Korean War veteran from Troy reminds us all to ‘live in the moment’

TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Over the weekend NEWS10ABC’s Lindsay Nielsen made a very special friend: A Korean War Veteran. His advice might make you cry, so grab the tissues.

Here is her story.

Yesterday I was sitting at Friendly’s having dinner with my sister and niece when we noticed this older gentlemen sitting alone in the booth across from us. I said to my sister, “That makes me sad. I feel so bad for him sitting there alone.”

He had a grey sweatshirt on and a black hat with yellow lettering that read ‘Korean Veteran’. I told my waitress I wanted to pay for his meal and would later thank him for his service.

I couldn’t help but stare at him, I tried so hard not to. Then to my surprise, before he knew I was going to pay for his meal, he looked back at me and smiled, raised his hand from his coffee cup and waved at me. I was so embarrassed that I had been staring.

As he waved he said “I can’t wave very good.”  That’s when I went over to his table and sat with him so I could hear him better. He said “I can’t wave because I got frostbite on my hands during the Korean War.”

As he showed me his fingers, he pointed to a spot near his thumb and said “It still hurts right there.” I said, “I want to pay for your meal and thank you for your service.” He smiled, but kept on talking as if he wanted so badly to share his thoughts, he didn’t have time to be bothered by anything else.

I asked him if he was from around the area, he said he was from Troy. He then began telling me a story about his life, the main character though was not himself, but rather his wife. He told me how much it meant to him to receive letters from back home while he served in the Korean War.

In 1950 he said his brother told him about a girl who wanted to write to him, he laughed and said “I told my brother – sure why not have one more girl writing to me.” He said her name was Dorothy.

friend4 dorthy

When he returned home around 1954 his plane came in at the Albany International Airport. He says he saw his brother as he walked down the terminal. He didn’t see Dorothy. He asked his brother where she was. She tapped him from behind and said “I’m right here silly!” He looked at his sweet Dorothy for the first time and the rest was history.

One year later the pair became Mr. John Drescher and Mrs. Dorothy Drescher.

John explained how badly Dorothy wanted a baby. At one time she became pregnant but lost the child. He said they were heartbroken, but a doctor encouraged them not to give up. They decided to adopt a 3-week-old baby, but the agency said they could not bring him home until he was 3-months-old. John said Dorothy asked if they could return to the agency for breakfast, lunch and dinner with their soon-to-be son and put him to bed. For months the pair did just that; until they brought home John Drescher Jr.

His eyes went from a happy twinkle to a deep sadness.

“Dorothy passed away in 2011.” John lifted his hands from the table in a cradling motion and said “She died right in my arms, we were married for 56 years…”

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Not knowing what to do after her death, he told me he came to Friendly’s where they often enjoyed dinner. He said the first time he returned, a waitress came to his table and he was crying uncontrollably. He said she took his hand and comforted him. He says all the waitresses encouraged him to keep coming back even though Dorothy was gone.

So now, if you happen to visit the Friendly’s in Troy, there sitting in a booth by the window you will find John Drescher eating dinner almost every night; finishing with a hot fudge Sundae. He’s quite popular there and proudly proclaimed how pictures of him and his family have been hung on the wall displayed next to the children’s coloring work.

He finds comfort in memories of Dorothy and explains how he placed a blanket over her grave one day, protecting her the way he had for nearly six decades.

I returned to my dinner and gave him a hug before I left, telling him to watch NEWS10ABC and he’d catch me on the news. He then reached in his wallet and handed me a photo. It was an old photo of himself from the war. I laughed and said “Oh so you are famous, are you going to sign it for me?” He pointed down and said it already was. There it was his name signed on the small photo, “John.”

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It’s going to sound cliché, but I wonder if they come like John anymore. I wonder if a love like Dorothy and John’s still exits. To think that I could have easily continued to stare at my phone missing John’s wave makes me happy I recently decided to be more present and not be consumed by my phone. I’m constantly on my phone for work and personal reasons. I have two iPhones with me at all times. To think how much human connection I’ve missed because of my bad habit is sad.

So thank you John for reminding me how good it feels to connect with someone and for a lesson on life I wouldn’t get from a phone. Cheers to you and your sweet Dorothy.

 (This story was written first hand by NEWS10ABC’s Lindsay Nielsen. You can find her on her Professional Facebook page.

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