Eighty years ago, the war called Robert Fodor far from his father’s printing shop in Detroit, and he found himself in the Pacific Theater, rough and unforgiving, amidst the hills far north of Manila, where enemies lurked in caves. The boy turned into a man under the brutality of combat.
“We bombed the Japs out,” Fodor recalls with a clarity that time has not eroded.
Made a sergeant for his deeds, Fodor was later attached to Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military newspaper because of his experience in print production. Once major combat operations had ceased, Japan was his base of operations. I traveled 6,000 miles in a brand-new Jeep out of Yokohama. I took pictures for the service.” His camera captured the silent aftermath of war’s ravage.
Sitting in front of his home under a shaded canopy, he watches a parade go by his home. It’s in his honor — a salute to a hundred years lived hard and well.
Arranged by Community Cooperative, the color guard from the Cypress Lake High School JROTC led a procession of vehicles from the local fire company, Lee County Sheriff Marceno’s office, Mission BBQ, and a throng of Robert’s neighbors and friends. Fodor was presented with numerous commendations.
“I was glad to put in my three years,” Fodor’s voice, gruff yet proud, emanated the resilience of a generation.
Fodor’s life has been a testament to strength and community support. Meals on Wheels and the Community Cooperative have played a vital role in his life, allowing him to live independently and with dignity.
Fodor asks for a folder to be brought out to him his house. Inside it are dozens of his pictures taken from around the world. In addition to his time in the service, he has traveled the world four times over.
“I was in Hiroshima,” he says, holding one of his still photographs on his lap. The image drips with the aftermath.
After he left the service in October 1946, he returned to Michigan, where he had previously earned a business administration diploma. He spent a career running the printing operations for Chrysler and started a family.
“I have a son who is seventy years old,” he boasts.
His true passion has always been traveling. Robert is of Hungarian descent and speaks Hungarian and French, skills that served him well in his lifetime as a global tourist.
“After Chrysler, I converted a Greyhound bus, and I drove it around.” He saw the vastness of the Americas. He also did the same wandering throughout the Old World.
“In Europe, I really enjoy Spain and Portugal. And in Africa, I like down south by the Cape,” he says.
Community and Friends
Sitting next to volunteer Janelle Olson, Robert has truly bonded with his friends from Community Cooperative. Fodor says seeing them is the highlight of his day.
“I’m just enjoying being with a bunch of nice people,” he says, smiling.
He is one of the four hundred homebound seniors in southwest Florida touched by Meals on Wheel and Community Cooperative, its local distributor.
Florida Representative Jenna Persons-Mulicka was on hand with her son Hunter to present a personal, handwritten commendation to Fodor. She described Fodor’s life and service as “amazing.”
“I’m very pleased Robert is having a good time on his special day,” says Olson.
And happy the smiling veteran is. Eyes twinkling, Fodor declared, “Next year, we’ll do this again.”