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NO VET SHOULD DIE WITHOUT A TRIBUTE.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

``He was our Marlboro man, our John Wayne.''

- Marie Williams, transportation coordinator at the Sepulveda VA.

Bill Trow died last week, leaving a big hole in the hearts of many veterans in the San Fernando Valley.

This 81-year-old vet of World War II and the Korean War was the Marlboro man and John Wayne rolled into one. Only he wasn't an actor playing a role.

He was the real thing.

The first time I laid eyes on Bill, he was standing at attention over the grave of a veteran, alongside his buddies - John Graves, Bill Herrera and Ralph Burns - from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10040 in Sun Valley.

They were all in their mid-70s by then, but they stood ramrod straight in their dress-blue uniforms, waiting for the conclusion of taps so they could fire off a 21-gun salute.

You couldn't take your eyes off them. They were beautiful.

A military color guard is supposed to have at least seven members, but their group was down to four. Old age, illness and death had taken the rest over the years, but Bill and his buddies wouldn't quit.

Anytime a veteran died in the Valley, and his family wanted a military send-off, Bill Trow and his buddies put on their uniforms and reported for duty.

As the men told me at the time, no vet should die without a tribute.

Certainly not Bill Trow.

``Grandpa never bragged about all the things he did, but we knew,'' said John Tucker, Bill's 23-year-old grandson. ``We used to joke that he worked harder than anyone in the family, even after he retired.''

When he wasn't paying honor at a veteran's grave or marching proudly down the street carrying the American flag in a Veterans' or Memorial Day parade, Bill was at the Sepulveda VA trying to make life a little easier for veterans not as lucky as he was.

If they could no longer drive or didn't have a ride to their doctor's appointment, Bill would pick them up, then wait around to drive them home.

If they didn't have money, Bill gave them bags of donated soaps, shampoos and other personal items collected by his VFW post.

If they were hungry, Bill brought them boxes of day-old pastries from the Vons in Granada Hills, where his wife, Ann, worked in the bakery.

``He would show up every morning with his arms full of surplus bakery goods that were going to be thrown away,'' says Marie Williams, transportation coordinator at the Sepulveda VA.

What the vets didn't eat, Bill dropped off at local shelters and churches on his way home.

``The impact that man made on so many lives with his patriotism and generosity can never be expressed in words,'' Williams added.

``He was our Marlboro man, our John Wayne.''

And now he's gone, leaving a big hole in the hearts of many veterans in the Valley.

It hurts a lot, losing Bill, say Herrera and Graves, who are both 82. Ralph Burns died in 2001, so now it's just the two of them.

The last surviving members of the VFW Post 10040 color guard, which at one time had 25 men.

Another local vet had died. It was time to report for duty.

RIP, Bill. You were one hell of a man.

Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749

dennis.mccarthy(at)dailynews.com

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Bill Trow, right, stands tall alongside John Graves as part of a color guard at the 2004 Valhalla Memorial Day observance.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 1, 2005
Words:587
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