YORKIE DOODLE DANDY a book review by JC Sullivan
He readily admits there were two women in his life! “The other woman was a real dog.” And he’s not kidding. After having read 'Yorkie Doodle Dandy,' I came away with a feeling of enchantment. There are two stories between the covers. Bill Wynne’s and the other woman in his life – 'Smoky,' a Yorkshire Terrier. Although Wynne loved 'Smoky' dearly, he dedicates his book to his wife Margie.
Born in 1925 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Bill Wynne grew up in a fatherless home on the West Side of Cleveland. When he was three years old his father bailed on the family. Wynne never saw him again. His single mother Beatrice Caffrey Wynne, who would later become Phi Beta Kappa, raised her family of three children by herself.
The family struggled during the Depression years. When times were the roughest, he and his brother Jim, like many other boys of the time, were shipped off to Parmadale Orphanage, run by the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, while his sister Mary went to Scranton to live with her maternal grandparents.
While at Parmadale he learned an important lesson that he carried throughout life. On a ramshackle baseball team with other kids his age, their grit and determination won them the championship. “That lesson proved there is always hope, anything can be accomplished.” His loneliness from being separated from his family during that time led him to befriend animals. After two years he rejoined his family.
Because of the difficulties his family faced, they were forced to move ten times. Wynne attended three different grade schools. ”Running the streets is not conducive to study.” Needless to say, he became introverted and was not an attentive student. “Yet, observation was one of my best teachers.” It becomes obvious in reading the book and meeting the man that those hard experiences lead to his developing a character and creative imagination that serve him to his day. He readily admits he was twenty years old when he finally graduated from high school. Not many ordinary people would admit to that but Wynne is not ordinary.
At West Tech High School he was introduced to photography, one of a couple events that changed the course of his life. When WWII broke out, he joined the U.S. Army Air Force. Someone noted his photography experience and, after training, he ended up in the Pacific Theater with the 26th Photo Recon Squadron, 5th Air Force.
While on Nazdab, New Guinea a buddy found a small female Yorkshire Terrier stuck in an abandoned foxhole. For three pounds Australian she became a life-changing event in Wynne's life. He named her “Smoky.”
As I mentioned, there are two stories here. While I’ve been writing about Wynne, the book is really about "Smoky," the amazing little bundle of energy who became “Australia’s First War Dog.” During this time Wynne trained her to do a number of tricks. Afraid that she would be "adopted" while he was away, she accompanied him on aerial combat photography missions and became a decorated “War Dog” and the first documented “Therapy Dog”.
With her healing work at military hospitals among the wounded, 'Smoky' became legendary. When the war ended Wynne sneaked her home where they became a famous act together, entertaining veterans recovering from physical and mental war wounds, children and adults far and wide.
Maxwell Riddle, noted dog historian, author and judge said, “I’ve seen them all, 'SMOKY' is the greatest.” With that being said, you’ll need to read the book to learn of her own remarkable life story that Wynne has written.
Because he came from a broken family, Wynne turned down many post-war offers to relocate to Hollywood and elsewhere. Instead, he raised his family in Cleveland where his work included working as a newspaper photo/journalist, reporter and Flight Photographer in Icing Research for NACA/NASA. And now he’s an author. A screenplay on this book is currently in development. At 92 years young he’s writing a second book. "What’s in it," I asked. “Everything I left out of the first one.”
Wynne and his wife Margie, who passed in 2004, raised nine children: Joanne Wynne Ozarzak, William G. (deceased), Susan W. Kovach, Marcia W. Deering, Robert J., Donna W. Tabar, Patrick J., Margaret W. Stockmaster and James.
Where did Wynne get his strenth from, a guy who was given practically nothing in the way of physical comfort or advantage during his childhood? Because I'm prejuidical to my Irishness, allow me to opine it came from the strength of his single mother Beatrice nee Caffrey, who was born in Scranton, PA. to parents from famine-ravaged Ireland.
To read more about Wynne and "Smoky," the amazing dog who has a numerous memorials throughout the world and in Cleveland’s MetroParks (where he's buried), buy the book on Amazon.com. It’s a delightful read.