Mr. Harry McCawley, UMD Alumnus, Donates French Book Collect

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The French Department is grateful for the gift of a book collection extended in honor of Mr. Harrison McCawley, Jr. and Mrs. Liliane McCawley, the story of whose WWII romance and life together were read at services in Arlington National Cemetery by Mr. McCawley, Jr. and are included herein.

 

Harrison Byington McCawley, Jr.

(September 4, 1923 – March 8, 2008)

We are honoring a man who is being buried today in Arlington National Cemetery because he offered his life during World War II.  He lost something in that War that no one could see, and few could fully understand.  His severe loss of hearing made many facets of his life more difficult, but he never complained about it.  The few who had the patience to know him, found a warm, intelligent, witty, and most of all a generous man.  Some would say he was generous to a fault, but giving gave him great pleasure.  He served in Europe with the 78th Division in Belgium and Germany during WWII.  After being hospitalized for his hearing loss, he elected to stay on in Europe commanding POW camps in and around Paris. As damaging as the War was, it also introduced him to some of his closest friends, whose love and friendship he deeply cherished, and to a beautiful and talented woman that would later become his wife.

To his friends, he was a great source of knowledge and insight.  His curiosity wetted his appetite for reading at an early age and once he started, there was no subject left untouched.  Reading was his passion in life and he enriched us all with his depth of understanding and wisdom.  His breath of knowledge in the arts, science, history, literature, and the world lead one of his dear friends to describe him as one of the few Renaissance men.

Growing up, he found ways to get into trouble, nothing serious, but enough to land him in several all boys schools and eventually in military school.  He took great pride in capturing scholastic honors while being frowned upon for his mischief.  He was known as “Mac” during his college years at Princeton, which was punctuated by the War.  He remembered his days at Princeton as being a refuge from the outside world and felt privileged to be attending.  After returning from the War, he stayed longer in this refuge, taking extra classes, and completed a thesis, finally graduating in 1948.  Upon graduation, he was accepted to Harvard Law School.

Rather than take the typical route of a law school graduate, after he graduated from Harvard, he returned to France to pursue the woman he fell in love with during the War.  She was touring the Mediterranean with her sisters in a singing and dancing act.  Having picked up the language fairly well, he landed a job with the Air Force in Chateauroux, France so he could be close to her.  They eventually married in Chateauroux, a beautiful floral town two hours south of Paris, then returned to the States to start a new life.

He began his career in the government as a staff attorney and worked his way up to be the Chief Counsel of the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation.  After retirement from the government, he joined the firm of Silverstein and Mullens to edit and write tax management portfolios which were published by the Bureau of National Affairs.  He became well known for his expertise in tax issues and his counsel was sought even into retirement from the firm, which began in 2001.

His favorite places to visit were New York and Provincetown, on Cape Cod.  New York was special because of its vibrancy and because most of his close friends lived there.  He loved the NY delis and the endless supply of energy in the city.  Provincetown was the site of family vacations and had an aura of intellectualism and the arts.  Many good friendships were formed there over the years, especially through the generosity and open house of the O’Hara’s.

As far as hobbies go, he loved to draw and paint, most of his works had an abstract bent, but some were more straight forward.  He was very talented and would sometimes produce humorous posters for my sister and me like indicating that our rooms needed to be cleaned.  But other than reading, he had one favorite passion, and that was for the horses.  He would spend hours analyzing the Daily Racing Form, gaining insight on past performances, jockeys, track conditions, latest workouts and any other piece of information that might give him an edge to pick the winner.  He would drag anyone interested out to the track and one could not help but get interested after seeing his passion.  At one point there was a lull in his interest when he lost desire to physically go to the track, but his passion returned with the onset of the internet.  This was his favorite pass time up until his death.  He even placed a wager at the hospital, via a wireless connection, a few days before he passed.

He will be missed dearly by his wife, Lilette, daughter, Nicole and son-in law Tim, son, Harry and daughter-in law Becky, granddaughters, Sarah and Kristin, his brother Bill and his family, as well as his friends.

 

Liliane Emilie McCawley

(October 16, 1925 – December 28, 2016)

Let me start by saying there are no words that could ever describe the depth of compassion and generosity Lilette McCawley had, but I’d like to tell you a little about my mother.

“Lilette” McCawley was born in Paris to a relatively young mother and a successful middle-aged father.  She was the middle of her mother’s three daughters.  She experienced the spoils of her father’s success at a young age, living, for a while, in a Castle in the south of France.  Living in both Nice and Marseilles, she enjoyed beautiful weather and charm of these seaside communities of southern France.  But after her father’s death, when she was just 12 years old, she saw the flip side of the economy.  It turns out her father made some poor business decisions and some businesses failed leaving this family virtually penniless.

Her mother worked odd jobs supporting her daughters and they moved back to Paris.  After a while, the eldest daughter, Yvonne, was noticed for her beauty, and began a career in show business, becoming part of the Bluebells.  This was a dancing and singing troupe that performed in cabarets.  Later, my mother and her younger sister, Mireille joined the Bluebells as well.  One evening, during an act, my mother was noticed by a handsome young American soldier (my father) during World War II.  While he was smitten with her, getting some free time with her proved challenging under the watchful eye of her protective mother.  They were able to find time together when groups of the soldiers invited several of the girls on picnics. A romance started and my father found ways of staying after the war was over to be near her.  But he eventually had to go back to the states to finish school.  Eventually, my mother and her younger sister formed an act, Les Soeurs Calothy, and toured throughout the Mediterranean.  They kept in touch through correspondence and my grandmother still kept a watchful eye on her girls.

After he graduated from Law school, my father went back to France and married my mother in Chateauroux, France.  They stayed in France a while longer then returned to the United States with me in her belly.  They stayed with friends in Pennsylvania at first while my father looked for a job in Washington.  It was in Pennsylvania where I was born, then we moved into an apartment in Silver Spring.  My mother did her best to learn English by talking to my father and just listening, but it took her a while to get fluent.  In the mean time I could only speak French until I was about 3 because that was the voice I heard.

We later moved into DC since my father had a government job in town.  I was such a challenge for my mother that by the time my sister Nicole was born she need help, so her mother crossed the great Atlantic to help care for us.  While my mother worked with several dance troupes and other jobs, it was not until we moved into the Maryland suburbs that she found her calling.  Remarkably, without any formal training, she became a French teacher in the elementary school system.  She would travel to three different schools throughout the day.  She was one of the most organized people I ever knew.  She created most of her class materials herself.  She spent countless hours creating maps, pictures, flash cards, handouts, etc.  I have heard from many friends that had her as a teacher that she was by far their favorite teacher and looked forward to her lessons.  How often do you hear that from an elementary school student?  She taught for about 15 years before being forced to “retire” due to the school system cutting the funding of the elementary school foreign language program.

She then found her next passion.  One that would stay with her until last days; Tennis.  She first started playing with my father, but she became better than him.  She also got my sister and I started in tennis at an early age.  She was the only one who would have the patience to deal with me until I could get the ball over the net somewhat consistently.  She later joined the club team at Tantallon Country Club and became a club champion.  An unfortunate fall broke her wrist in her sixties that ended her playing, but she was a consummate fan of the pro circuit.  She knew all the players and followed them as much as possible on TV.  Even with her failing eyesight, it was one of her favorite pastimes. 

After her teaching career ended, she became fonder of cooking.  In her early years, she tolerated cooking and appreciated my grandmother’s help in preparing meals, especially when she was teaching.  But afterwards, she became more interested in cooking and began to prepare more complicated and diverse meals.  She enjoyed taking on the challenge to prepare the most lavish of dishes.  It often would take her days to prepare for dinner parties and the results were like being treated by a renowned chef.  Everything was exquisite right down to servers, china, crystal, and silverware.  The food was often not something you would find in most households.  Her collection of cookbooks numbered in the hundreds.

There was nothing like seeing her grandchildren that could bring the widest smile to her face.  As with most grandparents, she loved treating her babies.  She was her happiest with them around.  Any visit would cheer up an otherwise dreary day.

But the one thing my mother was known for both by her family and friends is her endless patience and caring for anyone around her.  She always put other people first.  She was not happy unless everyone else was.  I know that her tolerance of me and my antics (as well as my sister’s and my father’s) were off the charts.  She rarely ever complained.  She had Jean Valjean’s (from Les Miserables) virtues and ethics.  To the extent I have taken on any of her traits is an honor to me.

Another passion, she had from childhood until the physical demands made it near impossible, was travel.  Her fondest memories were when she travelled the Mediterranean with her sister.  She visited many cities and made numerous friends.  She even met King Farouk of Egypt.  She and her sister were invited to his table after their act.  Whenever she could travel she made the most of it preferring to visit the nooks and crannies of a town or city, often to my father’s chagrin.  She would sometimes leave him at a restaurant to read a book or paper while she ventured out by footstep.

I will miss her immeasurably.  She was truly loved by everyone who knew her. And she will be sorely missed by everyone left behind.

 

Harry McCawley