Debbie Lamby Jenkins was 11 years old in 1969 when her family got the news that her older brother, Chuck, a sergeant in the Army fighting in Vietnam, was missing in action.
Two weeks later, she thought for a moment her brother had returned home.
"My mom was taking a bath and I was in the living room of our house. I saw two uniforms get out of a car," she said. "I got up as a little kid, I was yelling 'Mom, Chuckie's home, Chuckie's home!' "
But as soon as her mother saw the officers, she knew they did not have good news. They told her her oldest son, Charles Lamby, had been killed March 30 – Palm Sunday – when he was helping another soldier who had been wounded. He was 23.
There is little left but memories of Charles giving her his extra pennies and his paintings of her as well as scenes near their home in Derby and Buffalo.
Nearly 50 years later, Jenkins wants her brother's paintings to do some good. About 20 of his amateur paintings, including a rough, menacing Lake Erie and a portrayal of a Christmas scene in a department store window, will be auctioned Sunday, Aug. 20, to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project and the Evans Art Guild. The exhibit will take place at 2 p.m. at the Grandview Bay Golf Course, 444 Central Ave., Evans. A Frank Sinatra tribute artist will perform until the auction starts at 4 p.m.
The paintings were stored in the attic of her Derby home, which had been her parents' home. Her parents, other brother and sister, have all died, leaving her as guardian of the family history. She talked with her friend, Pamela Forge, over the years, about what to do with the paintings, and they came up with the idea of the fundraiser.
Jenkins said it is not about how much money is raised, but about getting together with friends who still remember Chuck Lamby and might want something to remember him, as well as honoring the sacrifice of one of the hometown men who lost their lives in Vietnam.
Lamby was a wrestler at Lake Shore Central High School, and attended Mohawk Valley Community College and the University at Buffalo.
An infantry point man with A company, Third Battalion, 12th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, he had served in the Army for two years. His mother donated his medals to the Evans Historical Society, and they were among the military relics stolen in 2006. They were never recovered.
Jenkins said her father could not bring himself to greet his son's body when it was returned to the Niagara Falls Air Base.
"That was the first time I ever saw him cry," she said.
Lamby is buried in St. Vincent de Paul Cemetery in North Evans, and his name is on the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, D.C., Panel 28W, Line 92.
The flag that draped his casket is on display, with his photograph, at the Derby American Legion, she said.
She's hoping the family's 48-year-old grief can be turned around in a celebration of generosity and reminiscences.
But not all the pictures will be for sale. She's keeping a couple of drawings Chuck made of her.
"A couple of them I'm not going to part with because I just love them," she said.