By John Strege
World War II veterans form an elite group, but also a diminishing one, the years methodically thinning their numbers and increasing the unlikelihood of a reunion.
"Most of them are dead," said Jules Alexander, an aerial reconnaissance photographer for the Navy during the war. "I can't call them anymore. I call to say hello and a young voice answers and I ask if this is so-and-so. 'That's my father,' they say, 'and he passed away.' It's so sad."
Alexander went on to become a professional photographer, renowned for his work in golf, which is on display in the World Golf Hall of Fame and Golf House, the United States Golf Association headquarters in Far Hills, N.J.
(Tokyo, December, 1945: Alexander is on the right end; Jurlina is second from the left)
Some of his work appeared in the Memorial magazine, the annual publication of Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament, in 2010. Joe Jurlina of Columbus, Ohio, who also was a Naval aerial reconnaissance photographer during the war, saw the photos in the magazine recently and recognized the name of the photographer.
"I figured that must be him," Jurlina said. Jules Alexander and Jurlina had served together in Guam, then in Tokyo when the war had ended.
Jurlina contacted the Muirfield Village Golf Club in an attempt to make a positive identification, even sending along the photographs shown here. The club forwarded the information to Alexander's son Carl, the Director of Golf at the Golf Club of Purchase in Purchase, N.Y.
Carl went to his father's home in nearby Rye, N.Y., and showed him the photographs. "He said, 'Yeah, that's me,'" Carl said. "He went through all the stories. It was very, very touching."
- (Tokyo, December, 1945: Alexander is in the first row, second from right; Jurlina is behind him)*
The two were reacquainted via a telephone call shortly after the Memorial Tournament in June.
"My dad's 87," Carl said. "He knows that there aren't that many left. It was kind of a special thing for the two to connect."