Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Twisty turns, financials, roses, politics.

Looking back over years of life it is amazing the twists and turns on the journey. I'm listening to Tom Sullivan on Fox Talk on the XM radio right now as I write and think. He's discussing the recent government bail out for those who are losing their homes in the mortgage meltdown. Because Steve has just lost his condo, this is a sore spot. I have much sympathy for those in the bad financial situations but I do not support government bailouts.

Steve called Sunday evening, woke me up and sounded happy as a clam that he will be moving now into an apartment in Roseville. He's relieved because rent is less than what he'd been trying to pay to keep up with his escalating mortgage. Now I'm not at my best when I've been awakened from my deep sleep, but I thought, "I must now be living in a nightmare. He has lost the condo, is on eviction status, and just barely found a used car to replace his truck which had been totaled by an underinsured drive, and he's gleeful?" Why did it not occur to him to work two jobs? He's tired, he says and yet who isn't when they have to sacrifice to get ahead? Of course he has lost the condo and with it the $$ we fronted. Easy come and easy go to him. Well that was a twisty turn and an opportunity he will not get again. This money tree is losing its leaves. Yet, who could have ever thought that real estate in CA and all around would get so upside down? Who would have thought the loans would go sideways? We all expected things to continue to grow. And who would have thought that there were so many predators in the financial industry feasting on fixing the unsuspecting trusting souls with lousy loans which would be defaulted? And who would have thought that Steve would lose his job with the school district after 12 years? Well enough about that.

The point is, things change and if we could have crystal balls to see ahead would we do things differently? Surely some things. And yet, life can work out if we persevere and trust and keep our faith. I've kicked myself many times for leaving Allegheny college, for the stupidest decision of my oh so wrong first marriage, and being across the country in CA. But know what? Somehow, I always wanted to live in CA and so I stayed there. And if I hadn't I'd never have met Jerry, we'd never have had the house with the swimming pool, we'd never have lived on acres in Newcastle and raised over 300 roses, I'd never have had the career with the State and I'd never have met all the friends along the way. I have to remember that here in Mayberry land when I wonder what in the world we are doing in MN? Yet this is a different environment.

In CA none of us were natives; well at least not many in my time. We came from all over and so we hung out together and made families of ourselves. We were different and we were the real blending of ages, backgrounds and beliefs. Many of my friends were very different politically than me and yet we enjoyed drinking wine together, reading, watching movies, shopping. We were accepting. I think that is what I miss the most. Here people have lived for generations and outsiders are really outsiders. It takes a unique outlook, self confidence and faith in the Almighty to ignore and persevere the twisty turn.

Another loopy turn has just hit me. In CA I was a very avid rose grower with a garden full of every type of rose from antiques to the latest hybrids. I grew nearly 400 roses at one time and then cut back to about 350. It used to be my therapy after a day in the bureaucracy to get out there and dead head roses in the evening. Every weekend I'd be doing something with my roses. I was very active in our rose society too holding every office. I studied and passed exams to be a consulting Rosarian, attended district meetings and national conventions. Had friends all over the world from our mutual love and interest of rose growing. I considered trying my hand at hybridizing. Flash forward on the twisty life road to 2008 in MN. Yes, we have a very lovely small rose garden about 25 different roses. But I have no desire to ever have so many roses again. For one, the arthritis in my hands rebels if I clip for too long. The different climate from CA to MN forced me to learn a different method of care an cultivation. No longer do I want to be all tied up in roses. In some ways rose growing is easier here--our season ends with covering the garden with mulch in November and then nothing needs to be done until maybe March at the earliest. This past year it was late April until I could get out there and prune away old growth. In CA roses were year round work with heavy work in December through February, our foggy rainy season. That's when we dormant sprayed and pruned back to force dormancy. Here no fall pruning is needed--they go to sleep on their own like good children who know it's bedtime. One of Jerry's first projects was to get the ground dug for our rose garden to accompaniment of comments from many neighbors who were sure that I was wasting our time. Today those same neighbors admire the blooms and complement me about my knack for roses. One says, "anyone who can grow roses in MN really has talent." I explain that roses grow everywhere, it's just knowing what kinds to grow here where winter can become harsh. We really do have the prettiest rose garden in town and one of the only. Which gets to the point of this twisty turn in my road. Accidentally I did not renew my rose society dues in December. Well, they went to online bulletins so they did not send a paper dues reminder and I really forgot all about paying my dues. Just last week one of the members from the Twin Cities Rose Club asked me if I'd joined another society. No, omg--guess I forgot to pay my dues. Then I thought, well why bother? I have never attended a meeting of this rose society which insists on being called a "club." It is in Minneapolis and meets Friday evenings. That would be a 2+ hour drive more or less each way. Not my idea of fun after it gets late. And I don't want to pay for a hotel room to stay over night. Besides, I have been spoiled by the best in CA and the programs here seem way too elementary for me. The District conference in March was so boring that I was just beside myself. I haven't attended a local meeting in 3 years so it is unlikely that I ever will. I really don't even care that I'd lose my consulting rosarian status by not belonging to a local society. I guess this is another twisty turn--I have the knowledge and the friends and will retain my American Rose Society membership at the national level. But unless there is something much closer, I will no longer be a local dues payer. Different from CA where I belonged to at least 3 local societies and was so into this. Another evidence of how interests shift and things can change. Besides why waste the $30 dues. That's not much until I start to consider all the different $25, $10, $30, etc here and there and pretty soon it's into the hundreds. Better use of money for other things.

Looking back at twisty turns helps us look ahead too. This too shall pass. It came to pass, it didn't come to stay. As I watch the stock market declines affect our investments, I keep optimism that this shall pass so that someday we will look back and talk about the depression of 2007-08. I hope we are now on the bottom leg of this downside journey and that we will start upward again.

Oh now listening to Jessie Ventura on Tom. Ventura is really a different person, truly an independent spirit rough, gruff, bright and opinionated. I have an acquaintance here in MN who has a license plate, "TAX FREE" on her corvette. She says they bought it the year Jessie was governor and returned excess $$ back to the people instead of allowing the state government to spend it. Talk about different! He calls the $ "Jessie checks." Around here there are differing opinions about Jessie. If there can ever be significant independent politics he will be part of it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lipstick chronicles blog and bullies

One of my high school gal pals recommended the lipstick chronicles blog. I just checked it out and really like it. So thanks to Carlie I now have one more website on which to "waste time." Or as I prefer, another portal to things unknown, unsaid, and unknown to be desirable before this experience. Well it's my leisure retirement time and I could be doing lots worse....hey, that's the same argument I use with Jerry about shopping---"I could be dong worse things...I could be hanging out on street corners, bars, whatever."

J.B.Stanley writes on the lipstick chronicles blog that she was pondering how to develop a character for her writing and was hanging out in Barnes and Noble. She asked the following question,

"Can you think back to high school or junior high and tell me if there was someone who was especially mean to you?" I plowed on. "A bully?"

Slightly suspicious, she nodded. "Yeah, I knew someone like that. Why do you want to know?"

"Well, I’ve already based characters on people who have wronged me, my third cousins, or my cat. At the moment, I’m fresh out of villains. But you knew someone who had an extra supply of cruelty?"

She nodded immediately. "In high school. His name was Russ."

Russ? My antagonist had a first name. I’d make up his last name later. "What did he look like?"

"He was your average blue-eyed blond, but he was too mean to be cute. He only smiled when he thought he was hurting someone." She paused in the middle of straightening a row of Seventeen magazines. "His face was always bunched up in a smirk. Like a little frog."

I could picture him already, but as a grown man in his mid-twenties. "What kind of things did he tease you about?"

The bookseller’s face clouded over. I could see that Russ’s words still haunted her and she was in her mid-forties. "He told me that no one would ever ask me out. He said that I looked like a fat boy. He called me fat boy all the time. I hated him." She gazed out the window and then turned back to me. "You know what? I still hate him."

I find this fascinating because lately with our reconnection I've been thinking back on Ken Hi days. Even thinking back past that to Ridge Ave Jr. Hi times. Why stop there, what about 3rd Ward elementary school? Maybe my memories have dimmed so much that they have black holes but I really cannot think of any bully or anyone who was that mean to me during my school days. I don't know, maybe we were nicer then. Or maybe I just had such self esteem and confidence that I didn't attract bullies? Or maybe I've just been fortunate. I think if I'd had someone taunting me as described above, I'd have called him/her something worse. Maybe I was too naive to recognize an insult and merely laughed at a fool who tried? Or maybe with the abuse that happened at home, nothing else phased me.

I remember being on the stage in our high school assembly--maybe running for some class office. Anyway I remember tripping and flopping. Of course everyone laughed and I know my face must have been red. But I laughed too. Of course I was embarrassed--what teenage girl wouldn't have been in the 60's. But something deep inside carried me over that and just let me laugh too. Maybe this is a trait that has served me well in life.

Now don't think for a moment that it's been an ice cream sundae existence. Yet I have been able to shrug off many things by laughter. I know it's good for the body, soul, spirit. It must disarm an insult.

The other day I was picking up some alterations and yakking with the seamstress when an attractive, well groomed, well put together, poised elderly lady came in with a garment for Pat to mend. She began to talk with us as we were laughing about something. She shared that her husband was just getting on her last nerves. she said,"He was a major in the Army and he still expects every one to hop to it and salute him. It's just killing me, I had a stroke last year." She seemed so sad and shaken. Well Pat started to laugh and replied, "Why don't you do just that but make fun of him? Laugh at him." You know laughter is the best medicine. I commented further that the only salute he'd get from me would be a one finger one! She thought about this and then got a gleam in her eye, "you know you girls might just have the answer..."

I left right after that and there outside sat her husband in their car. He rolled down his window and asked me' "Is my wife in there? " I sensed his demanding demeanor was not a casual inquiry, so I decided to have my fun there with the Major and replied, "Why how would I know? Who is your wife? I mean I don't even know who you are let alone your wife." He bristled and described her. I laughed at him and said, "Oh yes she is. And you must be the Major." To this he swelled up (aha I spotted the recognition he craves....) then demanded , "well what's taking so long?" There was much I could have said including that we were assuaging the poor gal about him, but my better judgement prevailed. After all she has to live with him I don't. So I merely said, "Well I was there first and so she had to wait her turn. If I had only known that you were out here waiting and in a hurry for sure I'd have let her go before me." I walked across to my car grinning. I had to get away before the devil on my left shoulder made me say more. I fight that devil all the time, sometimes he wins. In the car I really chuckled, "what an arrogant jerk." Pity his wife who despite wearing beautiful diamond and silver jewelry was burdened with an insufferable windbag. Ah well, she has likely tolerated this for many many years.

I called Pat, the seamstress after I got home to share the episode of the Major. she got a good chuckle.

Well bullies and me don't mix. Maybe they never have. Maybe I'm immune.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Favorite quotes

After joining Facebook to keep up with my homeys in PA, I filled out my profile. Below are some of my favorite quotes that I shared on Facebook. Most of you know, I love words, and good quotes. When I put together scrapbooks or memory makers for friends, I always like to include a few.

For years I collected quotes and kept them in a folder which soon grew way beyond anything usable...so with my "retirement leisure time" I started to keep these quotes in a binder and on the PC. I do that sporadically and when I want a particular fitting quote I never can find it! Where's my staff when I need them! (Hey I think that's my favorite original retirement quote. Where's my secretary? You're kidding I have to do this?)

I've seen fire & I've seen rain......(James Taylor song)

It came to pass not to stay.....(not sure of source whether I said this or someone said it or I read it.)

Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore...(Dorothy in Wizard of OZ)

But we have promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.....(Robert Frost poem, Stopping by woods on a Snowy Evening)

Live in the layers not in the litter. (Stanley Kunitz poem, The Layers Look back on this blog where I have posted the entire thing)

When people show you who they are, believe them...the first time! (Maya Angelou this would save me lots of trouble if I'd heed it entirely instead of not following that little voice that says, " girl watch out here." Then the other little voice says, "oh go on, try it , give hm/her/them the benefit of the doubt." Most often it works out, "Dummy! Shoulda listened the first time!"

I don't know who said this but I have it on a tile in my closet so I see it every day along with One Shoe Can Change Your Life, attributed to Cinderella--that is to address my shoe collection addiction which has diminished some, but which still draws me to check out especially red heels!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thinking back, favorites on the spot and more

I have been in contact with some of my old high school classmates as a result of my front page AWON story on my father in my hometown newspaper. Here in "Mayberry" many of these folks have been here all their lives so they are in contact with high school pals, etc. When I listen to them I think, "how strange..." I read books like the "Ya Ya Sisters" and think, how strange. There has been so much water (some rough, some muddy) over that bridge. But lately I've been scratching my head, looking at my high school year book and remembering. Putting together long forgotten pieces. It is indeed strange. I am mostly thankful for the life I've had but now looking back creates nostalgia. What if, what if, I'd stayed in PA. What if I'd completed Allegheny? Surely it would not have led me back home. Sometimes I acknowledge it was the biggest mistake of my life to leave Allegheny and marry that first time. But then, God was looking out. And He can bring good out of anything. I was too young, stupid to be married. I was clueless. Had my home life been better I know it wouldn't have happened but it did. Had my mother not been so wretched, it might not have happened, but it did. As a result I got to CA. I stayed, my grandmother to the rescue to help me get back off my pregnant self and onto my own feet. I had Steve. I met Jerry after my escapades or, in spite of them. And the rest now nearly 41 years later has been a great life, ups, downs and all. And so now, in 2008 I'm finally recalling high school. So much I would not have traded for anything.

My friend Carlie, got me onto Facebook. Yet one more electronic marvel. So I'm completing all those questions, favorite songs, quotes, books, etc.....It gets me thinking how much is really a favorite--or is it just what we recall when on the spot. And for me, a dabbler, a flitter, or as Dave Mitchell said, "easily bored with the attention span of a Cocker Spaniel." Is that intelligence or is that attention deficit dsorder. so many diagnoses today. And what is a favorite? Is it what strikes me at the moment, the first thing that comes to mind or is it what later stomps out, "hey what about...?" ? I read something Colin Powell wrote about dabbling, and agreed! He said he did not want to run for public office because he wanted to dabble, to do what came up. Now, is there a more forward? Do we focus more backward and review? Or are we treadng water trying to stay in place?

Talked to Steve tonight, his hard luck life. And this has made me think so much more again about what's genetic and what's environmental. That boy (my son, our son surely ) was raised with every advantage which he ignored. He lives a meager existence now, lost his permanent job as school district custodian nearly 2 years ago, works on call, no benefits, is losing the condo for which we poured the $$ down payment and now is without a vehicle, his truck was hit in front of his place and the person has insufficient insurance. Nothing is his fault, and yet everything is. Sometimes I worry that he is depressed and sometimes I get annoyed at his lack of ambition, his lack of striving and his lackadaisical attitude. Others have children succeeding, moving forward and Steve who should have, drags down. The victim, the helpless. I hate that and yet I do love my son as a mother does. What next? This reminds me of my first husband, lack of ambition, clueless. Yet Steve never knew him. so my interest, what's genetic. How can it be? I suppose we will help him get a vehicle. I said he has to pay this back. He agreed--oh sure. How many vehicles is this we've backed? We cannot continue to support him. When I mention he should move here, he doesn't want to. Yet when every door closes, isn't that the sign to try something else? And what would he do without us?

Hmmmm. Sometimes God brings things we least expect to our lap. It is hard to practice really our Christianity in trials. Yet that is what life brings..

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Quote from Tony Snow

We were saddened by tony's death. He showed how to live life to the fullest, always. This quote says it all.

Tony Snow in The Jewish World Review, 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What a weekend

Saturday, July 12 we buried Jerry's Aunt Marie Cook, 97 years old. Her last years were in the nursing home and just were not Marie. In her life, Marie was always loud with laughter--as tough a life as she'd had and as hard as she worked she was full of joy. Whenever Marie was in the room you knew it because you could hear her! She was Jerry's favorite aunt. Now that leaves only Florence of the sisters. she took this fairly hard--I think harder than when Lyman, her husband died. Jerry was a pall bearer. The church was nearly full, she'd lived here all her life.

I did not get to speak as I intended because the family did not request anyone to remember her so it was not part of the service. I thought that weird, but who knows about them. Alden (Marie's son) would have enjoyed it but Shirley, his wife is a different kind of person. She is usually grumpy and unhappy and now with Marie gone,I think she is relieved and figures they will move to Texas where several of their children live.

We have had several rain, thunder, lightning, wind storms that come up and last an hour or so and just pour down sheets of water. The tall hollyhocks, as tall as the roof of the house in spots, survived the torrents of wind and rain the best. It occurred to me that Marie was like those hollyhocks--loud with laughter, bright despite, and happy. I wanted to share that thought and another.

Marie worked all her life--hard. She had bad arthritis in her legs the last years which restricted her mobility. She never would have the $$ to get medical treatment, knee replacements, etc. So she went on. Well that did not stop her--she was always taking care of the old people. In her 80's she was cleaning house for the old ladies--some of them were younger than her!

That was Aunt Marie Cook. She was proud and quick with words. She was the one who could straighten Florence out; she got tired of Florence's laments about Oceanside's tribe. She'd tell her so. Now there is no one.

After the funeral we came home and Jerry said his stomach hurt. He hadn't eaten any of the sandwiches at the church. He thought he had gas. Well he never lays down so I knew that was a sign. After letting him do that for half an hour and no relief, I decided we'd go to the doctor. That meant Urgent Care across the river in La Crosse as our doctor is not open on Saturday. He agreed reluctantly.

In 1993 he'd had emergency surgery as a result of a kinked intestine. They removed about 3 foot of his intestine and he's had no other troubles that way. Well, that was on our mind but Jerry said it was not the same kind of pain. At urgent care, Fransciscan Skemp, we got right in and they examined him, drew blood, took xrays and ran an EKG. They said the EKG had abnormalities and they were worried about a blockage in the bowel. He was not nauseous, no fever, just uncomfortable enough to go to the center. Well the Mayo system does not fool around. After the tests and consults in urgent care the doctor said he wanted to admit him to the hospital; we went straight to his room on the 7th floor. What a shock!

They ran more bowel xrays and hooked him to a heart monitor. Drew blood to check heart enzymes ever few hours. A young woman MD. who was covering for Dr. Franta was highly alarmed. Said he may have had a heart attack, there was a bowel obstruction, etc. A young MD, she was more alarmed than the urgent care MD. He spent the night and they ran a cat scan and took blood every couple hours. The blood work was good. He could have nothing to eat/drink only ice chips. I was scared.

I got home about 9:20 PM beat and had phone calls to make. Just walking through the process. I did not sleep well at all and got up about 5:00AM Sunday AM. fed the birds, showered, picked up limbs and branches outside again and went to the hospital. The surgeon had been in the night before after I left and said that all looked normal on the cat scan. No problems there.

The cardiologist came in Sunday AM and had slight concern. he believes the electrical impulses around one part of the heart are not connecting right. He wants more tests which have been scheduled for this week. but he said Jerry could come home! Provided they give him fluids and he tolerates them. He did just fine so we brought him home about 3:30PM Sunday. I was beat but most relieved.

About 8:40 AM Sunday sitting in the hospital room where Jerry was sleeping, I felt like I'd been given a warm hug. I believe that was the sign from Jesus that all would be right. It was reassurance that prayers were being positively answered. I have felt that same sensation in my life during other crises. That is why I worried because I'd not had that feeling Saturday night. Well he's home, soft diet yesterday and today. Then no restrictions.

Our family MD is on vacation so he will see him when he returns on the July 23. Meantime he's been scheduled for all kinds of further tests--echo cardiogram and a stress EKG. We hope for the best. A pacemaker was mentioned, but the cardiologist was dubious of that. He just want a thorough testing.

I am grateful again for prayers and positive answers.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Newspaper Article My Father

One of the reasons we went to PA in June was so that I could be interviewed by my hometown newspaper (The Valley Dispatch) about my father, my search and AWON. I'd emailed asking to place a tribute to my father and the crew on June 20, the 64 year anniversary of the crash. Instead, Jeff Domenick, the editor became interested in my story and in AWON. So he agreed to do a feature and said I should call when I got to town. The fates and my angels were at work, I was interviewed on June 20, the anniversary date. Other AWON orphans also are featured. But my aunt Virginia who was thrilled about the piece says that I stole the front page with my photo. I hope this brings more members and I hope for me some of the Ball family see it and know about us. Most of all I hope this reminds people to never forget the sacrifices of WWII. I know the newspaper will not hold the article online forever so I have cut and pasted it here.

World War II orphans search to fill blanks left by fathers
By Rossilynne SkenaVALLEY NEWS DISPATCHSunday, July 6, 2008

Growing up in New Kensington during the 1950s, Pat Ball Morrison learned not to talk about her dead father. "When kids would ask me, 'Your name is Ball and your mother's name is McKinley,' it was really embarrassing because that didn't happen back in those days. And then I would say, 'Well, my father was killed ...'
"And then people would just kind of look at you like you had the plague or something, so you learned really early on to not talk about it."
Lewis Ball died before his daughter was born. He knew that his wife was expecting, but he never had the chance to meet his child.

Morrison is one of America's 183,000 "war orphans." Her father died when his bomber crashed into the sea. For 60 years, Morrison, 63, knew only that her father had been killed in World War II. She didn't know the details of what happened in June 1944 and she didn't know why.

Not aloneMorrison's story isn't that different from other 600-plus members of the American World War II Orphans Network (AWON). Many of these "orphans" are finally just discovering who their fathers were and how they died.
AWON was founded to honor the memory of those who died in the war and to reach out to as many so-called war orphans as possible, said Barry Barr-Finch, AWON's director of regional coordinators. Barr-Finch, 64, of Seattle, said AWON fosters an environment for those who lost a parent to tell their stories and to learn. "It's an opportunity for me to meet other orphans and we get to share our stories. We get to hear other people's situations. And then one of the things that happened to me as a direct result of that, I have learned to find things I didn't know existed -- for instance, my father's records."
There are now members in every state, he said, and the organization is always looking to reach more war orphans.

Some members with ties to western Pennsylvania share their stories and the stories of their fathers, America's fallen heroes.

Morrison grew up with just a few remnants of her father, like his hat and his belt. Until her mother died a few years ago and she found letters, documents and memorabilia while cleaning out her house, Morrison never really knew what happened to him.
Morrison's father, Lewis Ball, was piloting a B-24 from Nassau, Bahamas, to Charleston, S.C. on a training flight. His last report was just as it was getting dark; an urgent message was sent an hour later.
The official story, she said, is that the plane ran out of fuel. Along with the accident report, she received a signed letter from the man who fueled her father's plane.
"I find this odd because, you know, you've got to figure that guy's job was just to put fuel in airplanes. He says that he asked the engineer, 'You sure you have enough fuel?' because that's the official story on this -- that they ran out of fuel.
"But there's speculation, you know. Was a German submarine along the coast? Were they flying low? We'll never know," Morrison said.
"The reason that we're called American War Orphans Network is because the government called us orphans -- war orphans. And I know when I mentioned that to my mother when she was alive, she got very angry. She said, 'You're not an orphan. I'm still alive.'
"I said, 'Well, even the government said that we're orphans.' I never thought of myself as an orphan because I knew I had a mother," she said. "But it's just kind of interesting that that is the title we were given."

Morrison grew up resentful of the situation, that she didn't know the details.
"I thought this is really just bizarre. But I've learned through AWON there are just so many of us that have the same story. Our mothers did not talk about it."

Now Morrison lives in Minnesota and keeps all the mementos in her "patriotic room."
She's involved with AWON and its members.
"Now we talk all the time," she said, "making up for years where nobody said anything."

Soldier's Son
AWON member Ben McClelland, 64, said his grandmother was never able to accept the loss of her son.
"She always expected him to come home," he said. "She would go to the front door if she heard a car or truck. She thought he was going to come home."
McClelland's father, Ewing Ray "Pete" McClelland, was in an artillery division that was protecting European countries when the Germans made a final offensive and captured two American divisions, McClelland said. Those divisions were marched to a holding camp in Germany. After that capture, the allied troops did a bombing raid throughout the area and accidentally bombed the prison where the soldiers were, he said.
McClelland grew up in Masontown, and he didn't know the details of his father's death until he started his research.
"Like many of the AWON members, I grew up, of course, without a father and without knowing much about my father's life and especially about the circumstances of his death in the war," he said. "His death was not something that we could talk about within the family."
It wasn't until he was more than 50 years old that McClelland was able to visit his father's grave. The trip was a traumatic one.
While visiting the cemetery, he said, repressed memories came back. It gave him the impetus to write his memoir, "Soldier's Son," which chronicles his experience growing up. It has chapters that focus on his family and his parents' relationship. McClelland now teaches English at the University of Mississippi and lives in New Albany, Miss., with his family.
Growing up, McClelland said, he thought there was some "family secret."
McClelland's father, who was 29 years old when he died, went to college to study optometry but, when Pearl Harbor was attacked, he came home and enlisted.
His mother never remarried. It wasn't until McClelland was an adult that his mother would talk about the situation. Now, McClelland holds hope for children whose parents are fighting in today's war. It's not just families who lose a parent, but parents who survive warfare but return home with emotional or psychological problems.
"There are children who are facing the same kind of situation I had," he said. "I hope that the service community has better support systems that we had before."

Another familyFor Antonetta Bell, of Boyers, AWON is like "another whole family."
"You relate to them," said Bell, 66.
After she joined the network, she did research about her father's story.
Her father, Pasquale Niro, was killed in 1945 when he was helping his brigade cross a river. He was the last to go across and was shot.
Her mother would only say that he was killed by a sniper.
"He was always 'the man in the picture,'" she said.
There was a family picture taken of her mother, father, sister and herself before her father went overseas. Bell was 2 1/2 years old when her father left.
Prior to his death, he had already been wounded a couple of times.
Niro, who wasn't a U.S. citizen when he enlisted, was told that he would get his citizenship papers sooner if he enlisted, she said. After he died, Bell said, he finally did receive those papers.
Bell said Memorial Day reminds her of what her father did for his country.

Never forget
Stewart Lerch grew up with no father to play ball with and no father to look up to as a role model. Lerch, 64, an AWON member from Reading, was 7 months old when his father was killed in New Guinea. Lerch's father only saw him once.
"Growing up, people will say to me, 'Why are you an orphan -- you had a mother?' As in the Orphans Network, we will say, we didn't really have a mother because they were dealing with the loss," he said.
Lerch's daughter Susie Clark, 45, lives in Ross Township. She calls the network "eye-opening."
"It was so upsetting to me to hear how a lot of the families didn't talk about the servicemen who were killed, whether it was just too painful or whether it wasn't socially accepted," she said.
Lerch remembers that, as a child, he'd walk into a room and adults would stop talking.
"Parents and adults did not talk to children about these things," he said.
It wasn't until he was about 55 years old that he discovered letters his father wrote to his grandmother. Lerch never got the answer to why his dad was killed.
He was told that the answer was in the Bible. But, he said he looked and couldn't find it.
When he was about 11 or 12 years old, he found the answer while looking at a calendar sent to his home from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Two dates stuck out in his young mind: Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
"They died to ensure the Fourth of July would always be a day for our independence," he said.
His father, also named Stewart Lerch, was a member of an engineer combat battalion that was also used as infantry. His father was serving as an infantry rifleman when the Japanese attacked. He was shot and killed instantly.
Lerch has "the dreaded telegram" announcing his father's death, his dad's rings, letters and a folder with the picture his father carried with him.
He now gives talks to school groups about World War II. He also talks to veterans and encourages them to share their stories.
"We as a nation may never forget our fallen heroes -- past, present or future. I hate to say future, but it is going to happen."

Rossilynne Skena can be reached at rskena@tribweb.com or 724-226-4681. SIDEBARPat Morrison and her scrapbook Jason Bridge/Valley News Dispatch

American World War II Orphans Network
AWON's mission is to locate and support American orphans of World War II and to honor the service and sacrifice of those killed in the war.
The network provides a registry of orphans and families, guidance to locate records, biannual conferences and regional and local gatherings as well as publications, online communication and a speaker's bureau.
For more information about the Network, including how to become a member, visit http://www.awon.org/.