SAN ANTONIO – For 94-year-old Lyle Bird it seems like just yesterday he was enlisting in the United States Navy.
But it’s been nearly 77 years since his time on board the USS Okanogan, which was deployed at the time to Okinawa, Japan. Bird served on board as a signalman who helped in visual communications and lookout for other ships.
Lyle Bird has many loves. Along with his love for his country, he also shared a passion for music. It’s a passion that has landed him a part in his ships jazz band.
His role as a signalman during World War ll was a vital one, but he also had another skill he brought to the decks of the Okanogan. As a talented musician he became the ships official bugler; so he had the distinguished responsibility of playing taps for at-sea burials.
Birds musical career as a musician began at 9-years-old. He said a traveling salesman came to his parent’s Bakersfield, California home, signing kids up for music lessons. He said he signed up to play the trumpet. As the years went by, he recalls his time in San Francisco playing swing music during the big band era.
Music also led him to meet the love of his life. Bird met his wife when she owned her own music school. He was there to help manage. But the role of his wife grew. His wife, Deena, said through the years she’s proudly become his director, his producer, and his agent.
“No one is prouder of him than I am,” she said.
It was a duet that nearly became a solo act. Bird underwent a heart valve replacement in Aug. at Methodist Hospital. He managed to pull through and just three days after surgery he was back playing his trumpet once again.
The pandemic did not stop his recovery, nor did it stop his garage band blow outs with other musicians.
Bird and his wife happily hosted socially distanced jam sessions for a crowd of four regularly. Deena said they couldn’t stand being isolated during the Spring lockdown.
Both Lyle and Deena have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and are ready to retake their lives filled of love, laughter and most importantly music. Bird attributes his joyful life to his faith in God.
He described his outlook on life as “no fear, God is near”.