Tom Daley and Jerry Harkavy, left, who connected through the nonprofit Vet to Vet Maine, meet weekly and often go on walks at Scarborough Marsh. “We like to shoot the breeze. Tom does like to tell stories,” Harkavy said. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

SCARBOROUGH — There are days, Tom Daley says, when it’s lonely on top.

At 92, he’s outlived many of his friends and most of the men he served with in World War II. His wife, Anita, with whom he shared 68 happy years, died on March 30, 2018.

Tom Daley, during his time in the Navy during World War II.

“Let’s face it, I don’t have any friends left,” he said. “I outlived them all.”

But on the days Vietnam veteran Jerry Harkavy, of Cape Elizabeth, comes to visit, Daley can count on a good time. The men – separated in age by 16 years but both with seemingly endless energy – often go for long walks on the Eastern Trail and always share lots of laughs.

“We like to shoot the breeze. Tom does like to tell stories,” Harkavy said. “His stories are so good they’re worth repeating.”

Harkavy and Daley, of Scarborough, met through Vet to Vet Maine, a Biddeford-based nonprofit founded in 2014 that pairs veterans for home visits. In the past five years, 100 volunteers have visited 177 veterans in southern Maine.

“We make sure veterans are not left alone at the end of their lives,” said Executive Director Susan Gold. The volunteers “want to bring a little bit of joy and companionship to veterans. They go out of their way to make sure their veterans have what they need.”

For some, that’s a regular visit when a veteran is otherwise alone or not able to leave home. Other volunteers help their fellow veteran navigate the Veterans Administration to get services. In one case, a volunteer veteran brought an older vet to visit his wife’s gravestone for the first time.

Harkavy, like many of the volunteers, brings to his role compassion, commitment to making a positive difference in the life of a fellow veteran and a genuine dedication to service, Gold said.

“They’re a breed of people who believe in service. They want to continue to serve,” she said. “It really makes a difference to know someone else is going through what you’re going through.”

Tom Daley was a gunner on the U.S.S. Saint Paul during World War II. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

Daley grew up in Lewiston and by eighth grade was working third shift in a mill that manufactured parachute cloth. At 16, he started commuting as many as seven days a week to South Portland to work at the shipyard where 236 Liberty ships were built during WWII.

Daley enlisted in the Navy in 1944 and served as a gunner on the heavy cruiser USS Saint Paul, an assignment that gave him an up-close view of both intense fighting and unfolding history. The last shots on Japan came from guns aboard the Saint Paul on Aug. 9, 1945.

Less than a month later, Daley was on the Saint Paul in Tokyo Bay when the Peace Treaty of Japan was signed aboard the nearby USS Missouri. Three months after the surrender, he was one of 50 sailors selected to tour China, where he flew over the Great Wall. Daley went on to serve  in the Navy until 1960.

After the Navy, Daley returned to Maine, raised four children with his wife and taught auto mechanics and drivers’ education. In recent years, while making regular visits to a friend at the Maine Veterans Home near his house in Scarborough, he heard about Vet to Vet Maine.

“I thought I would be going to visit nursing homes,” he said. “They didn’t tell me they were going to send someone who was going to walk my legs off.”

Harkavy, 76, grew up in in the Bronx and attended New York University, where he was enrolled in ROTC. With the draft on, he enlisted in the Army in 1965 at age 22. As the war heated up, he took an information officer course and was assigned to a five-member attachment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Harkavy, who had been a part-time copy boy at the New York Times before enlisting, served in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, largely in the Central Highlands. During his time in Vietnam, Harkavy met well-known journalists and by the time his tour ended, he was in touch with the Associated Press Boston bureau chief.

Harkavy took a job as an AP reporter in Portland, where he worked as a journalist for his entire 41-year career. Since retiring 10 years ago, he has dedicated much of his time to volunteering and visiting both Daley and another veteran through Vet to Vet Maine.

“My wife says I’m busier now than when I was working. This guy keeps me busy,” Harkavy said of Daley.

Harkavy wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It gives purpose to my life. I so look forward to these meetings with Tom. He’s just so much fun to be with. He has all these fascinating experiences in his life that he has shared with me,” Harkavy said. “That’s one of the things I love about this guy. I feel he’s one of the last of the Greatest Generation.”

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