In Leslie West’s telling, her father, Irvin Daubert, “was born happy.” Which is how he got his nickname.
Once, West explained, young Irvin was acting silly at a birthday party. His mother told him to stop, and he replied, “But I’m happy.” From that day on, the family called him “Hap,” and the name stuck.
Hap Daubert, formerly of Eastham, died peacefully on Jan. 28, 2022 at his daughter’s home in Cheshire, Conn. He was 101.
The son of the late Robin R. and Ida (Boreman) Daubert, Irvin was born in Philadelphia and grew up with a brother, Drew, and sister, Adele, in Narbeth, Pa. He graduated from Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, a Philadelphia suburb, in 1942; the caption under his picture in the yearbook read, “Cheerily dancing down life’s road!”
While he was still in school, Hap wanted to earn some money, so he agreed to go door to door to sell the local newspaper. When he returned home having sold exactly zero copies, Drew gave him this advice: if a woman answers the door, tell her about the cosmetics ads; if a man opens the door, tell him about the paper’s sports reporting. He went back out and returned home having sold every newspaper.
The successful sales career that followed was delayed when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942.
The previous year, Hap had gone on a blind date with Lelia “Lee” Bishop. She was a friend of his best friend’s girlfriend. When he was shipped to Texas for training as an aviation armorer and gunner, Lee drove down to visit him. They married on Nov. 12, 1943.
Soon after the wedding, Hap was sent to England, where he served in the 8th Army Air Force, 446th Bomb Group, stationed at Bungay Airfield near the English coast. As part of the crew of a B-24, he went on bombing missions over industrial sites in Germany.
He used a long metal pole to push out of the plane any bombs that got stuck and did not drop properly. He also manned machine guns in the waist of the plane to defend against attacks by German fighters. During his two years of active service in World War II, Hap was awarded nine medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement in the air.
Hap kept a journal in which he recorded the details of his 35 bombing runs with clarity and directness. He described how, on one of his early missions, his flight group was met with heavy flak and machine gun fire. He wrote about seeing one crew member jump out of a plane just after it started to burn, “but his chute didn’t open so he hit the ground.” Another crewman “was killed in the 705,” Hap wrote. “A cal. 30 went through his neck. A few others were wounded.”
He also described what the field of battle looked like from the air. “We could see all the countryside,” he wrote. “Bomb and shell craters dot the ground as far as the eye can see.” And later, “Towns that only yesterday were under Nazi occupation were burned to the ground today. You could see buildings still burning and the homeless people walking away from ruins.”
One journal entry closed with these words: “Up until today I didn’t have a clear picture of war in my mind. But now I do, and God help me forget it just as soon as this mess is over.”
Word came that the war was over while Hap was in the air on another mission; he dropped the plane’s bombs in the North Sea.
Back home after the war, Hap worked in sales in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before settling in Cheshire, where he was a sales representative for Trailmobile, then a manufacturer of long-haul tractor trailers.
Hap and Lee had dreamed for years about living on Cape Cod. Finding himself between jobs in 1970, Hap took a position as plant manager at Nauset Regional High School. Lee took a job at Eastham Town Hall, and the couple bought a house here. Eastham was their home for 50 years.
Throughout the postwar years, Hap was active in community service. He had been a Boy Scout and then an Eagle Scout; as an adult, he served as a scoutmaster in Cheshire and on the Cape and Islands Council in Yarmouth Port.
One of the scouts he supervised in Cheshire, Harvey C. Barnum Jr., grew up to be a Marine Corps colonel who served in Vietnam, where he earned a Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in combat. Hap and Lee were honored guests at the award ceremony, where Barnum praised Hap for his “drive, determination, and dedication to his Scouts.” Hap’s affiliation with the Boy Scouts spanned 85 years.
His affiliation with the philanthropic, fraternal Freemasons lasted nearly as long, 72 years. He was a member of the Universal Masonic Lodge in Orleans and progressed up the ranks of the Masons, achieving the status of Shriner and later being accepted into the Scottish Rite. He valued the Masons’ foundational tenets of faith, hope, and charity.
He was also a member for 35 years of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, through which Hap taught classes on boating and inspected fishing boats at Rock Harbor to certify their seaworthiness.
Hap’s daughter Leslie recalled that when her father wasn’t fishing in his 20-foot outboard (named Hapalee) he created flower gardens with water features, planted an expansive vegetable garden, and built birdhouses and feeding stations. “He had,” she said, “the most beautifully manicured front yard.”
He is survived by his children, Leslie and husband Bob of Cheshire, Conn., Mark and wife Abby of Southbury, Conn., and Holly and husband Dave of Eastham; by his grandchildren, Justin of Cheshire, Mark of Southbury, Jeffrey of Morris, Conn., and David of Dennis; and by a niece, Anna Helfer of Ephrata, Pa.
Hap was predeceased by his wife, Lelia Bishop Daubert.
A Masonic funeral service will be held on April 30 at 11 a.m. at Alderson-Ford Funeral Home, 615 South Main St., Cheshire, Conn. Burial will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to Temple Lodge #16, 9 Country Club Road, Cheshire, Conn. 06410 and to Because of the Brave, 560 Mixville Road, Cheshire, Conn. 06410.