Les Reile opened up his heart - and wallet - to help feed the hungry in Manteca, Escalon, and Stockton this Thanksgiving.
Reile gave away $5,000 this week in memory of his late wife Giesela.
Reile is a “young” 87-year-old gentleman who can regularly be seen pushing his walker into the Doctors Hospital of Manteca lobby where Giesela – the love of his life – passed away in mid-summer this year after a bout with leukemia.
Reile decided last week that he had to help the hungry this Thanksgiving with monetary donations. That’s what his wife would have wanted. She was a woman who would have given anybody the shirt off of her back if she felt they needed it more than she did, Reile said. She passed away July 29 in the Manteca hospital.
“Her Thanksgiving meals were the best – she loved to cook,” he quipped, adding that it was mostly organic in nature.
His ever-increasing bank statement from investments had caught his eye recently. He thought that with no children there was no reason he needed that much money in his account when others were going hungry.
$1,000 to Kiwanis to help Manteca needy
The Escalon Food Bank was the first recipient of a $1,000 check from Reile. The second went to the Sunrise Kiwanis Club with his instructions to help feed the hungry through the Second Harvest Food Bank. Another check was made out to the Interfaith Ministries in Stockton and finally the Manteca Ambulance was rewarded for its service to Reile and his wife. He said he plans to try and make a second stop in Ripon to help after not being able to locate a food bank on his first attempt, not knowing about its Interfaith Ministries.
The Manteca Ambulance saved him thousands of dollars, he added, through their minimal charges for transporting his wife to doctors’ offices and hospitals as far away as Sacramento. She also suffered from muscular dystrophy, he noted.
“She had broken her hip in June of 2011 and I was with her 24/7 after that,” he said. “We had saved for a trip to Mallorca and I knew she would want me to do this with the money.”
His almost daily trips into Doctors Hospital now gives him the chance to visit with members of the medical staff at the coffee and snack shop just off the lobby run by its owner “Ali” –a good friend and confidant. He bought a specially outfitted van that allowed him to take her for rides in the country and to doctors’ appointments.
“Ali gave me a book, ‘Jesus Calling,’ on about July 25 with a string marker designating a page to be read. At first I just read the first page. She wanted me to read out of that book every day. On the 29th I opened the book and it read ‘Come Unto Me,’ – she died that morning,” he said.
“Always, when she was in the hospital, she wanted me next to her,” he recalled. His wife developed leukemia in 2008 to add to the MS she was diagnosed as having shortly after they were married.
With a glint in his eye, he has a myriad of stories to tell that go back to when he was drafted into the Army in 1945 at 21 and became a map maker in the Engineers and served in Germany and Vietnam for his entire career. Those stories go back to growing up in Jamestown in North Dakota.
His first orders with the Army sent him to an assignment in Germany in 1946 where he met a young lady at a dance. He danced with her until 4 in the morning, he remembers. It wasn’t too long before they were married.
Wife grew up in East Germany
She had grown up in East Germany where her family was among the masses prohibited from crossing the Berlin Wall to the West. With the help of the Methodist Church and her father, the family was able to use the railroad as a shield to make it across into the West hiding between parked trains and behind a coal pile, shoveling coal.
Reile was stationed in Heidelberg, 40 miles from Switzerland where he spent most of his time in the Army, being discharged in 1967. For the last six months he had orders to go to Vietnam “correcting maps so the GIs didn’t get killed,” he remembered. Many of the maps were wrong and the cause of many soldiers being in the wrong places and losing their lives.
From 1954 until 1958 he played soccer with teams in Southern Germany while helping to break up a ring of thieves who were intercepting Army supplies and selling them on the black market.
Reile was involved with coaching youth in Little League play as well as football, basketball and soccer.
He also taught a Head Start Program that taught young soldiers the German language so they could go into town and interact with merchants getting the supplies they needed, he recalled.
“The Mexican guys were the best students because of the similarities between Spanish and German,” he chuckled.
After being discharged from the Army he served as a substitute teacher at a junior high and a high school in Tracy. Reile also taught at Duel Vocational Institute (DVI) in Tracy where he held classes in blue print reading, hoping to give inmates a useful tool they could use when they were released.
Reile plays pinochle Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Ripon Senior Center.
Anyone coming across Reile pushing his walker along with