The Poppletons' garage in Albany is split in two — one side for Roy, 84, and the other for his wife, Jackie.
But tucked away in the corner behind a door that keeps the heat in is an office where Poppleton has amassed more things than he knows what his children will do with once he’s gone.
There are awards and metals, plaques from the American Legion Baseball League and business signs that date back to a former career in construction. A computer, filing cabinets and enough room for two seats for two people to sit back and admire the countless markers of a Naval career of yesterday.
It’s a career that has earned Poppleton the distinction of Veteran of the Year for Monday's Veterans Day Parade in Albany, one of the largest west of the Mississippi. And while Poppleton could talk about his time on a ship that made it to Korea too late or his stay in a veterans hospital and enlisting at 18, he’d rather talk about the family photos peeking through the awards and propped up on file cabinets.
There’s Rod, who's just built a pizza oven in his backyard, and Ronda, who interrupts his thoughts with a phone call as he sat in his office this week recalling all the things that contributed to the Disabled American Veterans nominating him for the honor during Monday’s parade. There’s eight more children — three from his first marriage, one from his second, and when he married Jackie 45 years ago, she had six children, making for 10 in all.
“When I’m gone, they’ll worry about where all of this goes,” he said, gesturing to the photos and awards and certificates and accolades. Among them is a framed photo of the ship, the USS Currier, that he found himself on at 18.
Poppleton enlisted in California and went through training before shipping out to Korea.
“By the time we got there, the Korean conflict was over,” he said. “They were doing evacuations.”
It’s on that ship where Poppleton lost his hearing.
“They took me off the boat and sent me to the hospital,” he said. “They didn’t know what to do with me so they sent me to the hospital in Pennsylvania and they wanted to do surgery on me. A couple of the guys had surgery and their hearing was worse, so I said no, thank you, give me a hearing aid.”
It was the size of a cigarette box in his shirt pocket, with a mercury battery and a wire that wrapped around his head to his ear.
You have free articles remaining.
“It made it hard to find a job,” he said, after serving three years in the Navy.
Poppleton eventually landed in construction and after working for other people, opted to start his own business around 1978 in Corvallis, Poppleton Construction. But in 1990 he had to close the doors.
“I was diagnosed with mesothelioma,” he said. “They gave me 18 months.”
That’s when Poppleton says he devoted his life to giving back to veterans. He bought a motor home, visited his family, made his burial arrangements and joined every organization that had anything to do with veterans.
He’s currently the commander of the American Legion Post in Corvallis — a position he’s held a handful of times — and is a lifetime member of the American Legion, DAV and VFW.
“Fifteen years later I paid off the motor home and sold it,” he said. “And I’m still here.”
Still here, tinkering in his half of the garage.
He does little projects — with the exception of welding since his pacemaker was put in — and has boxes full of tools, some from 1950. And on Monday, he’ll head out with thousands of others to the Veterans Day Parade that weaves its way through downtown Albany.
“I always look forward to the parade,” he said. “I’ve been in it just about every year.”
The Veterans Day Parade is set to star at 11 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. beginning at Seventh Avenue Southeast and Pacific Boulevard. The route will head over the overpass and veer right into downtown Albany on Lyon Street, down Second Avenue, Southwest Ferry Street and ending at Southwest Sixth Avenue. The parade will feature 400 motorcycles followed by 120 parade entries.