You've got mail: WWII veteran gets his wish in a big way

by Katherine Harter-Farrow

Marlow native and WWII Veteran Recil Troxel was on a joke-telling, yarn-spinning roll Tuesday, according to his daughter Liz Anderson.

“He told me he was born under a cabbage leaf,” Anderson said. “Then he said that ole’ Santa Claus just dumped [him] off! He’s been on a roll!”

The pair’s mood has been joyous for the past few days, ever since an appeal by their family for birthday cards and letters for Troxel’s upcoming 93 birthday on social media went viral. As a result, Troxel has received more mail in the span of several days than he had in his entire lifetime.

It all began thanks to a daily tradition the two share; when Troxel sees the mail-carrier arrive, they load up into their pickup truck, stop at the mailbox on the way up the long drive, then head out “adventuring” across the local countryside.

“I take him out for a drive every day, I stop and get the mail, I give it to him; he sorts everybody’s out and then he’ll say, ‘well, I didn’t get nothing,’ sighed Anderson. “His birthday is April 17, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just have [my sister] put it on [social media,’] and I thought maybe, I don’t know, 25 cards would be good,” Anderson laughed. “It just went like wildfire!”

Cards, letters and packages are arriving daily from all over the world. Just that day, Troxel had received cards from Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“It’s fun! Of course, every time I open a card, I tell him where they’re from – He loves the pictures on the card. This morning he got one from the Virgin Islands and when I told him he was like, ‘Oh, my Lord!’”

Anderson said though she is waiting until his actual birthday to surprise him with the news that people all over the world have heard his story, they aren’t waiting until April to open the mail they are receiving.
“I just tell him people sent him a birthday card because I haven’t told him yet that all of this is for his birthday. When I told my sister to put it on her Facebook, I didn’t really know she was going to put it right now, so it started a little early,” she laughed. “But people are sending him Valentines, too! It’s just amazing.”

Anderson said she isn’t waiting until Troxel’s birthday to open the gifts because seizing every possible moment she can to make her father happy has been the most important thing in her life for the past four years. After a bout of pancreatitis and a cancer diagnosis, doctors told Anderson that her father didn’t have long to live and that she should consider putting Troxel on hospice. She was determined to prove them wrong.

“I met with hospice, but something just told me, ‘No, we’re not. It’s not time.’ I’m a pusher, when [my dad] gets down, I push. For two months, if I got ¼ cup liquid or food down him a day, I was lucky. But I kept pushing. Got him up and well and look at him now! – After that, I just thought, ‘I’m going to take him home for what time he has left. He’s going to spend it here with me.’ So, I brought him out here and we just do whatever he wants.”

That includes decorating their home, especially Troxel’s room at the front of the house for every holiday, making sure his snack tray is filled and in order, his mini fridge is stocked with Dr. Pepper (his favorite,) and taking those daily drives the two love so much. Most days, they are gone for hours – driving a minimum of 100 miles each day just to spend time together, talk about the past, and see the surrounding countryside, because something about that time in the car seems to jog Troxel’s memory of days gone by. According to Anderson, Troxel has done many things throughout his long life to provide for his family, many of which kept him far from home for most of her childhood.

“We didn’t have [that time together] growing up – he was gone,” Anderson said. “I remember one time he was gone to California for three weeks. Because he – hauled cattle, feed, moved people; whatever needed to be done [to provide for the family] he did. He had been gone for three weeks and he came in and laid on the couch and my mom was like, ‘Shh, shh, y’all gotta be quiet, he’s got to sleep,’ to me, it only seemed like he had slept ten minutes until he was gone again.”

She is determined to make every minute count, to make up for the lost time and learn everything she possibly can about her dad.

“The memories we make, oh I’m telling you,” Anderson smiled. “We go out driving and we’ll go by somebody’s house; of course, they’re not there anymore because pretty much everybody he knew is gone now, but he will tell me stories of things that he did that I would never have known otherwise. When you’re growing up, you don’t think about your parents’ lives and what they did, but when we go out – we drive by an area and he’s like, ‘I had to pick cotton there when I was seven years old, I was out here with my mama and I had to drag the feed sack behind me,’ so you know, [until you hear that] you don’t think about things like that. – I’ve learned a lot in the last four years.”

Troxel’s happiness is everything to Anderson, and because of that, she is incredibly grateful to everyone who has been touched by his story and sent him mail. She hopes that the mail keeps coming through the months ahead; through his next radiation treatment February 10, through his birthday in April, and maybe even beyond.

“We thank them so, so much. It is so kind and caring, it just shows that there are truly kind, caring people in the world. – It brings him so much joy, it’s like a kid at Christmas. [Every day] we [open] some cards first, then packages, then we do some more cards. He loves it – I just can’t believe it. I’m so speechless that I don’t even know what to say because it just blows my mind,” Anderson said with tears in her eyes.

“I read some of them over and over. We’re reading every one of them; letters, cards – I love the letters. They go more in depth, sometimes they send pictures. One sent us a picture of where they live, their first snow they had this season – it’s so personal. It’s from their heart. You can tell [by] what they wrote in there that they really care. It’s just wonderful, unbelievable. It warms your heart.”

Cards, letters, and packages for Mr. Recil Troxel can be sent to 2684 North Highway 81 Marlow, Oklahoma 73055.