We all mourn our losses in different ways. Johnnie Dimas, a 95-year-old World War II veteran, could have curled up in a corner, lost forevermore after the death of his wife of 67 years. Instead, he went on a journey of discovery, honoring her memory.
A little over a year ago, he packed his essentials and joined his son and daughter-in-law on a journey across the USA in a motorhome. They would visit all the places on Johnnie’s bucket list.
They went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and ate crawfish and alligator. They went to Las Vegas. They went to a dairy farm on the Mexican border, where he met a cool camel named Roger. He posed for a picture in front of a sign in Winslow, Arizona, paying homage to The Eagles classic “Take It Easy.”
At 95, Johnnie knew his days were fleeting, so it was crunch time to cross off as much as he could on his bucket list.
Roger Gilbert, his son, and Gilbert’s wife Jo went along for the ride. They loaded his wheelchair into the motorhome and christened it the “Sweet Mary Bus,” in honor of Johnnie’s late wife.
“I think it was deeply cathartic for Grandpa to be able to process everything that had happened at such a young age,” Jo told Good News Network.
Most importantly, Johnnie visited several World War II museums. Roger and Jo loved those encounters, where Johnnie was “treated like a rock star.”
“It was such an honor to see how people respected his service in World War II, and how fascinated they were by him and his stories,” Jo told GNN. “As we walked down the street people would stop Grandpa, shake his hand and thank him for his service. They didn’t often stop long enough to see how Johnnie would always well up with emotion and gratitude for their kind words, it touched him so deeply every time.”
Johnnie did not get to celebrate Veterans Day in 2020. He died on August 16th at the age of 96.
But what a sweet and memorable ride it was.