Comfortably, quietly, father and daughter sit side-by-side on an ornate, old-fashioned sofa. For 86-year-old Leopoldo Gurule and his adult daughter Dr. Graciela Morales-Scott, their days together are simple, and precious.

But as the two watch their time together gradually sunset into the horizon, they are filled with gratitude and remembrances of the past and how all those experiences shaped a meaningful present. Most of all, the daughter is so grateful for the good man that is her father today.

"He's our anchor," said Morales-Scott from their Hesperia home. "He really holds a valuable place in our family."
Perhaps her father was always good and decent. It sure seems so, but one experience in particular when he was a young man certainly honed his character.

In 1939, Gurule and 164 others enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Elephant Butte, New Mexico. Through two cold winters and hot summers, the workers built cabins for the Butte's recreation facilities. Using just a pick and mortar, Gurule built the stone chimneys, one by one.

"The training was very harsh," his daughter said. "They had to get up very early in the morning."

In the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 created the CCC to give able-bodied, unemployed young men an opportunity to plant trees to renew the nation's decimated forests and to perform related projects, such as building the Elephant Butte camp structures. They also earned a small paycheck, with most of the earnings going back home to their families.

The experience with the CCC cemented Gurule's sense of discipline, and so after his CCC service had concluded in 1941, he joined the army to fight in World War II.

During one battle as an infantryman fighting in Belgium in 1944, six bullets pierced his body, nearly completely severing his arm.

"He just picked up his arm and took it to the medics," his daughter said. "He came out with a Purple Heart and five other medals."
The stoic Gurule rarely mentioned his war service through the years, however.

"He's so modest. He doesn't like talking about himself."

Eventually, after coming home following his military service, he married Morales-Scott's mother, who already had five children. Quietly, stoically, Gurule did whatever it took to serve his new wife and children. Gurule went to work as a mechanic at Fort Irwin in Barstow, and the family moved to Hesperia.

The actions of the man with only a fourth-grade education spoke volumes, and his children - and now his six grandchildren - learned.

"He has a very solid work ethic. He passed that onto us, the value of work."

Taking her father's example to heart, Morales-Scott earned a PhD and today oversees a small business that specializes in writing non-profit, education-related grants.

"He's a good man," she said. "He's just an ethical person. He taught us a lot of things."

In 1995, his wife died, but Gurule had many days left. Over the past decade, however, he has had his challenges. He had several strokes.

In 2003, after his fourth stroke, Morales-Scott moved from her Long Beach home to take care of her father.

"It wasn't even a second thought. It's really an honor to take care of him."

Over the last four years, he has had two more strokes, and today he gets around slowly with the help of a wheelchair. His words are few, but his resilience is strong, clear and true.

""Si la guerra no me mató, los ataques no van a matarme," he says in Spanish, which in English translates to "If the war didn't kill me, the strokes won't kill me."

"He's never been afraid of death," his daughter said. "Whenever it's his time to go he will go. Obviously it's not his time yet."

In the meantime, the daughter will continue to appreciate the simple goodness of her father.

"He never drank. He never smoked. He's just a good person."