Legacy Remembers D-Day

Legacy Remembers D-Day

Walk through Dean Weissert’s door at The Legacy and one cannot help but notice the photographs that line the 99-year-old’s bookshelves. Also present is a jar half filled with sand. French sand. Omaha Beach sand. It’s a memento the World War II veteran has held onto since revisiting the site where so many valiant men lost their lives more than 70 years ago. When discussing his June 6, 1944, D-Day landing, the retired Army staff sergeant said, “I thought it would be my last day, but I went through all those battles across Europe and here I am.” Born May 1, 1917, rumor has it that the doctor traveled 7 miles outside of Eustis, Nebraska, via horse and buggy to deliver Dean on the farmstead’s kitchen table, not uncommon for the era. He quickly adapted to farm life and rented his own land until Oct. 16, 1941, his draft day. He was soon promoted to platoon sergeant, and joined the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, taking on roles as wire chief and radio chief. The Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project has preserved his story online, which describes his battalion’s victories — and his moral dilemmas that can come with war.

On May 8, 1945 — just seven days after his 28th birthday — Dean finally had something to celebrate: Victory in Europe Day. Upon returning stateside, he resumed agricultural work, purchasing a farm north of Eustis. He married a preacher’s daughter, Mary, in 1947, and the couple had three children before Mary died in a car accident in 1959. Four years later, he remarried, and he and his wife, Dorothy, had a son. The Weisserts built a new farmstead in 1967, where they lived nearly 30 years. Many photographs from those years line his bookshelves. He continues to add new photos on a regular basis as he has four grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. “I guess I must’ve done something good,” Dean said. His collection, including a picture of a great-grandchild who works for Joe Gibbs’ NASCAR team, serves as conversation piece for visitors and staff members, whom he often views as extended family. “Everyone at The Legacy is so friendly,” said the five-year resident. “They’re always there with a smile to help you.”

Along with talking about stock car races, he often discusses his outings with staff from The Legacy, which includes his barber, Linda. While his haircut varies slightly from his military days, he remains fairly regimented himself, rising at 5:30 a.m. daily for his pre-breakfast walk around The Legacy’s pond. “I do that to stay young,” said Dean, who will celebrate his 100th birthday next year. “I try to make every day a happy day. I think that helps as you get older, too.”

Along with keeping him young, his affinity for exercise helped him win The Legacy’s marathon as he logged 138 miles on his pedometer in a month. When not exercising or visiting with friends, he enjoys watching athletics as well, noting he’s a fan of the University of Nebraska women’s basketball, softball and volleyball teams. He also likes watching a good Cornhusker football game in the fall. However, if his teams aren’t playing, Dean doesn’t have to look hard for something to do. “The Legacy has a lot of good things to do,” he said. “It’s a wonderful place. I’m enjoying life here.”

(Photo) Legacy resident Dean Weissert displays a jar of Omaha Beach sand on his shelf as a memento of his most recent visit there after WWII.