All Write

Shipmate you stand relieved

tom and shirley tucker at barnes and noble

Harold (Tom) Tucker passed away yesterday morning. His and Shirley’s story is the final chapter in War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.

This couple is especially dear to me. They attended every book signing they could make it to, shared their story on public TV in a Northwest Profiles episode, and fielded questions from military service members past and present at the Spokane Veterans Forum.

It hurt Tom to speak of the things he saw when his ship, the USS LaGrange, was bombed two days before the end of the war. But he spoke of the wounded and dying men he tried to help. It was important to him that their sacrifice would be remembered.

Following his service during WWll, Tom became one of the first motorcycle police officers in Spokane, Washington, and despite the seriousness of some of the stories he shared, he always made me laugh.

My thoughts are with Shirley today.

“She’s the other half of me,” Tom once said.

Shipmate you stand relieved. We have the watch.

tom and shirley tucker, dating, 1944, low res

 

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War Bonds

Visiting my three year-old at the bookstore

Every author will tell you it’s a nail-biting moment.

Your book has been out for some time and you pop in a bookstore for a visit. Just to see how its doing– maybe sign a few copies.

There’s always the fear that you’ll find the book you labored over with blood, sweat and tears languishing in the clearance bin. Or worse. You won’t find it at all.

That’s what happened to me last week. Kind of.

I’m getting ready to pitch my second book, so stopped by my local Barnes and Noble to scan the shelves for similar titles. Of course, I checked on my firstborn.

But War Bonds was nowhere to be found!

The book launched February 22, 2015 and is still generating sales, but still it’s three years-old.

Gathering my courage I approached a bookseller and offered to sign any copies– if they had any.

“What’s the title?” he asked.

I told him.

“Oh, War Bonds! We always have copies on hand. Let me check.”

Nervously, I watched him click the keys of his computer.

“Wow! We sold out again. That’s a happy problem to have.”

I took a breath.

“Are you going to…?”

“Yep,” he interrupted. “We’ve already ordered more.”

I said thank you and left with my purchases. Amazed, thrilled and blessed that readers are still finding the love stories of the Greatest Generation worth reading. And worth purchasing.

Thank you dear readers. And Happy 3rd birthday War Bonds!”

10929058_10203559455213962_6120318413619356176_n[1]War Bonds at Barnes and Noble Northtown

 

War Bonds

The Bomber Pilot’s Secret

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Constance (Connie) and Wilson (Bill) Conaway on right

The first time I interviewed Bill and Connie Conaway, Bill didn’t talk much about serving overseas as a B-17 pilot during WWll, but his eyes lit up when he talked about the planes.

He recalled every aircraft he flew and who trained him on it.

But on a subsequent interview he told stories of harrowing missions over Germany, of how he nearly froze when a piece of shrapnel pierced his flight suit as he soared miles above the ground.

And then he told the story that has haunted him for 70 years.

His radio operator, Lynn, a good friend, was killed on a mission.

“The night before we left, we all had dinner together, and his wife and little baby came– that was the last time she saw him.”

He sighed, shaking his head.

“The airplane floor was covered with his blood,” he said, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. “I tried to get in touch with his wife for many, many years. I wanted to tell Lynn’s daughter about her dad.”

He was never able to find her when he returned to the States.

Bill Conaway died January 11.

His widow, Connie who served in the WAVES called to tell me the news. He died just days before their 71st anniversary.

She’s never forgotten how fortunate they’ve been. Many B-17 pilots never returned.  She said, “I’ve told him many times, ‘I’m lucky to have you, honey.'”

And I’m lucky that I was able to include their story in War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation. 

But mostly I’m grateful that this gruff pilot, turned school teacher, turned artist, trusted me with his secret.

During an interview he leaned forward in his chair, glanced at Connie and said, “I’ll tell you a secret; I love her more today than I ever have.”

CONAWAY LOVE

Columns, War Bonds

Their Stories are Now a Part of Mine

As I sat down at my desk to write this week’s column, an email notification popped up on my screen. I opened it to read of Audrey Bixby’s upcoming funeral.

I’d interviewed Audrey and her husband, Dick, several years ago for my Love Story series, and included their story in my book “War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.”

The timing of the email stunned me. I’d already planned to write about the loss of so many of the people featured in “War Bonds.”

Seventy-two. That’s how many individuals made the final cut of the book.

Twenty-four. That’s how many people died before “War Bonds” made it into print.

Twenty. That’s how many goodbyes I’ve had to say since its 2015 publication.

A colleague shrugged when I bemoaned yet another loss.

“What did you expect when all your subjects are World War ll veterans over 80?” he’d asked.

He has a point.

It’s not that I expected them to live forever; it’s just that I’ve been unprepared for how much each loss affects me.

In the past few months, in addition to Audrey, I’ve said farewell to Jack Rogers, Dick Eastburg, Barbara Anderson and Myrt Powers.

It seems fitting to honor them today on the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Jack Rogers wasn’t at Pearl Harbor, but he enlisted in the Army in 1943, when he was just 19. He had a hard time believing we were at war against Japan.

“I grew up with a bunch of Japanese kids,” he said in “War Bonds.”

Before being shipped out to the Pacific, he traveled to California to see a Japanese friend from high school, only to find his friend and his family had been confined in an internment camp.

I met Jack many years ago when he taught art at Northwest Christian School. He taught all four of my kids, and each one remembers him well.

Eleven years ago, I wrote an article about his art career. Since then, I revisited him in print many times. A story about his 71-year marriage to Fran, a feature about how following a debilitating stroke, he still continued to give back – painting tailgates on Personal Energy Transporters through Inland Northwest PET Project.

And I wrote about one of his final art shows at Spokane Art Supply. That’s where I saw him last. He and Fran sat side by side, as friends, fans and former students perused his paintings, buying a piece of Jack to take home and remember him by.

My own piece of Rogers’ art watches over me as I write. It’s a whimsical print of a terrier that Fran sent as a thank you note, following the funeral.

Next to it is a photo of Louis Anderson and his flight crew taken in 1944, just before they shipped out to Europe.

The last time I saw Louis and Barbara at their retirement center apartment, she insisted I take home a memento – a water glass from Air Force One. She was so proud of her late grandson who served as President Obama’s pilot.

She also kept me grounded in real life. Every time I left their place she’d say, “Do you need to use the restroom? Are you sure?”

Audrey Bixby was strictly down-to-earth as well. When I interviewed her and Dick, he kept me in stitches with jokes and sly puns. While we laughed, Audrey feigned exasperation and then told her own funny stories.

When Dick enumerated her wonderful qualities, he said, “She’s an awfully nice person and she laughs at my jokes!”

Dick died five years ago. I like to think that now they’re laughing together again.

Dale Eastburg passed away last month. He and his wife, Eva, had been married 75 years. When last I spoke to them, they were still going to the gym every week!

They’d been married just a short time before he was sent to China as part of the famed Flying Tigers. The thought of saying goodbye to his bride proved unbearable to Dale, so he didn’t. He slipped out of their apartment while she slept.

I hope this time Dale was able to say goodbye.

And today, I think of darling Myrt Powers. I never thought I’d describe a Marine as darling, but that exactly describes this tiny dynamo.

Though already employed as a teacher, she enlisted in the Marines following the attack on Pearl Harbor, because so many of her students told her they were worried about their fathers who were going off to war.

“I wanted to take care of my students’ dads,” she explained in “War Bonds.”

She met Walt Powers, a sailor stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara. They were married 71 years at the time of her death.

I last saw Myrt two years ago, in Hawaii, of all places.

It was 8:15 in the morning at the Hale Koa Hotel, an Armed Forces Recreation Center resort on Waikiki. My husband and I were preparing to make our first pilgrimage to Pearl Harbor, and stopped for coffee before the tour bus picked us up.

Myrt was grabbing a cup while waiting for Walt to finish his regular swim at the hotel pool.

“Hello, honey,” she said, reaching up to embrace me.

It was the best hug I’ve ever received from a Marine, and sadly it was the last one from Myrt.

Today, while the world remembers the more than 2,000 lives lost at Pearl Harbor, I remember five souls who endured the trauma of a world war. The lives they led in its aftermath, the families they raised, the marriages they cherished, bear witness to the resiliency of the human spirit.

While I’m sad at their passing, I’m so very glad that their stories are now a part of mine.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval

War Bonds

Happy 2nd birthday War Bonds!

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Two years ago today, I was humbled and amazed by the turnout for the launch of my first book.

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In the five years it took to write and publish War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation, I lost so many of the couples featured. It broke my heart that some weren’t there to see their stories in print.

In the two years since publication, I’ve lost several more. Each death leaves an ache in my heart.

Yet at the front row of the book launch party many of my War Bonds couples were present as well as widows and widowers. They were in awe of the size of the crowd and watched with joy as every single copy of War Bonds sold out at Auntie’s Bookstore.

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I’ve learned a lot about publishing, publicity, book tours and public speaking over the last two years– knowledge I know will serve me well when my next book  comes out.

Today I’m still somewhat disbelieving that War Bonds is on bookshelves, in libraries and for sale in bookstores all over the world.

I’m so thankful for those who stood with me during the long journey from idea to pub party.

Thankful for readers who bought the book, read the book, reviewed the book and recommended it to others.

Thankful for bookstore owners, civic groups and organizations who invited me to share the message that true love can survive anything– even a world war.

But more than anything I’m thankful for my War Bonds family. They opened their hearts, homes and lives to me and allowed me to poke around. Then they trusted me to share their stories with the world.

What a journey.

What a blessing.

What a privilege.

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War Bonds

Thankful for 70 years of devotion

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I got a call last week from Barbara Anderson. She wanted to let me know that her husband of 70 years had suffered a stroke and that they were now in an assisted living facility. She also told me that her grandson-in-law, Col. David Banholzer had passed away on November 4 at age 47. She wanted to send some copies of War Bonds to his family.

Banholzer was the commander of Air Force One until cancer forced his early retirement. He and Louis loved to talk about flying. As told in chapter 28 of War Bonds, Louis was a B-17 pilot during WWll.

 

.War Bonds Louie AndersonI was so happy to visit with this dear couple. Louis’ speech has been somewhat affected by the stroke and his vision is poor. But he knew me and gave me his characteristic grin. His blue eyes still sparkle and he kept my hand firmly tucked in his.

As I prepared to leave, Barbara insisted on giving me some mementos from Banholzer’s time on Air Force One.

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But for me the true gift was more time and one more visit with these shining examples from the Greatest Generation.

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War Bonds

It Never Gets Easier

It never gets easier.
The notes from friends. From family. From readers.

“Dear Cindy, We just wanted you to know….”

And I learn another beloved person featured in War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation has died.

Recently, two lovely War Bonds brides passed away within a month of each other.

Christine Jasley died on September 16th. She was anxious to be reunited with her husband, John, who died in October of last year.

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Christine and John Jasley, 1944

Their story is told in Chapter 4 “Have a Little Faith.” A friend wrote, “Their marriage was truly a blueprint for all of us to follow.”

Then last week I learned of the death of Helen Loer.

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Helen Miller Loer

On Saturday I will be at her Memorial Service and will read Chapter 7 “From Sailor to Preacher.” Her husband James, that sailor/preacher will be sitting in the front row, and my heart aches for him. The Loers had been married 68 years.

Our world is diminished with each loss, but I’m so very thankful that their stories remain.

 

War Bonds

Bicycle Built for Two

They rode through life together.

When Chuck and Harriet began dating, he didn’t have a car, so she’d perch on the handlebars of his bike and off they’d go. That’s why I titled their chapter in War Bonds, “Bicycle Built for Two.”

They were married January 16, 1944 by a Navy chaplain at a YMCA and a dozen eager sailors served as their witnesses. After two months together, Chuck was sent to France and they spent 17 months apart. That was too much for both of them.

And so for the next 72 years they were inseparable.

Chuck died August 7 and Harriet passed away September 10th.

Today I received this note from their family.

Your book was such a blessing to our family. We had several copies that we passed around at their celebration Sunday. A copy always sat on their dressing table which we showed to all their many health care providers. If Mom was having a bad day, they would sing “Bicycle Built for Two” and that would cheer her up. Thank you for writing such a meaningful book.

But I’m the one who has been blessed to meet such amazing people and to share just a small part of their lives.

Their stories have become part of my own story and I’m forever thankful.

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Chuck and Harriet Soliday, 1945

War Bonds

The house that love built

The other night I had a reading/signing event at Touchmark Retirement Community.

An employee approached me and said while she hadn’t read War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation, her daughter had.

It seems her daughter and her husband were looking for home and found one they really wanted in Millwood, WA.

“It wasn’t the house so much, it was what they felt when they were inside it,” the woman said. “There was such love in that house.”

A neighbor chatted with them and told them the couple who had lived there had built the house and had been married for more than 70 years.

“Their story is in a book,” he said.

Alas, the couple didn’t get the house, but they did buy a copy of War Bonds. And they fell in love with Warren and Betty Schott, just like the rest of us.

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Warren and Betty on their 75th anniversary

 

War Bonds

Seizing serendipity: WWII vet publishes novel

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I was privileged to interview Stan Parks, 92, for this Saturday feature in the Spokesman Review.

Stan Parks, 92, has been many things: sailor, dentist, world traveler, husband, father, grandfather, photographer, sculptor, civic leader. Recently, he added a new title to his resume: author.

In March he published his first novel, “Jakob’s Ladies,” through Gray Dog Press.

Tackling new projects is second nature to Parks, who also serves as president of the Spokane Downtown Kiwanis Club.

“I retired in 1982,” he said. Then he grinned. “But I didn’t really retire.”

 “Serendipity” is a word he uses often to describe the many opportunities he’s been able to embrace during his lifetime.

Born and raised in Chicago, Parks left his studies at Loyola University to join the Navy in 1942.

“Well, they let me finish my year at Loyola because I was part of the V-12 program,” he said.

The V-12 program was designed to supplement the force of commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

The newly commissioned lieutenant junior grade was assigned to the USS LST-53, a tank landing ship, recently returned from the invasion of Normandy. Parks and his crew and were sent to the Pacific theater.

“When the war ended we were given the job of returning occupied troops to Japan,” he recalled. “I saw quite a bit of Japan. We picked up Japanese from outlying islands and brought them home so they could rebuild the country.”

After the war, he resumed his studies at Loyola. One evening a friend invited Parks to join him and his wife for dinner. Unbeknownst to Parks, he wasn’t the only guest.

“Serendipity,” he said, smiling. “I chatted with my friend for awhile and then his wife called us into dinner. I walked into the dining room and saw this beautiful young lady. Her name was Eleanor, but I called her Norie.”

More than six decades have passed since that fateful meeting, but his eyes still light up at the mention of her name.

“We married on Dec. 28, 1947,” he said.

They settled in Aurora where Parks established a thriving dental practice and where they raised their four children.

In 1978, he visited Guatemala, volunteering his time to provide dental services at a medical mission run by the Benedictines. The trip proved eye-opening for Parks, who mostly cared for the students at the mission school.

“They had absolutely nothing,” he said. “No dental care at all.”

He knew he’d have to return, which he did almost every year until 2004. With other dentists, he established a modern dental clinic, complete with everything they’d need to care for patients.

“The office is still there,” said Parks. “And dentists still go.”

When asked why he returned to Guatemala so many times he replied, “The satisfaction of helping those people. You can’t believe how little they had.”

After 32 years, Parks retired and he and Norie moved to Fort Meyers, Florida. His retirement from dentistry allowed him to pursue other passions.

“I did a lot of acting,” he said. “My wife and I joined the Peninsula Players. I really enjoyed it. My wife was a great actress.”

And there were the boats. The Norie 1, 2 and 3.

“They got bigger each time,” Parks said, laughing. “We spent a lot of time in the Bahamas, living on the boat.”

When their son moved to Spokane, Parks and his wife enjoyed visiting the area so much, they purchased a condo so they could spend more time here.

He’s always had an artist’s eye; framed photographs he’s taken throughout the years line the walls of his South Hill home. But he also likes to work with his hands, so when an opportunity to take a sculpting class from Sister Paula Turnbull came, he seized it.

“Talk about serendipity,” he said, pointing to several busts that he created under her tutelage.

One of those pieces is a bas relief featuring the face of his beloved Norie, who died five years ago.

Tears fill his eyes when he says her name.

“We were married 63 years. She was fabulous. As gorgeous as she was physically, she was that way on the inside, too. It’s hard without her.”

After her death, he moved to Spokane permanently to be near his son.

He went to see Turnbull upon his return to find out if she was offering more classes.

“She said she was too busy to teach, but she said I could work in her studio,” said Parks. “I loved it.”

When he heard about a writing class at the Sinto Senior Activity Center he decided to take it. He’d already penned his memoir.

“Well, it’s not really finished,” he said.

But he wanted to try his hand at fiction.

“If you don’t know how to do something, you can learn! It sharpens your mind.”

With encouragement from his writing group, he wrote “Jakob’s Ladies,” a historical novel set in 1895, about a dentist who goes out west to Sheridan, Wyoming, to launch his practice.

Parks did quite a bit of research, even traveling to Sheridan.

“I was in love with my characters. When one of them died – that was the hardest part to write.”

The book is dedicated to Norie, “My lady, my first mate, my only mate.”

He’s pondering a sequel, but he has plenty to keep him busy. He’s always been part of civic groups, so his leadership of the Downtown Kiwanis is a good fit.

“I can’t become a philanthropist and give away a fortune, but I can join a club like Kiwanis and give away pretty big chunks of money.”

At 92, he’s not resting on any laurels.

“There’s so much to be done and so many opportunities to do it,” said Parks. “I need 100 more years to do all the things I want to do.”