A pair of Anne’s, one famous, one not, both beloved, celebrate birthdays this week in the rare air of their nonagenarian years. Annie Glenn, widow of famed Astronaut/Senator John Glenn, turned 99 on Sunday. Anne Davin Zeller, my maternal aunt and our family’s last surviving member of the Greatest Generation, will be 97 on Friday. They have more than a name in common.
Long before his Mercury 7 NASA fame and distinguished Senate career, John Glenn flew combat missions against Japan in World War II. Aunt Anne’s husband to be, Herman Zeller, served in the Army Corps of Engineers and helped build and maintain airfields for Allied forces fighting their way across the Pacific and to VJ day, 1945.
The odds are long that Glenn, a hotshot Marine aviator, and Zeller, a mild-mannered, behind-the-scenes soldier, ever crossed paths. But both were heroes in their own right. They left the comforts of home and loving families behind to serve in one of the bloodiest theaters of war in recorded history. To the good fortune of our country and my family, both came home.
During the war, Aunt Anne and my late mother were among millions of women providing essential support to the war effort. For Annie, that meant employment at Indiana’s Jeffboat Shipyard, which produced scores of LSTs for the war effort.
Newlywed Annie Glenn would have been hard-pressed to believe what would follow the war. The Glenns enjoyed 73 years of marriage, mostly on the world stage. Uncle Herman passed away relatively young, and the Zellers barely eclipsed 25 years of marriage…but they packed a lifetime of love into a story-book romance.
Happy Birthday, ladies, and thank you from your grateful nation and lucky families.
If you’re so inclined, drop a birthday card to a lady who, trust me, you would love to know.
Mrs. Anne Zeller
Episcopal Church Home
7504 Westport Road
Louisville, KY 40222