Susan Wade Edwards

Susan Wade Edwards
Location
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Birthday
December 30
Bio
Former teacher, mental health journalist, book lover, mother of Mitch.

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DECEMBER 10, 2010 1:35AM

A Sad Duty: Telling Dad's War Buddy of his Passing

Rate: 14 Flag

December 8, 2010 

 

Dear Mr. Kellan,

I am writing to let you know that my father, Jim Edwards, passed away on April 29, 2010. He was 95 years old. He fell at the end of March resulting in a compressed lumbar fracture.  He survived the fall, but while in skilled nursing for rehabilitation he developed pneumonia and had to be readmitted to the hospital.  He didn’t respond to IV antibiotics and developed early signs of heart failure.  The hospital’s palliative care team met with the family and told us that my father could not recover.  The doctor estimated that he had two weeks to two months to live.  We took Dad back to his home with hospice support and with 24 hour care provided by our family, including a granddaughter who is a nurse.  My father lived 2 more weeks.  But during those two weeks my brother and I, the four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren were able to spend  time with Dad.  I sang the old songs my dad loved with him and we shared tender moments in the days leading to his death.  Dad remained alert and cheerful visiting with family until just days before his death when he lost the ability to speak. In the pre-dawn hours on April 29, he died quietly and painlessly in his sleep.  His death was as he wished, at home, with his family around him.  We are grateful for that.  My dad was a good man who lived a long and happy life.

 I wanted to let you know how highly my dad spoke of you Mr. Kellan.  During his later years he often talked of his time overseas during World War II.  He told me how he met you during his initial training at Camp Callan in California and how from then on you were best friends spending the entire war together on the same anti-aircraft crew.  You sailed from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia, together aboard the USS West Point headed for military operations in the Pacific Theater.  At the War's end you returned  together on the USS J.C. Breckenridge coming full circle back to San Francisco, where you boarded a train to the MidWest. The two of you finally parted ways each to go to his own hometown.  Two soldiers who spent the entire war together.  An amazing story of friendship, endurance and survival Whenever he talked of the War,  Dad always spoke of Davis, Poole, Kellan and himself.  He felt the friendships he forged during his military experiences were as deep as any he made in his lifetime even though the four of you were rarely able to see each other after the war.  And of all his buddies, Army or civilian, he told me that he never made a better friend in his life than you, Mr. Kellan 

 I remember your family’s visit with us in Kansas City in the 1950’s.  You were from Upper Michigan and used to cool summers.  The summer you chose to visit us was one of the hottest summers on record.  This was before most homes (including ours) had air conditioning.  Somehow you and your family managed to survive our heat and humidity. You kindly brought with you a child's necklace for me and I want you to know that I still have it.   Later we visited your family in Michigan.  I think that was the last time you and Dad saw each other.  But you spoke each year at Christmas on the phone and exchanged occasional cards and letters. 

Thank you for being my dad's best friend. He remembered you and spoke of you until the end of his life.   I apologize for taking so long to notify you of his passing.  It was just such a hard letter to write.

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Who is left that remembers the Chariots of Fire? R
Thank you for reading my post and for your comment David.
Susan - my dad was a Sea Bee during WWII, also in the Pacific, mainly in Fiji. His friendships mirror you father's - I can remember him receiving yearly Christmas cards from his skipper until that man's death. I can't fathom what the war must have been like, but can only imagine what a blessing these friendships were/are. R!
bluesurly, the friendships made under war conditions are deep and last a lifetime as evidenced by our dads' experiences. My dad was in the Army and served in Australia, the Phillipines and many islands such as Leyte, etc. He never talked about his service until his later years. He is the soldier in the left in the picture.
A lovely letter in so many ways. Do you know if he's alive?
Lovely thing to have done, Susan, both for your Dad and his friend. The dwindling number of Second War vets makes each loss a little more significant.

My own father -- who enlisted in 1940 when he was 17 -- served in England, North Africa, Italy and Holland. He's still with us at 87 and we talk -- now that he's willing to -- from time to time about his experiences, even though it can be difficult for him.
Lea, yes Mr. Kellan is still alive and still living in upper Michigan. He is a little younger than my dad was. I'm sending him the letter along with a Christmas card. Mr. Ross, who I refer to in the letter, died last winter shortly before my father. I believe that Mr. Poole is still alive, but not sure. The four served on the 166AAA gun crew together. It's an amazing story of longevity and friendship.

Boanerges Redux, I will treasure forever the stories my dad told me about his experiences. He was once sitting on a ship in a harbor with a friend and saw a kamikaze plane come over the mountains. It hit the ship next to my dad's in the convoy. My dad's friend's brother was on the ship that got hit, but no information could be obtained about his brother's safety. Weeks later, the friend got a letter from his parents saying his brother had been killed in the kamikze attack which my dad and he had watched happen. It is very sad each time a World War II veteran passes. Glad that your father is sharing his stories with you.
You wrote one of the nicest and warmest letters I have ever read.
I'm sure you had those certain feelings in your chest when you wrote this.
Thank you for posting it here.
I had several uncles and cousins who served in WWII and they didn't talk much of it either, exceot with their buddies.
One was a tailgunner on a B-29. One was in a 16" turret on the Tennessee. One was in the infantry in Sicialy, up the "boot" and into Austria.
One was a medic in Europe.
We Nam vets are similar in that vein but, the guys and women who served in WWII are/were just special.
It's not easy to think about what they went through for what is walking around loose today.
I guess some assholes will knock someone else's blog just to feel superior in their own little mind like the jerk above this post.
If you don't like it, just go the hell away.
@chrisroberts
You are a grinch.
Hadrian,
That's an insult to the true grinches of the world.
The closest comparisson would be to an infected hemorrhoid.
XJS AND ME, thank you for your nice comments about my letter. I think all of us who had relatives that fought in World War II feel a special pride in them.

Chris Roberts, sorry to disappoint. Guess my writing isn't for everyone.
One of the most diffcult letters I ever wrote was to my father's wartime buddy, Fred, after my Dad died. Both were in the infantry in WWII in Europe during and after the Battle of the Bulge. They did not see each other much after the war but wrote often and one summer his family joned ours on a lake near where we grew up in Pennsylvania. While time and distance separated them, they remained close friends to the end. My own experience in Vietnam confirms that such friendships are maybe the deepest that can exist.
Beenthere donethat: You're right. It was hard to notify Mr. Kellan of my dad's death. I think that's why I waited so long. I knew he would be expecting a Christmas card and phone call from my dad so I had to write. I noticed in many of the comments the common thread that the friendships between wartime friends remained extremely close even when they didn't see each other for years.

lei quing: Your comments are exceedingly kind. Thank you.
That was an extremely touching letter. My dad is still around at 89, but he recently broke his hip and is now on dialysis. Although the dialysis has perked him up, we all realize that dad is not going to live forever.

I've been taking care of him and must confess that there are still things he does that draw a reaction from me, which I sometimes later regret. I guess the good news is that he knows that he is doing these things that irritate me and continues to do them on purpose. When he stops, I guess we should all start to worry.

In any case, your letter made me realize, again, that we've got to appreciate dad every moment that he is here. Someday, I will have to write a letter like yours. I have now seen a good model.
Thank you, Susan.
That jerk is so wrong headed that he had to go to my blog and make a nasty comment.
At least those of us who are the regulars here aren't so mentally deranged.
BTW-I let his ignorant comment stay in my blog as, it demonstrates for others just how emotionally apart he is. I just didn't reply.
This is an exceptional post. My Dad died early, after fighting in WWII and Korea. He died at 43 and I just wish I could have had the time to have a few weeks with him before his death. You were lucky indeed and your father sounds like he was a great man, a lot like my Dad. Thanks!
This is just a lovely letter...it's so sad to me this generation is leaving us and others won't know their collected wisdom.
Brad@I took care of my dad for the last 6 years of life and he made me nuts occasionally, too. It comes with the territory. Don't feel too bad about it, but do remember to treasure him as much as you can, because when they're gone...

scanner: I recognize how extremely lucky I am to have had my dad for so long and for him to have shared so much of his history with me. So sorry your dad was taken early by war.

Just thinking: Maybe Tom Browkaw got it right when he called them the Greatest Generation. I know my mom and dad were of that mold.
@chrisroberts

We deal with life and death as we must. It's not something that someone like you can set out rules for. I'm happy to learn of these stories.
Susan--it seems to me you gave two compliments here. The first is your description of your father: "a good man." Could a better testimonial be said about anyone? Who else would deserve "a long and happy life"? The second compliment is to Mr. Kellan, that you took the time and effort to write such a surpassingly thoughtful letter. It shines.
Jerry, thanks. Im returning to your blog to reread your latest post about the past because I was so moved by it and thought the writing so beautiful.
loved this. I'm sure he loved it too!! :) Happy reading.
Nice letter and tribute Susan! Good read and thanks for sharing...
I know how greatful you must feel that your Dad passed down so many memories. All too often , that doesn't happen...
megcuppiecake: Thank you.

Jim Ohio: Thanks and yes I am so grateful that my dad shared so many of his stories with me.
It was the same with my father and his Marine buddies who fought together on Okinawa - how sad that so few are left.
what a lovely and thoughtful letter. i'm sure it will mean the world to the recipient, even though it bears bad news. i'm sure it was difficult for you to write it, because the writing of it brings all those family memories right up to the surface and makes them fresh again. thank you for sharing something so personal.
How lucky could one get? The casualty rate in anti-aircraft units was close to zero - didn't matter which army you were in.

Four or five years ago I shared a compartment in the train from Zurich to Munich with a very old soldier who had spent the entire war in a Wermacht anti-aircraft battalion. He did shoot down two aircraft - both Luftwaffe, however. He spent the last year of the war in Amsterdam - before that he'd be in Finland - eating food that was intend for the fatherland, but since the unit was cut off - well, what the hell.

I would guess that men of his cohort had a survival rate of maybe ten percent So - nothing against the old boy whose story was told on this blog - but he had a really good war
James Johnston: I don't think there is anything such as "a good war." My dad got malaria, dengue fever and suffered permanent hearing loss. He was considered 30% disabled after the war. He spent 28 months in the Pacific theater. He saw dead Japanese soldiers, saw a Kamikaze pilot hit the ship next to his in a convoy, and watched as an American crew crashed into the ocean upon take-off. Yes, the casualties were less in anti-aircraft units, but my dad answered the call, did what he was trained to do and I don't think the fact that he was in anti-aircraft diminishes his service in any way. Nor do I think that men and women who were stateside working in the War effort should be diminished for their contributions either. My father was training for the invasion of Japan when Harry Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bombs that ended the fight against the Japanese.