Some of our nation’s oldest buildings contain a wealth of history and perspective. However, add to those historic buildings the knowledge and admiration of those people familiar with the structures and you might see an entirely new story emerge. Most recently, a 97-year-old WWII veteran was just honored with a VIP tour of Michigan’s Central Station, bringing the old soldier home again.
The WWII veteran and Detroit native, Joe England, received an invite from Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Farley to tour Michigan Central Station. In 2018, the auto company’s Executive Chairman Bill Ford announced plans to restore the large train station. The station saw closure in 1988 due to lack of necessity. Further, and despite delays from the coronavirus pandemic, the restoration should see completion in late 2022.
Saturday saw England arrive on a dreary morning at the city’s historic landmark. According to Click On Detroit, the WWII veteran grew up in the “literal shadow” of Michigan Central Station in an apartment building run by his family in Corktown. The train station is iconic as it’s what put Michigan on wheels.
Of the opportunity, England said, “It seems funny to honor a building in a way, but to me it doesn’t. I feel really honored by this building and for this building.”
WWII Veteran Joe England Shares Personal History of the Station
England shared childhood memories of playing alongside the historic structure prior to joining the war effort. The outlet stated he landed on Utah Beach in Normandy just after D-Day in 1944. He heroically helped wounded soldiers in almost every major battle on the war’s Western Front.
In a way, Michigan Central Station serves as a symbol of his patriotic act. It was both the veteran’s mode of departure and arrival before and after WWII. England left on the same trains that would return him home in 1945.
However, England didn’t remain in his Michigan hometown very long. His family had already left Detroit by the time he returned. Prior to Saturday’s tour, the veteran had not returned to Detroit since 1945.
Following, England expressed his gratitude in seeing Michigan Central Station revamped for transport and other innovative purposes again. He said, “I’m so glad they had the foresight to see the future and it’s falling in place as we stand here and talk about it.”
Ford‘s Detroit development director and Ford Fund President, Mary Culler, previously expanded on the auto company’s plans for the revamped station. She said, “This project is about preparing Ford for another century of innovation and success.”
She added, “we are taking a collaborative approach to innovation, including providing flexible workspaces that attract and engage the best minds to solve complex transportation and related challenges as we shape the future of mobility together.”
Conclusively, the WWII veteran shared, “If they had torn this building down, it would have been part of my heart.”