101 year old Cato WWII veteran recalls his service in Normandy

CATO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Honor the honorable, that’s what NewsChannel 9 strives to do with our Emmy-winning franchise: Veterans Voices.

It’s always a privilege to interview our veterans and it’s extra special when it’s a WWII veteran. After all, it’s estimated that fewer than 1% of the 16 million Americans who served in that war are still with us today.

Recently, NewsChannel 9 had the chance to visit Cal Sheckler of Cato. He’s 101 years old and the only thing currently slowing him down is a broken hip from a fall. But he’s on the mend and will likely be back behind the wheel in no time. His daughter said he just renewed his driver’s license last year.

Sheckler was a Master Sergeant and technical expert with the US Army Signal Corps.

He remembers where he was on D-Day, he was leaving NY on the ship called the Queen Mary, headed for Europe.

Several days later he arrived on Omaha Beach. He remembers jumping over the side of the boat, making his way to shore, and then having to climb a cliff to get to his destination.

“I even carried some college books with me. Here I am carrying that this bag that weighed 60 pounds. I had to carry the bag about 80 feet up a cliff with all this extra weight. That was stupid,” he said laughing.

Sheckler never saw combat, he was on the technical side of things. His education at Drexel University and training at Western Union made him the perfect man to work on a small team of about 12 men, to repair a transatlantic telegraph cable that was cut at the beginning of war.

The repair was needed so communication from Washington DC could be sent to the front lines in Normandy.

“My assignment was to splice two cables and make connection to Europe. They didn’t know how difficult it was to do that. It was very, very difficult.”

Sheckler and his team were able to figure out the difficult task. He said they worked morning, noon, and night for 28 days to restore the crucial connection.

Sheckler would spend more than a year in Normandy running the communication station.

After the service, Sheckler married the love of his life, Marjorie. They had 11 children and raised them on a farmhouse in Cato they bought in 1949.

In 2022, Marjorie passed away at the age of 95, the couple was two months shy of their 75th wedding anniversary.

“She was a very fantastic woman,” Sheckler said.

Mr. Sheckler had a successful career as an electrical engineer, working for large companies such as GE, Carrier, and Xerox. GE is what brought the Shecklers to the Syracuse area from Pennsylvania.

After his corporate career, he became a crop farmer. He’s never been afraid of hard work.

“I started working all the time since I was 12. I delivered the Sporting News on my bicycle. I rode about 12 to 15 miles every day,” he said.

When asked what the secrets are to a long life, Sheckler mentioned having lots of children and a simple philosophy he’s lived by:

“Facing every day, like it’s another day. That’s all I did,” Sheckler said. At 60, I said, ‘by golly I don’t feel like I’m about to leave.’ And at that time I decided I was going to live a long time.”

He said he feels like he may have another 7 to 10 years. We joked that we’d be back to interview him when he turns 110.

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