But for Kay Devlin of Sun City Center, this Independence Day held a particular personal meaning, as she reflected on the memory of her husband, Chief Master Sergeant Manny Wolfman, who devoted his life to serving his country and whose ashes were spread at sea this past spring.
“He would have turned 100 in May,” said Devlin. “He was a true American patriot, a military man through and through.”
Manny Wolfman served in the military during World War II, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam War, retiring after 39 years of service as chief master sergeant from the U.S. Air Force. He was a Life Member of the VFW and a member of the American Legion, the B.P.O.E. Elks, and the Disabled American Veterans.
Wolfman’s request to be buried at sea was fueled by his love of the water, boating and fishing, said Devlin, and was arranged by officers at the Ruskin VFW Post 6287, who Devlin asked for help.
“They were wonderful in so many ways,” she said, describing the bond that her husband formed with members of the VFW post, most notably, Chaplain Steve Latchford, who made weekly visits to Wolfman at the Aston Gardens Assisted Living community. “Steve and Manny would sit and talk for hours, sharing war memories and talking about his love for the Air Force. It cheered Manny up immensely,” said Devlin.
Manny “Manuel” Wolfman served in three different wars — World War II, Korea and Vietnam — and suffered injuries in all three. His title of chief master sergeant is the highest enlisted rank and a pinnacle of achievement within the Air Force. Though he retired from the military in 1969, he continued to remain active in veteran activities, setting an example of loyalty, bravery and integrity.
“He told lots of stories of his days in the military,” said Devlin, who, 10 years his junior, married Wolfman when he was 85. “He carried shrapnel scars on his thigh from WWII, and was shot in Vietnam by a young child with a gun, which would have killed him had he not grabbed the boy’s arm at the last minute. That was an incredible story.”
Devlin said it was the military veterans who gave comfort to her husband in his final months of life. “He had broken his neck twice, and ultimately, he had to be placed in a ward with Alzheimer’s patients, even though he was sharp and alert. That was hard on him, and on me.”
That’s when Devlin called upon the VFW for help, and they were happy to oblige, cheering Wolfman with weekly visits, greeting cards, casseroles and camaraderie.
“I felt desperate because Manny was so unhappy at that point, and I couldn’t keep up the pace,” said Devlin, who was suffering from health problems herself. “Without the VFW, I don’t know what we would have done.”
Asked the secret to Wolfman’s long and healthy life, Devlin said, “He ate well, and loved to cook healthy food. He always used pure olive oil in everything he made.”
She also said staying active was the key to staying young for both of them. “We loved to take cruises and explore different parts of the world. We both enjoyed seeing other cultures and meeting new people.”
Devlin said she still believes that staying active and keeping hobbies alive are critical for seniors. These days, she enjoys cross-stitching, which she says is “very relaxing.” She also loves adding to her extensive collection of vintage Barbie dolls, and playing the organ that sits conspicuously in her living room.
“I’m very involved in the Fletcher Music Group in Sun City Center,” she said, referring to the music center that offers a host of activities for music lovers of all ages, including “funshops,” gospel sessions and classes that members can enjoy no matter their age.
As we were celebrating July 4th, the day of our political freedom, Devlin, like many Americans, said she believes in remembering those who fought for our way of life. It’s with love, fondness and respect that she honored her husband, Chief Master Sergeant Manny Wolfman, on that special day of remembrance.