Overnight came an e-mail from a peace person, “strongly support[ing] direct talks between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.” The entirety of the e-mail is at the end of this post.

The comment brought back to mind a memory. I’m one of those odd ducks who don’t mind the label of “family historian”. Each family seems to have at least one of us, attempting to carry forward the story of their group, sometimes uncovering stories someone or other feels are best left untold.

And so it was that in my extended family genealogy I made an entry in the early 1990s: “William 3-13-33 to 3-14-54”, buried in a cemetery in Rockford IL.

I was 13 when William died, 900 miles from our home in Ross ND. So when I did the genealogy, I was a bit curious about William, but not enough to do any actual digging.

In 2011, William’s younger brother, Thomas, died, and his daughter passed along the usual information. It presented an opportunity to ask about William, so I asked, not really expecting a response.

Shortly came a letter from Lisa, born 1967. Somewhere I still have that letter, but its contents stick in my mind: William, the letter said, had been in the Korean War, and came home a very tortured young man. This particular night, March 12, 1954, William once again laid his memories and anxieties on his friends.

This night, one of these friends, probably frustrated by Williams constant laments, made a suggestion: “why don’t you just go home and kill yourself?

William took the advice, shooting himself at home, where he lived with his parents. Thomas, his brother, was 12.


I have just now re-looked at the family history, and noted for the first time that William decided to end it all on his 21st birthday. I wonder how his bar friends reacted on hearing the news. For the first time, I connect a trip we made to Chicago in the summer of 1955, where we stayed overnight with the family. The wife was my mother’s first cousin, a year older, born a mile away in North Dakota in 1908. It was a small family reunion occasioned by a tragedy a year earlier. All I remember is that we arrived at night, greeted at the front door by Irene and Carl, the parents of William.


It was 64 years ago, this very day, that William died in Rockford IL. I was 13, old enough to remember Douglas McArthur, but not the fine points of why the Korean Peninsula has been divided into North and South for all these past years.

Personally, if the Koreans will ever reach rapprochement, it will not be because of the U.S., China or anyone else; it will be the Koreans themselves who decide that enough is enough. The Winter Olympics presented an opportunity for a tiny start, and no one should expect miracles, most certainly not from Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un doing some deal of some sort (while at the same time, Trump is saber rattling to dismantle the multi-lateral negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran.)


Here’s the rest of the overnight e-mail. For the record, I’m a U.S. Army veteran (1962-63) and a Veteran for Peace for many years…as a citizen, what do YOU think?

Veterans for Peace [a chapter]… strongly supports direct talks between President Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It is time to end the state of war between the US and North Korea. The prospect of a US attack on North Korea leading to North Korean nuclear retaliation is horrendous. We are appalled at the negative attitude towards these direct talks between North Korea and the US now evident in much of mainstream media. We wish to remind everyone that it was “the experts” who led us into previous disastrous foreign policy actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Direct talks and negotiations toward peace on the Korean Peninsula will be a positive step for all of humanity.

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