MOUNT PLEASANT MILLS - Sometimes listening to the tales your grandpa tells can turn into something worth writing down.
Lincoln Hokenbrough did just that.
He listened, and he took notes.
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Lincoln Hokenbrough, of Lititz, joins his grandfather, Clarence Hibbs, during a book signing at Cruiser’s Cafe in Mount Pleasant Mills.
His grandfather, Clarence Hibbs, is a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. The descriptive memories his grandfather shared marveled the young man. He believed others needed to know Hibbs' story.
In December 2012, the book "Every Soldier has a Story" was made available to the public.
Most people in the Juniata County area recall Hibbs as a teacher and principal in the Juniata County School District from 1956 through 1986. He had been away from teaching in the mid-1970s due to heart problems, but returned to the district before retiring in the mid-1980s.
It's his wartime legacy that few are aware of, Hokenbrough said.
"I like narratives of the common soldier, the guy in the trenches who wins the war. Knowing about the leaders is neat, but it's a lot easier to connect to the ordinary GI Joe because it could be any of us. Grandpa is that guy. He's the guy down the road that liberated a Nazi concentration camp and no one has any idea because he's just an 'ordinary' gentleman."
It was emotional at times for Hibbs to recall some of the images of that time. Hokenbrough was understanding of that and gave his grandfather some time to collect his thoughts and share as he felt comfortable.
"Many veterans take their stories to the grave with them and I can't blame them. The loss of his innocence, the destruction and death, seeing naked and emaciated bodies hanging from the fence of a concentration camp The images they see when they sleep at night are haunting, and many just try to forget about it."
Most of what is shared in the book was unknown to the family, Hokenbrough said.
Hokenbrough, a teacher at Lititz Christian School, spent five years working on the book. He even took a trip to Europe with wife Leah to see first-hand the locations his grandfather had mentioned.
"It was neat to see where grandpa crossed the Rhine and fought at in the Bulge. However, being at Dachau, a concentration camp outside of Munich, the air is just heavy with the feeling of death. It was very plain and lacked the 'shock and awe' factor like the U.S. Holocaust Museum has, but there was no mistaking the darkness that was present there."
Hibbs, who has read the book, attended a book signing with his grandson the author.
"He was very grateful. I feel that it was a relief for him to get his story out to the family, even though it was painful in the process."
Hibbs, who now resides in Mount Pleasant Mills, will be present with Hokenbrough at another signing from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 2, at Guardian Angel Bookstore in Richfield.
Copies of the book will be available at that time as well as on the publishers website: www.lulu.com or at Cruiser's in Mount Pleasant Mills.