He enlisted in the Army on Oct. 2, 1940, at the age of 20 and served in the Philippines during World War II.

Military records show he enlisted at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and became a medic.

Chester L. Sanderson, my father-in-law, grew up on a dairy farm in Little Falls, Minnesota. His schooling went as far as grammar school and he worked on his parents’ farm milking cows and doing his chores. He was single at the time of his enlistment and service, and married his wife, Lois, after his return.

Chester didn’t talk about his time in the service. He was a private man and did not share any of his experiences, even with his children. The only thing known for sure is that he was shot two times in the leg. Nothing was ever said to his children about the circumstances of those incidents.

He did receive the Purple Heart for his injuries. There is not much else known about his military service, but his life following is precious to his family.

Chester and Lois had seven children: Darrell, Linda, Dennis, Gail, Betty, David and Danny. Darrell passed away in 2000.

When he returned from his stint in the Army, the couple built a home and started a small dairy farm. Chester was also a carpenter and supplemented the family income doing some construction work.

The home, 7 miles outside of Little Falls, was barely 1,200 square feet and he had a number of acres where he grew corn and other crops as needed. There was the master bedroom downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. The boys had one bedroom and the girls the other — and only one bathroom.

Despite the tight quarters, the family managed with the children helping with the milking and other tasks related to farming. Mom spent a lot of time cooking and taking care of the kids, beginning before the sun came up and after a full day, going to bed well after dark.

When I met them, I was this city boy who was welcomed into the family. Chester and Lois always treated me like one of their own, and we grew to love one another.

As the years went by and grandchildren came onto the scene, I remember Chester sitting in his recliner on the old farm rocking back and forth. The grandkids all loved him and he was so gentle.

One thing I remember about him were his hands. Chester had the biggest hands I had ever seen. What was most amazing to me, however, was the way he could maneuver his fingers doing tasks that required great precision.

I wondered how he could manipulate a small nail or tie a string with such big fingers, but he patiently accomplished whatever it was he set out to do. Another thing I remember about Chester is that he was very patient.

He never said much and I don’t ever think I saw him angry. He just listened, and now and then would make a remark.

We had fun at Thanksgiving and Christmas whenever we could get up to Little Falls and either before or after dinner we’d spend some time playing cards. He liked cribbage.

Chester liked taking the grandkids on tractor rides and walks down the road.

The day he died, Gail and I were at a church in Ohio. I had just sat down at the piano to sing during the service and didn’t see Gail being called out into the foyer. After I finished singing “Blessed Assurance,” I, too, was ushered out to the church office.

He died peacefully sitting in that rocking chair in the living room of the house he built.

I am honored to have known him and even though I don’t think I ever thanked him for his service to our country, I am grateful to him for his willingness to suffer pain so we all could remain free.

Thanks Dad. We love you and miss you.

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