HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- James Jalbert and Buz Murrill share a 60 year-plus friendship. The pals met in a neighborhood off Three Chopt Road when their street resembled the classic television show “Leave it to Beaver.”
“In the old days it was a community affair,” said James.
Their neighborhood was a place with manicured lawns and people who knew your name. Nearly 30 years his senior, Buz and other children literally looked up to Mr. James Jalbert.
“He is like a father,” said Buz. “The word hero is thrown around all too often these days. This is what a real hero looks like.”
As Buz grew older he learned more about James' high flying back story. The Maine native joined the Army Air Corp during WWII.
“I knew I wanted to be a pilot the worst thing in the world,” said James.
He piloted an astounding 58 missions across the South Pacific in a B-24 through clouds of flak.
“You can hear the explosion. Kavoom. Kavoom. Kavoom. Kavoom,” said James.
James barely survived the war.
“You’re damn right I am proud of my service,” he said.
Once on the ground, he and his wife would move to Richmond.
“1955. January of 1955,” said James.
Buz and his parents settled in the same year.
“Right there across the street,” said Buz.
Buz says the Jalbert house was always buzzing with activity.
“Most of the kids in the neighborhood played in this yard,” said James.
“We knew what he expected and what would happen if we fell short,” said Buz. “But on the other hand, we knew how much he loved us and how good he was to us.”
Time marches on. Children would grow up and neighbors would move away including Buz.
“It was just a special time to grow up in a special neighborhood,” said Buz.
When the Hanover County man visits his 97-year-old friend, the years melt away.
“Buzz is always going to be like one of my kids. He’ll always be one of my kids,” said James.
The pair wax poetic about those Kodachrome days.
“I had to keep my eye on Buz and all of them. They had to toe the line,” said James.
The former neighbors realize nothing lasts forever.
“It’s been a good life. Very good,” said James.
New faces may come and go. But some friendships remain constant. Just like the stars and stripes.
“He means the world to me.”
James Jalbert worked for thirty years as an engineer for Virginia Power. He married his sweetheart Teddy and they raised five children.