After Korea, it was time for a new life

Bob and Catherine Dickson are living the life in their Third Street home.

These days the talk is of their seven grandchildren – some of whom attend St. Mary School right behind the Dicksons’ house and burst through the back door on a daily basis looking for an after-school snack. Three others live in Cleveland. The oldest of those is planning to get married soon and there is much excitement surrounding the event.

The house was owned by Catherine’s parents, founders of Marietta Ignition, William and Genevieve Wesel. After Bob’s stint in the Korean War from 1951 to 1953, he returned home to Catherine, a high school sweetheart, and a job working on Second Street.

“I worked in the machine shop at Marietta Ignition for 40 years,” Bob said. Catherine also retired from Marietta Ignition after 40 years as a bookkeeper.

Bob said he was drafted and went to the engineering base at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for his basic training. Unbeknownst to him at the time, someone who would become a good friend was there as well.

“That’s where Durski was, too, but we didn’t know … he was in another outfit, I guess … but we ended up in the same company over in Korea,” Bob recalled.

Durski was Norman “Norm” Durski of South Bend, Ind. The two men were the only ones who went to the 378th Combat Engineers from Fort Leonard Wood.

“There weren’t any roads over there … we built roads over the mountains and the rice paddies and maintained the roads,” Bob explained. Catherine added, “they built the roads as a way for our men to escape.”

For 16 months and through two treacherous winters, Bob Dickson worked, bunked and shared a pot-bellied stove with Norm Durski. They listened to the boom of the large artillery guns and witnessed some things that were sometimes a lot for 20-something men to comprehend.

“We had never been anywhere … it was an experience,” Bob remembered.

About 48 years later, Bob pulled an old piece of paper from his billfold, which contained the phone numbers of some guys he had served with.

“I never gave a thought about trying to find them but in 1999 I tried to call Durski,” Bob said.

The couple never imagined that when they called a phone number nearly 50 years old, it would belong to the same person.

“We called that number hoping just to get information about whether (Durski) was still living or if they knew him or whatever and, wouldn’t you know, he answered the phone,” Catherine said.

The Dicksons and Norm and Pat Durski would reconnect and attend several reunions of the Korean War Veterans Association in places like Knoxville, Tenn., San Antonio, Texas, Norfolk, Va., and St. Louis. Norm was even able to visit the Dicksons in Marietta after the death of his wife in 2009.

Unfortunately, Durski passed away in October of congestive heart failure.

“He was too sick to go to this past reunion and we never got a chance to go visit him,” Catherine said.

The last reunion happened to be in Washington D.C., in July, the 60th anniversary of the end of the conflict.

About 5,000 people attended the event and 1,500 veterans were honored in person – including Bob Dickson.