A friend in Bobby Lougee

Jun. 20, 2013 @ 05:31 PM

Bobby Lougee was my go-to guy for World War II veteran stories. He introduced me, and subsequently you, to Pearl Harbor veteran Cecil Chandler. And veteran Grover Glymph. And many others.

Bobby died over Memorial Day weekend, appropriately enough. I worked that weekend and wrote about World War II veterans on Memorial Day, not knowing that “my” local vet had just died. I was out of town for his funeral, so I grieved alone. “He was my friend,” I cried to my husband, who knew who Bobby Lougee was from my dinnertime tales of the workday.
Lougee was 90. He led a good life. Many of you knew him. Anyone who graduated from Durham High School during the war years and stuck around or came back for reunions definitely knew him. He always had a joke to tell or something nice to say. At an event for veterans three years ago, he even won an award for best joke. Bobby was a regular here at the newspaper, someone who came by to say hello and such. The last time I saw him was a few weeks before he died, when he came by with his grandson. Lougee had been ill, and didn’t like what goes along with getting old.
He was my go-to guy for World War II veterans because he knew so many of them who fought and came home to Durham and spent the rest of their lives here. I wrote about his experience once, too. He joined the Marines over the other branches because he liked the uniform best.
He was white and grew up in a time when segregation was the norm, but never thought he was better than anybody else. When the Durham Center for Senior Life held an event for Montford Point Marines, who were the first African American Marines, Lougee attended. He didn’t know anybody there, but he went because they were his fellow Marines.
Lougee told me about life in Durham during the Great Depression and taking a quarter to a store at Five Points to buy six hot dogs for the family dinner. Not five hot dogs for a quarter, and not seven. Six. It’s details like that Lougee remembered, and I’ll remember, too. When I’m 90, I hope I’m as friendly and well-regarded as Bobby Lougee.
I gravitate to World War II veterans for two reasons. First, I love history and that era of American life. Second, they are my grandfathers’ generation. My grandparents have all died. My dad just turned 70, and now I realize that 70 isn’t as old as I thought. His dad, my Grandpop, would have been 100 this summer. I miss him. I miss Bobby Lougee, too. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and grandfathers, living and not.
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.