By George Atkins
Special to Hottytoddy.com
At first glance, George Dickey and Stanley Bernstein might not seem to have much in common — other than they both live at the Mississippi State Veterans Home in Oxford.
They were raised in different parts of the country, came from different backgrounds, served in different eras and even differ in their choice of snacks. Dickey favors cookies and coffee while Bernstein prefers dill pickles. Their experiences show the diversity of veterans’ stories at the home, however, there are some interesting overlaps as well.
Dickey earned the nickname “Daredevil” growing up in Memphis. At 18, he was inducted into the Army during World War II and soon found himself in an infantry unit in the Philippines. By his own account, that risk-taking nature was part of why he earned three Purple Hearts, the last injury sending him home for good in 1945. After healing, he was back to his old high adrenaline hobbies, racing motorcycles and cars, although he did settle down enough to marry and raise a family.
Bernstein was fortunate enough to spend his time in the Marines stateside, stationed in Oceanside, California. He listed “cook” as his first choice of duty, though he had little experience, and quickly became a favorite of the commanding officer on his base. At the end of his service, he took his new skills home to Manhattan and worked in various restaurants until he saved enough money to open his own. P.J. Bernstein Deli is still operating and has been an NYC fixture since 1965.
However, both men had children who followed in their footsteps. Dickey’s son joined the army, became a Ranger and is just as enthusiastic about motorcycles. Bernstein’s daughter works for a restaurant and catering company in Memphis, just minutes from where Dickey grew up. They both loved baseball in their youth. Bernstein fondly recalls going to see the Yankees play and is especially effusive about his favorite catcher, Bill Dickey, who just happened to be George Dickey’s cousin.
And they’re both pretty clear about what they most enjoy about the VA home where they live — visitors. Dickey and Bernstein are blessed to have children who live nearby and visit regularly.
Dickey’s son Joe also heads Volunteers for Veterans-Oxford, a group that is dedicated to improving life for the residents at the Oxford veterans home. The organization will conduct its annual fundraiser “Rally for the Vets” on April 20 in Oxford at Boure’ Restaurant starting at noon. It will include a motorcycle and classic car ride to the Veterans Home, a poker walk on the historic Oxford Square, silent auction, door prizes and other raffles.
If you aren’t able to attend the event, take an opportunity to visit the veterans home and listen to the residents’ stories. You might just find some surprising connections of your own.