World War II Veterans and Childhood Best Buddies Reunite After 71 Years

World War II Veterans and Childhood Best Buddies Reunite After 71 Years

The idea was to be warriors together, EMPHASIS on the together, and they did just that! This story is a childhood story of two boys who wanted to grow up and become heroes…and at first it looked as though they would, but separation came soon after entering into the military, and the opportunity to reunite did not present itself until 71 years LATER!

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Seventy one years fell away as two old friends, Paul Ruberg, left, and Roy Romes, both 90, reunited at Ruberg’s home in the Western Hills Retirement Village over lunch. Romes lives in Fort Wright. They graduated from Elder High School in 1943 and joined the Navy together. They lost touch after World War II.

The two Cincinnati Catholic boys, Roy Romes and Paul Ruberg had been thick as thieves during their grade school days. Upon graduating from high school, the pair decided to join the Marines together in 1943.

But Romes couldn’t pass a necessary medical test. That wasn’t going to separate them. Together, they enlisted in the Navy.

As much as they hungered to fight World War II together, the Navy did not as feel compelled. They were sent to separate duties, separate venues. But they both survived the great conflict.

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Paul Ruberg, now 90, joined the Navy during World War II right after graduating from Elder High School. He now lives in the Western Hills Retirement Village.

Back in Cincinnati, the two men did not find each other again, though hardly by design. They almost found each other, by accident, on a few occasions. They lived within earshot of each other in adjoining neighborhoods.

But 71 years went by. Until Ruberg’s son, Mike, decided that time wouldn’t wait much longer.

The Romes and Ruberg families arranged to reunite the former playmates Sunday. Romes and Ruberg, both now 90, veterans, family men and businessmen, immediately picked up where they left off.

Romes entered the Western Hills Retirement Village main building, wheeled around a corner in his wheelchair and hollered into the living room: “Where’s my friend, Paul?”

Ruberg guffawed in response. The men then spent several hours laughing off their growing lists of physical ailments, recalling fond memories from their old neighborhood, and retracing their military careers.

They acquainted themselves with the men they’d grown into. There were also some playful jousts about physical appearance.

“You’re bald, for crying out loud!” said Ruberg.

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Roy Romes, now 90, joined the Navy during World War II right after graduating from Elder High School. He now lives in Fort Wright.

“It keeps falling out!” said Romes. “Look how fat he is. He used to be skinny.”

The Ruberg family has great reverence for Romes. They contend he might have helped Paul Ruberg survive WWII.

“At the time, the Marines did not have a great mortality rate,” said Mike Ruberg. His father “ended up in the Navy in medical corps, so he was about as far away from the fighting as you could be.”

“Just as a kid growing up around Roy Romes’ name,” said Mike Ruberg, “you heard it as a kid and you’d say, ‘Oh, that’s that guy that grandpa tried to join the Marines with and ended up joining the Navy.’ It’s a family story we’ve passed down. I guess just finally meeting the guy was emotional after all these years, and I’ve known of the story as long as I’ve been alive.”

As far as the friendship goes, the Navy enlistment was a mixed blessing. It might have helped the two men avoid death in combat, but it’s also where the path Romes and Ruberg charted began to split.

The Romes and Ruberg families made their homes just miles apart in recent years — the Rubergs in Fort Wright, Ky., and the Romes in the Fort Mitchell, Ky. The neighborhoods butted up against each other, Mike Ruberg said. Still no contact between the old friends.

The Rubergs also once noticed a concession stand named for Romes at a Covington Catholic football game. Romes and his wife have been generous benefactors of the school for years, in part through the Pat and Roy Romes Scholarship.

Sunday offered a chance to make up for the lost time.

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Paul Ruberg, left, and Roy Romes, both 90, meet for the first time in 71 years at Ruberg’s home in the Western Hills Retirement Village. Romes lives in Fort Wright. They graduated from Elder High School in 1943 and joined the Navy together. They lost touch after World War II.

“You and I spent a lot of time together,” said Romes.

“Seventy years later, seeing a guy,” Ruberg mused. “He doesn’t look the same, but he never was good lookin’.”

Romes said he was impressed with Ruberg’s retirement community, and the open policy on visiting hours. He joked he’d consider moving into the community once his wife died.

For now, the only barrier between Romes and Ruberg is a 30-minute drive.

I love their sense of humor…what a pretty amazing story they have to share with the world.

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