WHITEFIELD — Old soldiers never die, Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, they just fade away.
Or, in the case of John Edward “Buddy” McMahon, who served in the U.S. Army’s 42nd Infantry Division during World War II and was a founder of VFW Post 10675, they bid adieu and alight for their next billet.
For McMahon, 94, and his wife, Annette, 90, that next billet, as of last Sunday, is in Massachusetts, where they will live with their daughter Lisa.
On July 24, the McMahons, who have been married for 70 years, were sent off with good wishes and a potluck lunch by their colleagues and friends at Post 10675.
McMahon said he would “very much” miss the community that he and his wife have called home for decades, then interjected “they’ll miss me, too.”
Generally acclaimed to be a very colorful character in Whitefield, McMahon and his better half are natives of New York; she of Brooklyn, he of Albertson, a hamlet on Long Island.
They met improbably, said Annette, at a bus top in 1946, shortly after her future husband had been discharged.
She had been out sledding and ice skating and was headed home when a male friend who had a car offered to give her a lift. The friend had gone to the bus stop to pick up Buddy — “many people don’t even know his real name,” Annette explained — who was making his way to Albertson from Fort Dix in New Jersey.
That meeting led, four years later, to the couple’s marriage.
Later, as Annette was working on a thesis about Norse mythology for an undergraduate degree, she and Buddy took a trip to Whitefield and the Scandinavian Inn where, she correctly figured, “there’d be a lot of people from Sweden and Norway” to talk to.
The McMahons returned to the inn for a decade as guests, but eventually became its owners, after its then-owner — who lived on Long Island during the off season — approached them with an offer to buy it.
“We just loved the mountains,” said Annette, adding that Buddy learned to appreciate them, too, when the 42nd Division saw what he described as “a little combat” in Austria. She said the couple also loved being on 130 acres in the countryside of northern New Hampshire.
The McMahons changed the name of the business to Kimball Hill Inn.
“We weren’t Scandinavian, so I felt we were living a lie,” said Annette, who in addition to being an innkeeper also taught English at White Mountains Regional High School for more than 20 years.
Meanwhile, in 1982, Buddy helped found Post 10675.
He said he can still fit into his Army uniform, with Annette adding that Buddy has been a fixture at many veterans events and parades.
Joe Hoffmann, who with his wife and fellow veteran, Charlene, is a member of Post 10675, recalled one such parade. A local car dealer had loaned the post a convertible Jeep to ferry dignitaries, said Hoffman, but Buddy immediately pointed out that, despite the name, the vehicle looked like none of the Jeeps he had seen in the Army.
Nonetheless, Buddy climbed inside and, after the parade, he and Hoffman headed to Grandma’s Kitchen to eat, with Buddy’s cane leading the way.
At the restaurant, Buddy “walked in and started swinging the cane around,” said Hoffmann, “and the whole restaurant started cracking up.”
McMahon said that although many members of Post 10765 “had died off,” he is hopeful that with the post will have “new life” because of younger veterans like the Hoffmanns.
“As things go,” Annette said philosophically, “there’ll always be veterans.”
In the next stage of his life, Buddy said he plans to “sleep” while Annette said she’ll spend her time “watching the birds.”