In all of Sidney Finkle’s 100 years, there aren’t many people he’s met that he doesn’t like.
“I met a couple of people with guns I didn’t like,” he said recently, recounting wartime stories from the early 1940s, when Finkle enlisted and served as a Navy Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class during World War II. “Outside that, there wasn’t anybody I didn’t like,” he said. “Everybody’s nice.”
The comments came at a ceremony last month when Finkle was presented with the New Jersey Distinguished Service Medal (NJDSM) by Walter Nall, the state’s Acting Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs. The outdoor event happened at Brandywine Living at Pennington where for the last seven years, the Trenton-born and raised veteran has been living with his wife of 72 years, Jean.
Jean’s first cousin, Stan Saperstein, read aloud from the framed citation from Gov. Phil Murphy before Nall clasped the medal onto Finkle’s coat, pressing on his chest, then congratulating him with a hearty handshake and a, “Congratulations, Sid.”
Applause and cheers erupted from the assembled group.
The couple’s daughter, Grace Finkle, and her husband live in North Carolina, but they were able to virtually attend the ceremony via teleconference on a tablet computer held by Brandywine staffer Jill Langone. Grace Finkle described how her father is so outgoing and welcoming to his fellow residents, that his nickname is “The Mayor of Brandywine.”
Former neighbors of the Finkles were among those physically present, including Lynn Lowe, a neighbor of 21 years in Ewing.
“We come up here. We visit them,” Lowe said. “We bring them Easter goodies, Valentine’s Day gifts, just to remind them that we love them.”
After the ceremony ended and Sid Finkle was back in the lobby, away from the spotlight, he recalled the war, and memories that brought with them strong emotions.
“There were thousands, thousands of other people who went to war much worse than I was,” he said. “People that you never hear of anymore. They just disappeared.” Remembering a particular friend of his that was wounded even while inside the expected safety of a tank, he emphatically stated, “Nothing is indestructible.”
“I have many friends of mine I’ll never see again,” he said. With a wave of his hand, he started to explain more. “Some of them I see…” he said, his voice beginning to falter. Quickly standing up from his chair reaching for his walker, he tearfully finished the thought “…in my dreams.”
But despite the painful memories, Finkle said he appreciated the opportunity to talk about them and receive the state honor.
“It’s been a lovely day.”
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