Ohio State or Notre Dame? World War 2 vet Lawrence McCauley asks, 'Why pick?' | Rob Oller

Notre Dame at Ohio State When: 7:30 p.m. SaturdayTV: Ch. 6Radio: 97.1 FM, 1460 AM

Some people want to live forever. Lawrence McCauley just wanted at least eight more years, long enough to witness his Ohio State Buckeyes play his beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Horseshoe.

The 99-year-old will get his wish Saturday when OSU and ND lock arms in a top-five showdown at Ohio Stadium, one day before McCauley turns 100.

“When the game was scheduled (in 2014), Pop wanted to live long enough to see it,” said McCauley’s son, Tom, who eight months ago contacted Ohio State to see

if something could be worked out for his father to be honored during the game for his World War II military service. “He wanted to make it to 100 years old, and here we are.”

And there they’ll be, in section 23 AA, row 11, seats 1-4: father and son, Tom’s wife, Heather, and Larry’s niece, Mary Jo Peterson, who flew in from Seattle to attend her first game at the stadium.

Feel free to send a well-earned salute McCauley’s way, as the French did in 2020 by honoring him with its Legion of Honour, the nation’s highest order of merit.

The veteran also counts five bronze stars, one silver star and the WWII Victory Medal among his awards.

Lawrence McCauley turns 100 on Sunday and will be recognized at Saturday's Ohio State-Notre Dame game.

1. World War II veteran Lawrence McCauley fought in Normandy invasion and at the Battle of the Bulge The almost-a-centenarian asks that you also say a prayer for Mary Jo as she deals with brain cancer.

Larry does a lot of praying. With the rosary every day and at mass as often as possible.

When you live through what he has, including having been ordered to shoot an Army deserter and watching a friend shot between the eyes while exiting a landing craft on D-Day, you count your blessings that it wasn't you taking a bullet.

He also was among the first troops to reach and liberate an estimated 21,000 emaciated prisoners at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.

Lawrence McCauley wrote this letter to his parents from the war in 1944.

No wonder the Lancaster native keeps his sports fandom in perspective. He has experienced actual live-and-die situations during the Normandy invasion,

in the frozen Hurtgen Forest and at the Battle of the Bulge, where his 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion spent 18 days behind enemy lines.

2. Lawrence McCauley has allegiances to Ohio State and Notre Dame A photo of Lawrence McCauley in 1944 that he sent home to his parents at Christmas time.

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame? Kids play. But that doesn’t mean McCauley doesn’t enjoy watching those kids play. He loves it, even if his rooting interest will be tested.

Growing up one of seven children in a Catholic family, McCauley automatically felt allegiance to Notre Dame, but close proximity to Columbus also meant cheering for Ohio State.

Which side won out? In the teen years it was Notre Dame, not so much out of religious affinity but because of the fun and camaraderie found during yearly train rides from Columbus to South Bend, Indiana, to watch the Fighting Irish.

“We got on that train full of Notre Dame fans and spent a real good time,” he said.

McCauley was in awe of Knute Rockne and counts George “The Gipper” Gipp as his favorite Notre Dame player.

3. Lawrence McCauley made friends with many legendary Ohio State Buckeyes, including Hopalong Cassady and Woody Hayes

Staff Segeant Lawrence McCauley, in a photo taken in Belgium in 1944.

On the OSU side, he was friends with Hopalong Cassady – the two were trout-fishing buddies – and loved listening on radio as Archie Griffin gained his yards.

Woody Hayes was a friend, too. McCauley chuckled when describing how one of his eight children, Jimmy, shook hands with Hayes while eating a sticky cone at Isaly’s ice cream shop.

“Woody said, ‘Nice to meet you, Jimmy,’ then walked away wiping his hand on his trousers,” McCauley recalled, smiling. “Woody was great. His wife (Anne) was better. She and my wife (Mary Ann, who died in 2003) were very close.”

How did Woody’s no-nonsense persona compare with the take-no-prisoners approach of General George S. Patton, under whom McCauley served. Answer: “Woody was mild compared to George Jr.” Hoo boy.

Returning from Europe, McCauley attended Ohio University on the G.I. Bill, where he met Mary Ann, then soon after graduating in 1949 moved to Upper Arlington

and went to work for Ohio National Bank (later Banc Ohio, then National City and now PNC). He also oversaw financials for concessions during Ohio State games, but stopped attending games in the late 1950s.

4. Will Lawrence McCauley be cheering for Ohio State or Notre Dame on Saturday night?

Who will McCauley be clapping for Saturday? His son diplomatically instructed him to cheer for the Buckeyes this year, then for the Fighting Irish next season when the teams play in South Bend.

But when Tom left the room briefly during our Tuesday interview, his father leaned in and whispered, “It’s a 50-50 thing. I’ll go Ohio State the first half and Notre Dame the second half.”

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