Incelebration of his new life, a private service will be held at 10 a.m.Monday December 7th, at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, followedby a burial service at Forest Lawn.
It is no coincidence that thecelebration of the Pearl Harbor Survivor's new life will be takingplace on the 68th anniversary of the date which will live in infamy.Leon Kolb (Papa) was aboard the Battleship USS Oklahoma that fatefulSunday morning when the Japanese torpedoed and eventually sunk his ship.
According to the Daily News,Papa, wearing white shorts and a regulation U.S. Navy T-shirt, wasordered out of the ship's magazine by men who wouldn't survive the day.Then he remembered his ring [Nana's engagement ring which was in hislocker a few decks below] - followed by a biblical injunction never tolook back - and scrambled to safety over the rising port gunwale.
"Isaw a picture of Lot's wife turning to go back, she turned into apillar of salt. And I took that as God's message: Don't go back. If Ihad, I would have been buried in salt water with the rest who had gonedown."
The attack lasted 12 minutes. Of the 1,300 sailors on the USS Oklahoma, a third were lost...
"Ilost the ring, but got the girl," he said. Papa and Lucille Kolb (Nana,now 98) recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary together,Wow!
Exactly a year ago, I moved back to LA after hearing an inner voicetell me that I was to be near my grandparents in order to watch overthem. The calling was so loud and clear, that I had absolutely noproblem leaving behind a cozy setup and beautiful community just northof the Golden Gate bridge. I even recall telling a friend that I feltthat I was supposed to move next door to my grandparents and becomebest friend's with my amazing grandfather, which is exactly what I did.
Mostpeople who have been lucky enough to meet a grandparent or two, muchless spend a significant amount of time with them, can tell you of theunique connection that exists between them. In a healthy situation, thelove shared between a grandparent and grandchild is one of the purest,non-judgmental, unconditional forms of love one can experience. It's nowonder why in many cultures around the world, grandchildren are raisedby their grandparents.
A few months ago, I asked Papa if hecould tell me what his happiest moment was in life. He said, "I havenever had more joy in all my life than cheering for you at all yourbaseball and basketball games as a kid and all through high school." Iwanted to melt from feeling like the luckiest person in the world, andfor being so grateful for having so much love in my life and for mydesire to share that love with everyone around me. Papa should have wonan award for longest streak without missing a grandson's sportingevent, from t-ball to varsity volleyball, just amazing!
A fewweeks back, and after a six day sleepover at Kaiser hospital, we becamewell aware of Papa's weakening heart and overall condition. In fact, onthe second day there, the doctor made it seem like he was going to gothat day, so the rest of the family including Nana drove up from SanDiego. But I knew Papa better than that. He wanted to launch from home,on his terms not Kaisers and he counted on the family to help him makethat happen. Later that evening, sitting in the dark beside his bed, Iscribbled the following in my notebook:
When Iheard Nana tell Papa that he was the best husband in the world, Icouldn't believe my ears. Holding back her tears, she spoke withsupernatural strength. There was so much love happening that I'm sure Iwill continue to process it into the future. Why do I feel sad? Becausemy loved one may be getting close to stepping into the unknown? Thisunknown has no pain, no suffering, no embarrassment, only joy. Papa hasprepared for this journey for a long time. Man, he took up his crosswith dignity, love, honor, respect and without complaining.
Hehas helped me become more of the man that I am to be. I am so gratefulfor his showing me the way, the truth and how to live a simple andnoble life. The doctors say his heart is weak but his Heart has neverbeen stronger! He is the strongest man I have ever met, a truegentleman, so beautiful, elegant, proper, and caring for everyone else.The way he lit up when my sister Tala entered the hospital roomyesterday was extraordinarily special. He was so excited to speak withher about all the current unfolding of her life. I think I remember himshouting my goodness in his burly Oklahoma accent, when I told him that she was driving up from San Diego to see him.
The breathe of life is so powerful.Even with a weak heart and drowning lungs, this man loves to breathe! Ilove him. He is my hero, my teacher, my legend, my DNA, my role model,my Papa. Papa has taught me how to respect people, make them laugh,lift them up, and treat them fairly. Yes, he was fair to everyone. Hewas tolerant of different faiths and appreciative of differentcultures. Papa was organized, meticulous, patient, supportive and hehad no problem asking for help when he needed it, which was rare. Hishands are so rugged and strong maybe from 11 years in the navy, 26 asan LA City firefighter and many more pulling electrical wire andcutting down trees, just for kicks. Yea, he's my papa...
Earlier that same night, the nurse wheeled in his special low-sodium dinner with a very special pack of salt free seasoning, Papa's Perfect.I couldn't believe my eyes! It was a divine message confirming thatPapa was going to recover well enough to be discharged and sent home,where he wanted to be all along. And he did. And two weeks later, heagreed to let me drive him down to San Diego to spend Thanksgiving withthe entire family. As he always did, he said the blessing over thedinner table and was able to spend intimate time with his belovedLucille, which would be their last.
After having breakfast withPapa yesterday morning, I came home and set some time aside to prayespecially for him, a few others and for peace on earth. Shortly after,I gathered my things and headed out the door for a lunch meeting inSilver Lake. As soon as I walked out the front door, my phone rang.Papa's caregiver, Karl, called me to mention that Papa just walked fromthe kitchen to the living room, sat down in his chair and since seems alittle drowsy, which was nothing new. I told him that I would stop byfor a second to check things out before heading out to my meeting. Welooked at each other in the eyes and I asked him if everything was allright. I could here something different in Papa's breathing, it wassoft and extraordinarily peaceful. I knew that it was time. I looked upat Karl and said these are final breathes aren't they. He nodded. Weheld hands and prayed in gratitude and love for the accomplished manbefore us. Still sitting perfectly upright, his breathe quieted untilit stopped. Papa was finally called home.