We just observed Labor Day, and I hope you enjoyed your holiday. If you’re like me, you look forward to holidays. For some folks, holidays are a day off work or a time of patriotic celebration or religious observance.
Sadly for many, the 4th of July fireworks will be associated with the Highland Park gunfire massacre. When the Juneteenth (June 19) holiday is observed, it, too, is a celebration as well as a harkening back to the ugliness of slavery.
As it happens, I have a personal reason to observe June 19th. On that date in 1941, Martin (Marty) Hausman, was pronounced dead! He was the man I eventually met, and then married, in 1946. He and I came to refer to June 19th as “Marty’s Born Dead Day.” Obviously (and thankfully!) he lived, he married me, and we raised two wonderful children whom he lived to see marry and have families of their own.
Turning back the pages of time to that fateful day of June 19, 1941, Marty was volunteering for military service with the U.S. Army along with several hundred other recruits. The registration, oath-taking, and cursory medical exams took place at the old Chicago Armory building.
During processing, Marty became suddenly ill and passed out, bleeding profusely from every orifice of his body. The doctors on site diagnosed the problem as a severe bleeding ulcer. In his half-conscious state, Marty begged the doctors to call his older brother, Charlie, an intern at nearby Cook County Hospital.
Because the doctors could not stop Marty’s profuse bleeding and because they were convinced he was beyond help, they obliged Marty’s request. Marty overheard them say, “He’s a goner.”
Note: An important fact in this sequence of events is that this emergency took place moments after Marty had been administered the oath to become a member of the U.S. Army.
Charlie raced to the scene, and even though Marty was officially under Army control, Charlie insisted on taking him to Cook County Hospital. The medical staff at the Armory were so certain that Marty would not live to reach the hospital that they released him to his brother, while stamping the word “deceased,” on his official records. Fast forward, and against all odds, Marty survived and spent several weeks recuperating there.
Sometime later, when Charlie had finished his internship at Cook County Hospital, he sought to transfer Marty to the Fort Sheridan Military Hospital for further care. Charlie donned his Navy officer’s uniform to appear more official in order to expedite the process of moving Marty. He succeeded, after which Marty spent about two months, further recuperating and regaining his strength.
Meanwhile, according to his official military records, Marty didn’t exist. This caused much consternation, as the hospital did not know what to do with him. When Charlie decided Marty was well enough for release, he came to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning and “took” Marty, placed him in the back of his car, under a blanket, and brought him home. Marty and Charlie were convinced that the hospital would be relieved when they realized Marty was no longer a patient in their care.
Finally, when Marty was well enough to go back to work and return to some state of normalcy, he contacted the Army to register for a 4-F status. Needless to say, the staff at the draft office could find no record of a live person named “Martin Hausman.” It took weeks and multiple court visits to restore Marty back to his official life.
Some years later, in 1946, when I entered the picture, we decided that June 19th should be an annual day of celebration for us. These special yearly celebrations were not elaborate. Rather, Marty would take the afternoon off of work. We’d have lunch out, and walk along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, often finding a bench or grassy spot in the shade. We talked and watched the boats go by. We spoke of the immense gratitude we had for our lives, and for our love.
To this day, and it’s been many years since my dear husband’s actual passing, I continue to celebrate June 19th, “Marty’s Born Dead Day,” all the while reveling in the gift of life and in the love my husband and I shared.
May we all have special holidays to observe with joy!