Hearing from Henry…

Over the years I’ve hoped against hope that my handwriting could be prettier, more legible and thus more pleasurable to read.  In the mail the other day came a reminder that it is time to renew my wish.

I received a handwritten letter from my uncle Henry in Portland, Oregon.  This past year’s circumstances of my father’s passing and the health issues of my mother, Henry’s sister, created a reconnection.  I have always liked uncle Henry.  When my dad’s final days were evident, Henry and his wife Mary made the pilgramage to Omaha for a final visit.  Since then I’ve written to him and him to me.

Henry is in his 80s and the passing years have exacted a toll on his own health.  As he ministered to others for so many years as a Presbyterian pastor, it is time for others to minister to him.

His handwriting was labored but legible, the lines a little crooked but neatly spaced on both sides of high-grade paper ideally suited for personal correspondence.  Most of what he wrote he’d already told me, but no matter.  His gentle way of writing was exactly how I would presume him to write.  He wrote in the same manner and passion in which he spoke.  I’ve not asked his permission to reproduce it, but he won’t mind.  That’s the kind of guy he is.


October 8, 2010

Dear Dave:

We greatly appreciated your September letter.  I do not do “emails” nor do I type.  “More’s the pity.”  Fortunately, Mary does both!  Mary is exceptional in every way – beauty, brains and behavior!  I’m very lucky.

Glad to hear you’ve come back to church and editor of the “Caldwell Good News”!  (My pen is about gone!)  That “paper” is one of the best church newsletters I’ve seen.  They’re lucky to have you as one of the contributing editors along with the pastor.  He looks like a good fella, from the small photo.  What seminary?  I always ask!  We’d be glad to be on the mailing list!  Barbara is better.  I call her every week, sometimes twice a week.  The tone of her voice is always what I’m attentive to.  I have great love & empathy for her.  I’m 85+, Mary’s a year and a few months younger.  Interestingly, my two sisters married two friends of mine…Tom Benson & Ralph.  They often came over to play catch with me and then turned to my sisters!  Your dad was a good student and a very able guy!

Mary is on the pastor nominating committee.  It’s a church of about 900 members.  They’ve received over 200 applications!  The process used now is different from my days.  In order to get a “southern” Presbyterian church to unite with the “northern”, we had to make a great number of concessions sometimes for the better!  I have a deep prejudice about the south I can’t seem to overcome.  Before I went overseas in W.W. II I was in several army “camps” in the South.  That experience confirmed my prejudices.

I’m sort of a political animal.  I am a liberal, but that hasn’t relieved me of my prejudices.  Unfortunately my pastoral days only confirmed my prejudices!

I miss being engaged.  These days, it seems to me everything is blase.  I came from a generation that was very engaged.  Even in high school we were out “marching”.

Glad you’re in touch with Tom.  He is a good fella!  He and Jessica come up every Sunday for the three “B’s” – Bible, Brunch and Bridge.

We don’t do much traveling these days.  Earlier in the decades we were in Europe every summer for at least a month.  Mostly in France (10 times maybe) – my favorite country.  We have very dear friends in Paris.  We met them in a “smart” restaurant near their apartment.  After dinner we chatted, they invited us up to their apartment.  An unheard of thing!  We still are in touch.  Just today I received a letter from Jean Luic Reamont.  He calls me his brother.

The war (World War II) had a profound experience and impact on me.  I went into the war with my pre-law courses finished, and came out of the war and switched.  Several incidents contributed.  The most profound happened after the war when I was sent to Berlin to be a member of the “Elite Constabulary”.  (I may buy a new fountain pen one of these days and study my spelling!)  We were all over 6 feet tall, blond, blue eyes.  Pure “arians.”  We marched every day up and (down) the street.  One day we were ordered to ransack one of the few remaining apartments in Berlin (one of five!)  Ostensibly to hunt for “Black Market” goods, but actually it was an attempt to further harass the Germans (mostly old widows).  I made up my mind I wasn’t going to do it.  I took a few K rations in my pocket.  We went two by two.  We were told to knock on the door – no answer – break it open.  We opened the door to, of course, a little old woman.  I told her to sit down and not be afraid.  I gave her what few K rations I had.  My “Buddies” went off to tell the lieutenant.  He came in and said “Andersen, you’re under arrest.”  I said, “for what?”  He said “don’t give me that…”  I was handcuffed and sent down the steps.  A huge crowd of Germans had surrounded the building, watching what was going on.  They saw only one soldier arrested, and assumed, I suppose, that I was the chief black market guy.  They (the U.S. Army) sent me in handcuffs all the way to an army prison camp outside Marseilles, France.  It was one tough place!  I walked into the warden’s office, still handcuffed.  the warden looked at me and said, “Take off his handcuffs, we don’t need any more guys in the prison; we need big guys like him as guards.”  And so I finished my army career as a prison guard.  What fun!

Marseilles was a “fun” town to visit on my day off.  WIDE OPEN.  Everything going on.  Incorrigible!  But there was a big mess hall on the hill overlooking to town and the sea.  What a place it was.

After I was discharged, I decided not to be a lawyer, that was too tame, no fun.  Entered seminary & spent some forty years in Ellsworth, Kansas, Wichita, Kansas, LaGrange, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio.  See what your letter prompted!  Great to hear from you Dave!  Let’s keep in touch in paper.



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