SIDNEY — Most people in Sidney know Lloyd and Norris “Pug” Cromes as funeral directors.
They ran the family business that was started by their father in the 1930s. It is now managed by their sons. But before the brothers, now 97 and 96, respectively, went to embalming school, they were servicemen, helping to win World War II for the Allies.
Lloyd joined the Army National Guard in Piqua, in 1940. He was sent to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he was trained in field artillery, to use and maintain big guns. Pug went to visit him.
“He didn’t like it there. I didn’t want to be where he was at,” Pug said. So when he graduated from Sidney High School, he joined the Air Force.
“I always was sort of a mechanic,” he said. The Air Force sent him to Champaign, Illinois, for what was supposed to be a six-month mechanics course.
“We were there five days and they shipped us to Biloxi, Mississippi,” he said. That’s where he was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
“It changed our world forever,” Pug said. But neither man was aware of the attack right away. Pug and a friend thumbed rides that day from Biloxi to Hattiesburg to spend time with Lloyd. Lloyd didn’t have a radio on.
“I didn’t know this had happened until I got back to Biloxi,” Pug said.
Lloyd was moved to Texas, where he continued to work on artillery and became an instructor of new recruits.
“These big guns take a lot of taking care of, ” he said.
Pug became an instructor in propeller maintenance and installation. A year into his service, he saw a notice that two propeller specialists were needed and he put his name in for the job. That took him to Liberal, Kansas, where the Air Force was training B-24 bomber pilots. When the corps began to develop a single-engine plane that could climb over the Alps in Europe, Pug became the propeller man of that job.
He traveled to Italy.
“We moved north, not every week, but pretty regular,” he said. “We were chasing the Germans out of Italy.” From there, he went to Marseilles, France.
“We didn’t have as many Germans left in France,” he said. By the time the war ended, Pug was in Mannheim, Germany. Throughout his service career, he didn’t see combat, “but we were right next to it all the time,” he said.
It was bombers he had worked on that escorted President Harry S. Truman into Berlin to for the Potsdam Conference.
Lloyd spent his deployment in Texas. He achieved the rank of corporal.
“We were out in the fields most of the time,” he said. “There wasn’t much else to do around camp except KP and march. I was one of the instructors, so I didn’t have to do much KP.”
Pug was discharged in December 1945 as a federal sergeant.
When they returned to Sidney, they attended embalming school and went into the family business.
“Our dad needed help,” Pug said. The brothers had been athletes in high school. Both were on the undefeated basketball team in 1937. Pug was the quarterback of an undefeated Sidney football team in 1938. He also qualified for the state tennis championships that year.
They raised families in Sidney. Each has a son and Lloyd also has a daughter, who is living in Texas. Although a series of strokes has stolen much of Lloyd’s memory, he remembers was Texas was like when he was there.
“I tell her it’s a great place to be from,” he laughed.