Monee veteran reflects on service as 100th birthday nears
By Nick Swedberg Correspondent July 18, 2014 8:14PM
World War II veteran Mike Marcus, of Monee, is turning 100 years old this month. | Supplied photo
Updated: August 21, 2014 6:49AM
Mike Marcus saw some of the world while serving in the military police during World War II.
Years after his discharge, Marcus got to see more of it while traveling with his family, and this week his world will come to him when the Monee veteran celebrates his 100th birthday on Saturday.
Marcus served from 1944 to 1945 as a U.S. Army staff sergeant in the European and Pacific theaters. He was a part of the 93rd Coast Artillery unit and 785th Military Police Battalion, Company D. During his service, Marcus earned several medals and certificates of merit.
After serving, Marcus eventually trained as an electrician and worked as an electrical inspector until he was 90 years old. He now has a large family that includes grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who will gather for his upcoming birthday party.
Born on Chicago’s South Side, Marcus graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1928 and briefly attended a city college. He later joined the Civilian Conservation Corps and spent a year cutting down trees in the state of Washington for $5 a day. An additional $25 a day of pay was sent to his parents.
Marcus worked a few other jobs in Chicago before Uncle Sam came calling.
On May 5, 1941, Marcus was drafted into the Army, but after basic training, he was hospitalized for three months in San Francisco following surgery. When he was released, Marcus was sent to the Mojave desert and floated among several companies. His original company already had been deployed overseas.
Eventually, Marcus was chosen to serve in the military police.
“They set up a military police unit for the Army in Michigan,” Marcus said. “They picked out certain soldiers to start the camp.”
Even as he approaches his 100th birthday, Marcus still recalls the extraordinary and mundane experiences from his years in the Army.
In 1944, Marcus escorted Brig. Gen. Benjamin Davis, Sr., the Army’s first black general, around France as he toured camps and bases.
When the war ended, Marcus was sent to Okinawa, then eventually returning home.
Back home, Marcus drove a truck and delivered oil. He later trained as an electrician, a profession he would keep until his retirement in 1965. Marcus remains a card-carrying member of his union.
After retirement, Marcus continued to work as an on-call electrical inspector for Monee and University Park.
In 1974, Marcus met the woman who would become his second wife, Therese. His first wife, Claire, had died a few years earlier.
“He was walking his dog when we met,” Therese Marcus, 79, said. “I was going to the baseball diamond to watch my son’s baseball game.”
Despite being 20 years younger than him, the two hit it off.
“He told me, ‘If you ever want to go anywhere, just ask me, ’cause I would get to go, too,’ ” she said.
Along with celebrating his birthday, his family is in the process of adding his history to the Veterans History Project, which is a part of the Library of Congress American Folklife Center. Memorabilia and a 30-minute recorded interview with Mike Marcus are among the items being sent to the project.
“As soon as we snap his picture at his 100th birthday, it’s all going,” his stepdaughter Sue Larson said.