"If You'll Sort the Socks and Read the Mail, I Can Do
The Rest": 1Lt H. Smith Shumway
So proposed 1Lt H. Smith Shumway to his college sweetheart
Sarah Bagley, two years after being blinded by an anti-tank
mine. And that's just what they did: he enjoyed a long career as
a Rehabilitation Counselor for the blind, and she "sorted the
socks" at home for him and their eight children.
We met this amazing man
in 2004 at DDay
ceremonies in Normandy.
It seemed everywhere we
went, we saw this huge
laughing family clustered
around a smiling older
man, and all were wearing
red jackets with "1Lt H.
Smith Shumway" printed
on the back. We had to
On a personal note, my conversation with Mr. Shumway
impacted me deeply. I was on a short break from my job as a
civilian nurse for the Army when I met this man, and in
retrospect the horrible injuries and grief were getting to me.
When his family introduced me to Mr. Shumway as a nurse, he
grasped my arms and his sightless eyes drilled into me. Dead
serious. "You have to touch them. They have to know they are
still men, still people." Then we both took a breath and he
laughed and told me about the first nurse he remembered after
regaining consciousness. "I never saw her, of course, but we
talked. I asked her "how bad is my chest wound?" and she said
"for you, ok. For me, it would have been catastrophic. She
made me feel I was still a person". Mr Shumway, you never
knew, but because of you I did touch my patients more, and
some of those men later told me how much that meant to them.
Mr. Shumway can tell the story of his experiences better than I can, and his story is here in a
PDF file. Serving as a Platoon Leader on Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach, then leading his
men through hedgerow combat to St Lo - it's all here, along with the story of his long rehab
and return to civilian life. In 2006, Mr Shumway and some family came back to the St. Lo
area to assist in finding a reporter who had disappeared during the war. Excavations were
made based on Mr. Shumway's memory of the area, but the search was unsuccessful, as were
our attempts to again meet up with this wonderful family.
On 26 March 2011, Mr.
Shumway departed this
life. His obituary bears
testimony to his fortitude
and optimism in the face
of tremendous difficulty.
Indeed... "It is difficult to
wallow in self-pity when
confronted with Smith’s
love, and sincere
gratitude for the blessings
of life in spite of severe
limitations." Thank you
for the inspiration, Mr.