Lou Roffman: Our Own American Hero

We all knew Lou Roffman at the Georgetowner. He had special standing here because he was our former publisher Dave Roffman’s uncle, hence the nickname Uncle Lou. He was Uncle Lou, also, to still more who had occasion to hear stories about him from Dave or to meet him on his occasional visits from out West. He was Uncle Lou at the Midway and World War II Memorials, and he was Uncle Lou at the Nats game a couple of years ago.

Even if he had another name, but the same life and history, there’s more than enough to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Lou Roffman Aug. 10 at age 94. A World War II veteran in the Army Air Corps, he made history, being one of the rare American soldiers to serve at both Pearl Harbor and Midway, the first a military tragedy for the United States, the second a battle that turned the tide against the Japanese in the Pacific.

That wasn’t the whole story. Roffman was a flight engineer with B-17 bombers of the 31st Bomb Squadron at Hickam Field on Dec. 7 when the Japanese attacked. Later, he fought at the Battle of Midway. Later still, he was wounded in a bombing mission. He received a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions in mission in which he landed a plane after the pilot had been killed.

Reading Uncle Lou’s obituary, you can sense the full life well and long-lived, something of a true and wonderful life which might have made an inspiring movie. He served in the military until 1968, retiring from the Air Force with the rank of senior master sergeant.

During retirement, he and his wife Irene began a whole new life in Riverside, Calif., where he owned a pool hall and three bars, was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Elks Club and Hollywood’s Magic Castle and perhaps more fittingly the Optimist Club, of which he should have been president.

In California, he practiced magic, a passion of his. He would perform for children in children’s hospitals, regale then with stories and magic tricks and remind them of the stories of the greatest generation of which he was an honored member.

Around here, we remember Uncle Lou, slowed a little by age in his latter years, a smiler and laugher and story teller. We remember him at the Midway commemoration, where former sailor Tony Curtis, the movie star at 80, wearing cowboy boots and hat, kissed a female autograph seeker. Lou came up behind him and Curtis asked him “Do you want a kiss, too?” Lou said, emphatically, “Hell, no! Just the autograph.” But we do remember Uncle Lou accepting kisses from the girls at the restaurant after the dedication of the World War II Memorial. We remember when his nephews Dave, Randy and Phil gathered here to fete Uncle Lou at the new Nationals Park, where his name sparkled on the scoreboard.

We remember Uncle Lou, an old soldier and airman whose memory will not fade away.


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