Friday, November 11, 2005

 

Celebrating my personal veteran today

This evening Fritz and I will be guests of honor at Connecticut College's Shain Library. Appropriately on Veterans' Day, my late father's collection of artifacts, correspondence, technical manuals, bombing computation equipment and personal items from his service as a bombardier in World War II will begin three months on public exhibition and then become part of a research collection.

Shain Library reading/exhibit room and facade

When my step-mother died in December of 2000, I inherited a mass of family photos and documents, most of them with no supporting information--dates, names, places, nothing. However my father's memorabilia was intact, well packed in original folders and boxes, and in excellent condition. The question was, what to do with it? She had hoped it could go to a museum but the relevant ones (Framlingham in England--housed in the buildings of his former air base--or Arizona in the U.S.) were overrun with such material.

Three years ago, I was in New York having lunch with friends from New London, CT before a performance we were seeing together, and I asked L what she was working on currently. As director of special collections for Connecticut College, she was almost finished curating a gift from a local widow--her husband's collection, much like my father's. L discussed the Library's hope that this gift might become the basis of a research collection of the military careers of WWII veterans from southern Connecticut. The penny dropped for me--my father (and I as well) had grown up summers at his mother's summer house just outside New London. When I asked L if the Library would be interested in what I had to offer, she was extremely interested, and my family's strong New London connection qualified the material for inclusion in the Library's plans.

Today's program begins at 5:00 pm. Viewing the exhibit of the two men's collections will be followed by a small ceremony and dinner for about 30 guests. An article has already appeared in the local papers and there may be some press at the ceremony as well. Both men were flyers in the 8th Air Force, my father a highly decorated bombardier, Lt. Irwin a navigator whose plane was shot down over Germany and who suffered from extremely variable quality of medical care during a year or more as a prisoner of war. His widow, a delightful Irish lady, will be present as will one of my cousins and his wife from New Jersey.


My father's medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart

Mrs. Irwin and I will speak, as will another local veteran who has become the unofficial Poet Laureate of the New London area. He's 86 years old and will read one of his poems as a memorial. In an email that I received this morning, L mentions that he will be accompanied by "his longtime friend and companion, Richard." It looks as if all the men involved in the ceremony will be gay.

Comments:
Good on your Dad!

You must be proud.
 
Wow, a DFC. Very impresive, and it's nice that your father's things will be shared with people who can appreciate them.
 
impresive=impressive (I really can spell.)
 
Very Impressive...much to be proud of
 
wow congrats on the exhibit! interestingly my late stepfather was a bombardier in WWII as well. i will have to find out the division/unit (whatever its called).

i used to love hearing his stories - more interesting than the films made of that time.

just catching up on all your news - glad that F. is well and no consequences and toi toi on your latest show opening - the set is gorgeous!
 
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