Eulogy - Edward Wesley Nidever - USMA '55
Fairfax Memorial Funeral Home - Fairfax - Virginia
Delivered by MG Carl H. McNair - Jr. - USMA '55
April 8 - 2014
On behalf of the Class of 1955 - I want to express our deepest condolences to the family in the loss of our dear classmate - and thank you all for coming and the opportunity to share some memories of him from over the years.
By way of background - our Class entered West Point with 625 "New Cadets" from all over America and allied nations - on July 3 - 1951 - and added 28 "turn backs" from other classes for a total of 653 - graduating 470 four years later - a 28.1% attrition rate - about 10% in New Cadet Barracks," Beast Barracks" as they were called then - 10% more during fourth class (plebe) year and then almost 10% in the three upper-class years. In our Company E-1 - we started with 24 and graduated 20 four years later for a completion rate of 83.3% - an attrition rate of 16.7% - over our three years together - about the same or slightly less than the balance of the Corps - since we did not join Company E-1 until after New Cadet Barracks - the highest attrition period for new cadets.
Fast forward to today - fifty-nine years later - the Class of 1955 has lost 41% while Company E-1 has lost seven of our 20 members - 35% - slightly less than our class in longevity. Ed Nidever is the seventh member of our 20 to pass away and he will be sorely missed.
Over the past week - after sending the notice to our class webmaster with details on Ed's passing - we have received many messages from classmates who could not be here today - due to time - distance or health and expressed their prayers and condolences. One of those - Norm Smith offered an observation which I thought was of significance and interest to all. Norm recounted that of our 20 E-1 classmates - seven had chosen the Infantry Branch and all seven of those had served in combat in Vietnam at some point and lived beyond the age of 80. In fact - Ed was the first member of our entire West Point Class of 1955 to serve in Vietnam - reaching back to 1961 - and was the first of '55 wounded in that conflict - and is the first of our Infantry "Band of Brothers" to pass away. Perhaps - our Lord in Heaven chose to smile on those who selected the Infantry and chooses to smile again upon our departed classmate - Edward Wesley Nidever - as we gather here this day.
And now - with that brief chronological history of the Class of 1955 - permit me to proceed with this "Service of Celebration" and final salute for our comrade -in-arms.
Edward Wesley Nidever - friend to all - enemy to none - proud - loyal and true - known for his wit and his wisdom - as well as his "ways with women." Or as he might say - women became his avocation since he was proud of his minor at USMA "understanding women - a West Pointer's view" in which he stood near the top of the class - especially if the women were dating another cadet. When not exercising - sunbathing or studying at West Point on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon - you would often find him walking in Full Dress around the plain checking out the tourists - offering to show a select few the famed "Kissing Rock" on Flirtation Walk. As history reflects - the rock has never fallen - but Ed tested the legend time and again - as often as he could - with many collaborators.
As outgoing and entertaining as he was - Ed Nidever did have a serious and sentimental side - always looking on the bright side knowing "there had to be a pony under any problem." Ed was blessed with a wonderful mom who unfortunately passed away much too young during his cadet years - thus she never had a chance to share the joy of his graduation - meet the women he loved and children he reared. She would have been so proud of both him and his brother - young Dave - who followed Ed in the Corps - graduating only three years behind Ed in the Class of 1958 - sadly losing his life in the Vietnam conflict in 1971 - some ten years after Ed had been wounded in the same war.
Ed and Dave were very close and equally proud of the other - similar in personality and conviviality among their classmates. It was my privilege to know them both and share many memories with them on assignments - not only at West Point - but at Fort Benning and even later in Vietnam. Will never forget when Ed and Dave shared an apartment together for a few months in Columbus - GA - while Dave was in training and Ed was an instructor in the Infantry School. Towards the end of each month - the wallets of a lst Lt and a 2d Lt renting an apartment off-post became quite thin - so - lacking funds to buy enough eggs for breakfast - sometimes they were down to a single egg in the refrigerator - so one would hide the egg from the other. If the hunter could not find the egg - the hider was able to eat breakfast and the other went hungry that morning. You could always tell who found the most eggs since Dave was slightly heavier. Some of us thought that Ed was giving into his younger brother - until we found out that Dave finished in the top quarter of his Class and always seemed to know where Ed would hide the egg.
Reflecting back over my 63 years of friendship - thru thick and thin - there are so many memories - I simply could not recount them all. Ed was one of my two roommates during Plebe year and I must confess we were like the original "odd couple" since I came from Florida and he came from California - totally opposite sides of the nation. Somehow we had much in common and we jelled since my dad had passed away and my mother was a widow and Ed's mom and dad had divorced - so his mom was a single parent - and he loved her as dearly as I loved my mom. Although I was a bit quieter than Ed - perhaps slightly more reserved and soft spoken - even lacking some self-confidence at 17 years of age and he the more mature and seasoned one at 18 - go figure that - if you knew Ed like I knew Ed. But I quickly realized I had to "get up early" to get ahead of Ed - he was always polishing and politicking - looking for ways to stand out and be spoony. Sometimes this won him more attention than he deserved from the upper classes - who seemed to develop their "favorites" for "extra instruction" and Special Duty for those "chosen ones". Luckily we had a roommate more experienced than both of us who - being a military brat - had spent his four High School years at New Mexico Military Institute and then went on to a Freshman year at VMI - five full years of military school with four more years yet ahead. Raleigh was a great in orienting both of us on the academics and military requirements yet ahead. With that foundation - we worked as a team of three and all threw our hats in the air together four years later.
As the months slipped by - however - Ed became more adventurous and innovative - becoming somewhat of a prankster - enjoying the balancing act with the tactical and academic departments - which became his trademark that followed him through much of his career in the military and his very senior positions in the Federal Civil Service. As his tolerance level grew for risk taking at the Academy - barely making the taps and lights out on some evenings - his affection for the ladies and theirs for him grew even more. But short as we were of funds - opportunities were limited to increase the meager minimum $5 a month allowance we might receive for our 25 cent movies and four cent candy bars. Ed - however - came through again with hither unknown business opportunities - in which he enticed me to join him - Greeting cards and stationery among them - the risks were high and the margin low - until Ed learned late in Plebe year that ladies garters - with black - gold and grey lace - and ARMY printed thereon were the rage in the upper classes. They could be bought in quantity for 75 cents each in New York City and sold to other cadets for $1.50 - a 100% profit margin any merchandiser would be proud to have. He was able to take over the "forbidden - but fantastic business franchise" from an upperclassman graduating and again co-opted me to share in the enterprise. While business was good - it more than doubled later when Ed introduced a new West Point tradition that the cadet would have to put the garter on his girlfriend's leg just above the knee AND some young ladies assumed it was bad luck to break a tradition. The more adventurous cadets would even buy two garters - one for each leg. There were some weeks when Ed might go through 4-6 garters himself.
Moving to the more serious - the military side - Ed was a super sharp - spoony cadet - always keeping his equipment in the best of shape - he studied hard and sought out leadership positions that would put him in the center of the action - becoming not only a Sunday School Teacher - but also a cheerleader for the Army sports programs and one of the best we had. He was even known to make up some of his own cheers - fit only for internal Corps consumption - which still embarrass some of us to this day - yet Ed was always Ed. He was a true romantic - an adventurer - always seeking a "higher mountain" to climb and it was natural that he would go into the Infantry - the Queen of Battle - Airborne and Ranger - becoming a Master Parachutist with over two hundred jumps - with a parachute. If they had had a badge of honor for jumping without a chute - he would have gone for it. In his earliest years - he earned not only an Expert Infantry Badge - but in combat later - he also earned the Combat Infantry Badge.
And as my mother-in-law would often say - Ed looked so great in his Green Beret of our Special Forces - sharp as they come - spit and polish all over. I would remind her that I was an Army Aviator and wore a flight helmet - but never managed to impress her as did Ed with his dashing Green Beret and spit shined jump boots. Without doubt - Ed had become my closest friend over our cadet years - our decades of military and government service and on into retirement and the business world beyond for almost six decades. We remained close and our families even closer.
Ed married a young lady from Georgia and I did also. In fact - perhaps to always go me one step better - Ed managed to marry two young ladies from Georgia - what a lucky guy. Ed was Best Man at Jo Ann and my wedding at the Fort Benning Chapel 57 years ago this October. Always looking out for my best interests - who on occasion might also serve his own - he would offer his counsel and advice - which often I would ameliorate. I will never forget my wedding day - October 26 - 1957 - when he offered me a "get away" from the altar. He was single and I was about to tie the knot - leaving immediately thereafter for a two week cross-county honeymoon - followed by a two year tour with the MAAG Taiwan in Nationalist China. Jo Ann - my finance was to join me five months later on a slow boat. As Ed and I stood behind the altar of the chapel waiting to walk out in our dashing blue uniforms to meet the bridesmaids and my beautiful wife to be - Ed said quietly. "Carl - you really don't want to do this. My car is out back - let's slip out now - I will take you to your car - hidden away - you drive on to San Francisco - catch your plane to China - come back in two years and everyone will have completely forgotten this engagement." I retorted that my entire family was present - Jo Ann was in her beautiful gown - and the reception awaited us at the Club. And above all else - I love her very much. No one could do such a thing to his bride. He looked at me and intimated - maybe I could. Ed went on to marry within a short few months. He had just pulled another of his infamous pranks - but I knew him too well. Throughout her stay with her mom in Columbus - he was a perfect gentleman and helped Jo Ann complete her military processing - passport - and even took her to the airport five months later as she left to join me. If there were one person on all of Fort Benning I trusted my new bride with - it was my West Point roommate.
In time - I was the Godfather for his son - Edward Wesley Nidever - Jr. - We spent vacations together - fished together - camped together - visited back and forth - my children and even grandchildren call him "Uncle Ed" and his children call me "Uncle Carl". When we moved - we helped one another load and unload. The bonds forged at West Point held us together through thick and thin - the good times and the bad. When Jo Ann had her stroke in 1984 and remained a patient in Walter Reed here in Washington for almost five months and I was on duty at Fort Monroe all week long - Ed and his wife would go out to see her to retrieve soiled clothes bring fresh ones and any other amenities she required. Ed was even known to have smuggled in occasional cigarettes and small miniatures of the best bourbon - both for medicinal purposes of course. On those occasions - I was not sure whether I was supposed to hit him or hug him - so Jo Ann chose the latter.
There were countless times when he would help me do things around my own home - paint - clean yards - plant flowers - and I would reciprocate when we lived in the same neighborhoods - both at Fort Benning and later here in Alexandria. But perhaps one of the greatest gestures of kindness was when my sister - Patsy - then a Senior in Huntingdon College in 1955 and engaged to her husband to be - Charles Singletary - USMA Class of 1956 - wanted to visit Charlie at Christmas time in the West Point Army Hospital where he was recovering from a near fatal truck accident - while a Firstie at West Point. I was in flight training in Texas and was not permitted leave or I would fall months behind in my training. So - how could my young sister get unescorted from her college in Montgomery - Alabama to West Point in December unescorted?
Ed checked in with my family and told my mother he would take leave from Benning during the Christmas holidays where he was an airborne instructor - come to Pensacola - pick up Patsy and drive her to West Point - wait a week and return her home. My mother said that if it were anyone other than Ed Nidever - she would never consent to such a suggestion. My friends - just think of your daughter - a 20 year old college coed on a 1300 mile drive each way with Ed Nidever - single - 2d Lt - big Buick -"on the road again". He always captured the moment - not riding in on a big White Horse - but in a big "White Buick." Ed drove Patsy up and back in her time of greatest need and endeared himself to our family forever. The more informed of you might ask what Ed did while my sister visited her fiancÚ' in the West Point hospital for a solid week. My friends in New York said Ed was able to reconnect with a few former girlfriends there during that one week. Truly a man of opportunity and loyalty to all his friends - be they male or female.
And that dear classmates - friends and family is the Ed Nidever I knew and loved as I would a brother; had I been blessed with a brother - I would have named him "ED". There was never a call in the middle of the night or a need that he had that I would not answer could I do so - and he did the same for me over our six decades of friendship and camaraderie. We were that close and I now thank you again for this privilege of rendering our final salute on behalf of the Class of 1955.
I will always value his friendship and support for Jo Ann and me and our family for evermore. God Bless you - Uncle Ed. May you now rest in Eternal Peace in the army of the Almighty.
You will be sorely missed by us all.