were soon home joining Siobhon’s older brother, Evander and father Andrew. Among four of our six grandson’s we have four great-grandsons and four great-granddaughters. Each of the four families have both a daughter and son!


Siobhan Being Introduced To Her New World By A Proud Father, Andrew.


In October, Francine and I flew to Orlando, FL to visit her older sister, Joan and Gene Krause, my dear friend of some 58 years. Joan lost Bob, her husband of 58 years in May.  At the time they were living in their home in The Villages, FL. Francine and I were unable to attend Bob’s service in June.  Upon losing Bob, Joan sold their home and moved into a retirement community near Tampa, which is close to one of her sons and his wife’s home.  Francine, had a very good visit with Joan over three days and I was able to spend quality time part of one day with Gene who is 95 years old.  Additionally, as a treat Gene’s younger daughter, Mindy, who along with her husband own a retirement home nearby Sarasota, spent several hours with Gene and me.  I last saw Mindy some 55 years ago.  It was a special treat to catch up with her and to learn how well she is looking after Gene who is in remarkable health and being well cared for in his assisted living home.


During Thanksgiving week, we hosted Francine’s daughter Lindsey and her husband, Lewis for their annual Scottsdale visit.  Lindsey is particularly fond of Maggie to which Maggie responds in kind.  We dined at their favorite restaurants,  toured Phoenix’s Arboretum and its extensive cactus gardens, attended a movie and generally reconnected.  Unfortunately, Lewis did not feel well during the second one-half of the week and upon returning to Statin Island, he and Lindsey tested for Covid and learned that he was positive. Lindsey, Francine and I all managed to escape Covid  this time.  However, Lindsey learned upon returning home that Lewis had arranged for them to adopt an eight week old Cavapoo puppy very much like Maggie.  Lindsey, particularly is in seventh heaven taking care of Suki!


Francine and I planned a ten day visit to Boston and Loon, NH to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve with family.  Lindsey and Lewis were driving to Boston to spend Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day with us.  We were then going to Loon to spend the next four days with my family who were gathering at Brian’s ski home.  We were to then spend New Year’s weekend with Brian and Jill in Boston.  We flew to Boston on Friday although I was suffering with a minor head cold. With the number of guests that Brian would have in his Loon home he requested that everyone test for Covid prior to arriving at Loon.  On Saturday AM with Lindsey and Lewis about to depart Statin Island for Boston, Francine and I tested for Covid – I was positive!   After discussing this development with Lindsey and Lewis they decided not to drive to Boston.  We also decided that we could not attend Brian’s Family Christmas festivities and so we changed our return flight from Boston to do so on Christmas Day.  Upon returning home we retested for Covid and both Francine and I were positive.  We had made the correct decision. The only favorable aspect to all of this was we were able to be reunited with Maggie Rose, who was spending the prospective ten days with a lovely lady who had a wonderful house perfect for “dog sitting”.  She had done a wonderful job in caring for Maggie however, Maggie was as glad to see us as we were to see her.


Fortunately, neither Francine nor I suffered much from these bouts of Covid.  We enjoyed a lazy several days including being able to join our family via the Facebook Portal device installed on both our and Brian’s TV screens as the youngest generation opened their Christmas gifts.  Brian took the obligatory family pictures of all those in attendance on that particular day.  Absent at that time were Kevin and his family, as they had left Brian’s earlier because of Mandy having a bad case of the flu and Adam and Veronica two as Adam had to return to work on Thursday.

Left to Right, Front Row:  Jackson, Emerson, Henry (dog), Second Row: Veronica one, Kim, Judy, Brian, Jill, Bradley & Tedy, Courtney & Siobhan, Rachel (Jill’s daughter), Back Row: Kyle, David, Brett, Nicole & Astrid, Andrew & Evander, Adam Z (Jill’s son).

On the TV Screen: Jim and Francine.

Absent Mandy, Kevin, Eva & Levi plus Adam H and Veronica two.


Otherwise, Francine and I spent a lazy several days watching football, playing with Maggie Rose and celebrating New Year’s Eve with a wonderful steak dinner at a nearby restaurant.  Happy New Year and may 2024 be an even better year for all of us.