Being surrounded by the majestic ocean is Lee’s (90) favorite place in the world. Lee became accustomed to being on the water when he joined the Navy during the WWII era. During his 17 year tenure in the Navy, Lee survived three separate naval vessels that sunk, and miraculously survived them all. The first vessel he was on that sunk is a fairly infamous one— the USS Indianapolis, which sunk returning from Hiroshima after the Atomic Bomb delivery. Lee had to survive shark infested waters until he and the remaining survivors were rescued. Lee received a Purple Heart after surviving the sinking of the USS Indianapolis since both of his legs broke during the wreckage. The second and third vessel that sunk while Lee was aboard were Navy Cargo Ships. Having to survive three separate sinkings left Lee mentally scarred, which resulted in him seeking professional help to talk through these traumatic experiences. Lee was honorably discharged at the rank of Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class (BM1).
After returning from the Navy, Lee worked at an auto repair shop for over 37 years, while he also began to pick up various hobbies— fishing being a major one. Lee and his late wife would often go deep-sea fishing together. They used to go to Pensacola Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, to deep sea fish because “you could really catch a fish there.” This was one of the happiest times in his life, his step-daughter Burma recalls. As his wife’s health started to decline, he became very limited to the amount of fishing he could do, minimizing his time spent on the water.
Currently Lee resides at Brookdale Forest City in North Carolina and loves occupying his time finding treasures and reselling them at places such as the Flea Market. He spends his time participating in devotions and exercising in his community. Though he is living with fairly severe dementia, he often reflects on his deep-sea fishing days. Lee stated that he would love nothing more than to have the opportunity to once more go fishing since it has been over 17 years since his last excursion.
Wish of a Lifetime and Brookdale were happy to make Lee’s Wish a reality by sending him and his son, Steve, to Charleston, SC on May 21, 2016, where they had a half-day of deep-sea fishing experience. Lee was also accompanied by his other son, Mark, and two grandsons, Michael and Colt. The weather was absolutely perfect, and Lee and his family members were all able to catch a couple fish each. The time Lee spent on the water helped Lee feel as if he was home again. Overall, it brought back a lot of happy memories that he and his wife made when they used to go fishing.
Photo Credits: Brenko Studio, Brenda Kokenos