George discovers true meaning of Christmas
George was a cantankerous man who came across as rough and tumble. A hardened World War II veteran, he parachuted in some of the most ferocious action in Italy and then moved northward in the assault on Germany.
The stories he told about his experiences in Europe were unbelievable. He helped me understand what the war was all about and he also helped me understand the debt we owe to the Greatest Generation.
People who really got to know George D. Graves Jr. understood that under that tough exterior beat a heart of gold. He was always the first to step up to help those in need without attracting attention to himself in the process.
George worked with me as a reporter at The Leader and State Register in Seaford in the 1970s into the 1980s. He came to the paper later in his life after his own paper in New Jersey went under.
George also had his demons. He liked to drink and he loved to gamble; the two don't tend to mix that well. Those two traits added to his persona of being a curmudgeon with little feeling.
George covered the hard-news beat, reporting on police and town and school meetings. He didn't like writing fluffy pieces that are really the backbone of a community newspaper. He banged out his stories on an old black typewriter even as computers started to invade the newsroom. He didn't like change.
So when George came to one day near Christmas and said he had a story he wanted to write about a clothing drive at an elementary school I was a little shocked.
“Are you feeling OK?” I asked him.
He said he was fine and would turn in the story the next day.
The story was short, but what George turned in still brings a tear to my eye three decades later.
George discovered that something was found in the pocket of a coat being donated to the clothing drive. Inside the pocket was a small envelope containing money, as well as a hand-written note from a student at the school. It seems that a young girl had been saving up money for a long time, but wanted to give it away to someone else who needed it more.
George was so touched by this selfless act of pure love that it melted his heart, as it did those who read his story about the true meaning of Christmas.
But that's not the end of this wonderful tale. The young girl who gave away her life's savings to a complete stranger was my niece, Carreen Kouts, who is still as giving and caring as she was as a child.