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A friendship forged after battle, pair of veterans closer than ever after 75 years

A friendship forged after battle, pair of veterans closer than ever after 75 years
A friendship forged after battle, pair of veterans closer than ever after 75 years 05:35

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Leonard Messineo and Morrie Bishaf met more than seven decades ago, they don't remember the details, exactly.  Likely somewhere along the L tracks on the way to college. 

They beat the enemy in World War II. Then, father time. Recently, they taught streaming anchor Brad Edwards a thing or two over breakfast.

Len and Maury, best friends for a lifetime, and then some. 

First, the introductions. 

"My name is Len Messineo."

"My name is Maury Bishaff."

Len: "And I'm 97 years old. Going on 98."

Maury: "I'm 97. Just 97."

Len: "I treat him like a child.  

Brad: "How long have you guys been friends?

Maury: "About 75 years."

Brad: "Would you say best friends?"

Yes, they both say. Their friendship really began before they knew each other, but both were at war.

Brad: "What did you do in WW II?"

Maury: "I actually volunteered."

Len: "I was over the place mostly with the tanks."

Maury's WW II Army portrait. 

Maury: "Wound up in Europe in the infantry division."

Len: "Was in Germany and Bavaria."

Maury: "I was a rifleman."

Maury: "We were in during the Battle of the Bulge." (Brief history lesson: The Americans suffered some 75,000 casualties in the Battle of the Bulge, but the Germans lost 80,000 to l00,000. German strength had been irredeemably impaired, according to the U.S. Army Center of Military History.)

Len: "I was just there to be, to do what I had to do."

Maury: "I hated guard duty." (Laughter)

He may laugh about it now, but when you're 18 and alone "on watch" with a Nazi gunning for your head, it is hardly a pleasant experience.

Then ...

Len on duty in WW II. 

Len: "I have to tell you this. I was in Southern Germany with my armored division. My birthday was the 30th of April. Hitler committed suicide on the same day. I celebrate every April 30th for Hitler's demise."

This particular conversation is happening at the Liberty in Libertyville. The two returned to Chicago and became engineers in 1946 on the GI Bill. 

Len: "We had a lot in common. We were in the war. We had gone to school, studying the same subject."

Maury: "Living in the same neighborhood."

Len: "And, a block apart."

Maury: "I probably had you doing my homework."

Len: "I did more homework than he did."

Both married.

Len: "Our wive's think we're crazy though."

Both had kids and, then, worked, together. 

Maury: "That first job we had, we only stayed 20 years. We learned quite a bit about manufacturing. We made armored vests in 1963."

Brad: "After the war, after school, you makin' stuff that saved American lives."

Maury: Yeah.

Len: "We supplied the military, yes."

Maury: "After 20 years we bought a distressed company."

They employed about 150 people, it might have been called All American Products, at first. Or maybe that was later. 

But, who cares.  Get this:

Len: "Remember the old Schwinn bikes? They had banana seats. That's what we made."

Maury: "We got along unusually well."

And, well, they couldn't be more different.

Len: "I'm Catholic. Maury's Jewish. I'm a Republican, more or less, and he's a Democrat. And I don't hold it against him."

Maury: "Most of the time." (Laughter)

Brad: "How in the hell has this lasted for 75 years?"

Len: "We argue well, without animosity. I know he was wrong, but I never told him so. The things we talk about are things that maybe others don't talk about: Why is this glass made this way with the bottom of the glass like this?

Engineers forever. They're curious.

Brad:  "What do you think of the state of the world?"

Len: "I think we could be heading for some horrible apocalypse."

Before the conversation got really dark, Manny ("the best waiter in the word," says Len) arrived to take their order.  Perfect timing      Manny to the rescue.

Maybe not apocalypse, but both agree the tenor of the times, doesn't make for breaking bread.

What about the secrets of near centenarians? It's not indicative of their breakfast order. 

Len: "I will have a scrambled egg and crisp bacon."

Waiter: "Fruit?"

Len: "No."

Maury: "No I don't want any of that stuff."

Len: "Excuse me does anyone want to have half a bagel?"

And their sharing shows no end.

Brad: "How much longer are you gonna do Tuesday breakfast?"

Len:  "As long as I'm around. As long as he's around."

On Tuesdays with Maury, and Len, in Libertyville.  

Combined, they have 5 kids, 10 grandkids, and 8 great-grandkids.

Maury (left) and Len (right) with their daughters. 

And get this, see those two in the middle of the picture (above)? Len's daughter, and one is Maury's and they've been best friends for nearly 50 years.

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