Alfredo "Fred" Agron may be 102, but he recalls dates better than most people half his age. He uses a hearing aid and speaks easily, deliberately, recounting life events to the day. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on May 2, 1942 and discharged on Jan. 6, 1946, he tells a visitor, a few missing teeth not affecting his articulation.
His wife Pacita has scolded him into turning off the evening news at his visitor’s arrival, and he rises to his civic duty, out of his easy chair placed close to the TV, to his walker, to a more sociable seat on the couch.
During World War II, he served in his native Philippines, where he was born on Dec. 24, 1910. When he was 20, he left for the United States to see for himself this place that people were talking about.
“Adventure!” summarizes Pacita.
When Fred returned to the Philippines, he was with a U.S. Army team watching for Japanese convoys or other activity at sea. He would scout for the best landing areas for the U.S. and Allied forces to re-take the Philippines, his son Gary says: “During the day I would live among my friends and family. At night, I would observe enemy land and sea activities and send reports to [Gen.] MacArthur’s headquarters.”
“Intelligence,” confirms Pacita, who he met during that time. She was 16.
After the Japanese surrendered, he went back home to the States and went to work again.
Fred studied to be a mechanic in Kansas City Missouri, which he says led to a civilian job in Chicago. Five years later he joined the Department of the Army, and stayed with it until he retired.
He came to Alaska with the Department of the Army to help build Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. “December eighth, 1951,” Fred recalls.
After seven years, Fred’s family wrote his father was ill, and he negotiated for a month leave.
While he was home, he learned Pacita wasn’t married, and wooed her in his low key way.
“He said, ‘Do you remember what I said before?’” Pacita recalls.
Fred picks up the story. “I’d said, ‘Wait for me and I’ll come back and marry you,’ jokingly, of course.”
But this time he was serious. “What did he like about her?” his visitor asks.
“Oh I don’t know, I just fell in love with her, that’s all,” Fred says.
“The story of our life isn’t very romantic,” he comments later. His visitor silently disagrees.
Wedding pictures show the culmination of the quiet love that spanned years and oceans. Pacita is slender in white satin; Fred is dignified in dark formal clothing. Both are radiant, with clear, smooth skin.
Decades later on the other side of the world, they have wrinkles, three sons and daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren showcased on their living room walls. Some showcase Gary, who followed in his dad’s footsteps and retired as a colonel and former chief of staff of U.S. Army Alaska. “Dad was my mentor and role model for commitment and service to our nation.”
In the early 1960s, Fred, Pacita and friends founded the service organization Filipino Community of Anchorage. Fred served as its founding president, Gary says. He adds that today, Fred, Pacita, and one other member are the surviving founders; Fred continues to offer counsel and advice to its leadership.
Fred is the oldest WWII veteran in Alaska, Gary says U.S. Veterans Affairs tells the family.
What’s the secret of reaching 102? “God’s blessing,” Pacita says. “I don’t know,” Fred says. “The Lord up there knows.”
So did he find the adventure he was looking for?
“I guess that’s what it was,” Fred says.