Reginald Wise passed away Oct. 29.
The long-time Cloverdale resident and World War II veteran was proud of his wartime service. He was a man of substance. He added value to the world and augmented the lives of those that met him.
He was fiercely independent too. So much so, he was still living on his own at 97 in his own home. He only stopped driving at 96.
I teared up when I heard the news that he had passed.
Reg, as I knew him, was an amazing man. He exuded all the love and joy of life, even though his shoulders had been saddled with a yoke of death for 80 years. He carried that yoke for those eight decades with pride and courage.
He suffered PTSD until the day he died. He told me his PTSD would sometimes shake him violently like he was hit with a bullet, striking deep into the bone. He would just hold on until the mental earthquake passed, sometimes that was minutes, sometimes hours—sometimes it would manifest in physical pain. In his younger days, sometimes it would force him to stop working.
I met Reg when I started at the paper. I interviewed him several times over the short time I knew him and I feel like I got to know Reg on a level many don’t get to know other people.
He shared with me his pain of war, the trauma of living through something as hellish as WWII—and something worse than anyone today could imagine, even if one stopped and closed their eyes and tried to imagine.
He shared with me his stories of war and his stories of survival.
But he also shared with me his love for life and his love for his family.
Reg made writing easy. His mind was sharp and he recalled events from the Second World War in vivid detail. When Reg spoke, he could transport his listener back in time. You’d almost be there with him, gazing through a window onto historical moments that played again in the distance.
Once he described a frightening advance his Royal Marines made on Nazi positions in Albania. That memory is still fresh in my mind as the day he told me. I can still imagine the tracer fire and flares lighting up the night sky.
Another time, he told me about a back-and-forth he had with a sniper in Italy. (Reg himself was a sniper in No. 40 Commando.) I remember hanging onto the story with each word. Reg had a talent for build up. He’d pepper every crescendo in his stories with “bangs” and “zips” and “dings.” I thought the story would end with each new sound in some valiant effort that found Reg winning the day. But that time there was nothing. Neither sniper got the other’s number and they just went on in the war.
And that was Reg. He just told it like it was. And you just took Reg for who he was.
He would often drive down to the Reporter’s office on 56A and bring me a book or two to read. We would sit and chat about a lot of things: history, politics, veterans issues, painting, and everything else. I especially liked our chats on military history: WWII, the Great War, the Boer War. Reg had a knowledge base that stretched deep beneath the surface of history.
He was a gentle man who hid all the pain and trauma he’d suffered from being a soldier in history’s greatest conflict. Yet, he was as approachable as the most kind-hearted friend.
Reg lived through mankind’s biggest moment and had a hand in bringing down the Nazis. To be sure, he was just a part of the Allied wheel as it steamrolled its way over occupied Europe, but he was a larger-than-life part.
I am a better person for knowing Reg. He was my friend and I’m going to miss him.