Reynolds Tomter was born April 26, 1917 in western Wisconsin, not far from Pigeon Falls, where he lives now. He grew up on a farm in a rural valley, where neighbors worked together to combat isolation, and then the realities of the Great Depression. Reynolds remembers the tough economic times, but he also remembers the resilient nature of his community during that time. He also knew the war was on the way, and he expected that he’d be called up; even so, Reynolds married in 1939, and in 1941 his daughter was born, with her baptism scheduled for Sunday, December 7, 1941. That was of course the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Reynolds and the men of his generation responded to their nation’s call. Reynolds was hoping to get into the navy, but he was assigned to the army instead. One of the other men at the recruiting center told him about the merchant marine though, and Raynolds was able to get a spot there. He went to Brooklyn for training, and he was able to take in the sights of New York City during his time there. The merchant marine decided he’d be a baker, and he was assigned to a freighter bound for convoys and Atlantic crossings. Reynolds completed a number of trans-Atlantic runs, stopping at ports-of-call in the Mediterranean, notably Naples, Cleghorn and Marseilles. On board he recalls being very busy, but like the rest of the crew he dealt with the fear of U-boats and the storms that would batter the freighter. They managed though, carrying cargo that was vital to the war effort, and they did this right up until VE Day, which occurred while Reynolds was in Marseilles. They headed back to Baltimore, and he was demobilized upon his return there. Reynolds boarded a train and within a few days he was back in Wisconsin, home with his wife and daughter and ready to start his postwar life. Crestwood students were able to zoom with the 105-year-old Reynolds Tomter in December 2022.
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