July2019 (3)


About Me

I’m the keeper of family stories, letters, photos. A small brown grosgrain purse, an aqua formal gown with ruffles from 1943, Dad’s USAAF officer’s hat, pilots logbooks. Combat records, casualty reports, and terrible telegrams.

Purple Hearts. 

Active on several history and military Facebook pages, I help administer local ones–Audubon County, Dallas County, and Guthrie County, Iowa–the places where my motherline stories originated. Also the Depression Era Iowa FB page.

Born two days before D-Day to an Iowa farmer who became an Army Air Corps pilot, then an instructor–with orders for combat when the war ended–and an Iowa waitress who lost three of her five brothers during that war. 

I spent my childhood in an Iowa farmhouse with a front porch. Now I live with my husband, a Vietnam veteran, in a suburban house with a front porch.

A former Cub Scouts den mom and graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, I’ve published two genealogies, as well as dozens of essays in newspapers and magazines, including Midwest Living and The Des Moines Register, and some of my stories have been broadcast over Our American Stories. Some of my earlier essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.


Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II tells the story of the five Wilson brothers who are featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, Iowa. Leora was their mother–my grandmother.

All five enlisted. Only two came home.

Their story, their losses, must be remembered.

FreedomRockFurneaux (2)

Navymen Donald and Delbert Wilson. Pilots Dale, Danny, and Junior Wilson.


Available from Amazon.com in paperback and ebook, and now as an audiobook (narrated by Paul Berge).

You may also order the paperback from barnesandnoble.com.

My Amazon Author Page.

If you’d like an autographed copy, two local shops will ship them: Adel Quilting and Dry Goods (adel.quilting@gmail.com) and Beaverdale Books (515-279-5400).

Autographed copies are also available at the Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge, and at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale.


You won’t be interested in all of my stories, so they are divided into categories:

Books & Authors–Books I’ve especially appreciated. (Usually posted on Wednesdays.)

Depression Era–Stories from my motherline and from letters they wrote to their “Navy boys,” who enlisted in 1934. Most of these are set in the small town of Dexter, Iowa. 

Dexter (Iowa) History–I help administer Dexter’s Museum FB page, and this is the handiest place to keep stories and pictures together. Museum season is from April through October.

Early Ancestry–Stories too early for Turn of Century.

Growing Up on a Farm–Dexter area 1950s and 1960s.

Guest Blogger–(new) Sharing posts from the blogs of other writers.

Kidney-Walker Genealogy–Stories from my husband’s ancestry, including one about an anvil.

Miscellaneous–These didn’t fit anywhere else.

Turn Of Century–My motherline stories through WWI, mostly Audubon County and Guthrie County.

Uncategorized–tried to delete.

Veterans–To honor military veterans.

WWII–The main reason I started writing–to make sure the Wilson story is never forgotten. Dallas County: Dexter, Minburn, Perry.

WWI – Leora Wilson’s three oldest brothers, Guthrie County farmers, served in France in WWI.



Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD you God gives you. – Exodus 20:12

He determines the number of the stars; He calls them each by name. – Psalm 147:4



  1. Impressive body of work! Thank you for letting know about your work.

    I can send you a copy of a research project I did several years ago about a WW2 MIA 8th AF B-17 gunner if like.

  2. Joy, thank you for posting that wonderful picture of my grandmother, Lora Electa Barnes, to her Find-a-Grave site.

  3. Hi Joy. Gary Wilson here. Thank you for stopping by my story collection. I hope you had a great laugh or two. It was my daughter and our noting that with each family member who passed away that we were losing lots of family oral history. She told me that she enjoyed my stories so much that she did not want to lose them and that I should start a blog to collect and share them. I hope you did and will come back for a few more laughs.

    It also looks like you and I share a faith in Christ. I was thrilled to see that, even though I hope many non-Christians will visit my blog and enjoy a clean laugh without all the muck available so many other places.

    Consider yourself always welcome at my blog. Blessings.

    • Hi Gary. Yes, may God use our blogs as he wants! Mine is mainly family stories and local history, but I’ve been amazed at the connections you can make through a blog and the rest of social media. I’m also writing a book about my grandmother who lost three sons during WWII and was widowed shortly afterwards. My mother was their older sister who died just three years ago, age 97. She never got over those losses.

      Grandma left a hand-written memoir in 1987 (she also died at age 97)–one of my favorite things. I transcribed it to share with cousins, but now their children and grandchildren want copies! I’m grateful to be able to share. Bless you, Gary.

      I was born two days before D-Day. A German submarine was captured the day I was born. That’s what my tomorrow’s post features. I had fun with it.

  4. I almost replied to you earlier on GP Cox’s blog, when you mentioned Des Moines. When I saw Victor Klopping’s name posted there today, I wondered if you knew any of the family. Clearly, the answer’s “Yes.”

    I was born and raised in Newton (Class of 1964) and spent many, many happy times in Des Moines. I’ve done quite a bit of writing based on stories from my Iowa years, and always am happy to find someone else who’s engaged in the same sort of endeavor. My grandparents lived in Melcher (now Melcher/Dallas, apparently), and Lucas and Marion counties are where many of my kin are buried. My great-great grandfather, David Crowley, was instrumental in the formation of the 34th Iowa during the Civil War, and it was only after my introduction to the internet that I learned that an uncle is bured in the Philippines, in Manila.

    Anyway: I’m glad to have found your blog, and look forward to browsing. Just for fun, you might enjoy my little piece on the old-style Iowa roads, and Des Moines’ much beloved Yonkers tea room.

    • I grew up on a farm south of Dexter, but graduated from Earlham, Class of 1962. (My sis was Class of 1964.) Yes, coming to Des Moines was a treat. You probably won’t believe it, but Younkers is now closed. We still can’t believe it. Yes, I enjoyed your Iowa roads piece. I also love fog.

  5. Joy, I just heard back from the historian I told you about. As far as he knows, the Huey is not yet back at Camp MacCall. He will be taking a trip there when the weather cools and will get back to me again on the Huey helicopter.

  6. I am glad I found your blog! You are right, we discover so many interesting blogs when we start blogging. I have had a blog now for about a year and a half. I am amazed at what I have learned in that time. I am a Christian and I have found many faith inspiring posts. I have also been inspired by the passion people have for whatever they are writing about. Whether it is music, or art, or history, it is incredible how much you can learn when people are passionate about their subject matter. I will certainly visit here again. 🙂

    • Linda, I’m so thankful you left a note. I’m finishing up my first book (about my grandmother whose five sons served in WWII, only two came home) this weekend, but want to spend time with your blog. I’ve signed up to follow your website, and also on Pinterest. Are you on Instagram?

  7. I just read your new piece on Christmas, but I was not able to post there. Beautiful! We are kindred spirits. I have tables and the like from my family members that have been passed down. I cherish my memories of the time spent with these relatives and I try to care for their things. Decorating our homes is about what feels comfortable to each one of us; for some, it is elaborate, and for others it is less so. I enjoyed your post! 🙂

  8. Just listened to your interview with Van Harden on 1040 am radio.
    It was very interesting hearing about “Leora’s Letters”.

  9. I just finished Leora’s Letters this weekend, Joy. I could hardly put it down. I grew to adore your grandparents, uncles and aunts so much. The love shared in the Wilson family was inspiring – their devotion to serving and encouraging each other was beautiful. I grew to understand in new ways the tragedies of war and the costs paid for freedom…the beauty of sacrifice. So much loss in the Wilson family – and so much to be proud of! You are blessed to be part of a legacy of love, Joy, and it’s easy to see that you’re passing that on in every way you can!

    It’s even more of an honor to me now, looking back, that Young Patriots Club was able to sing at the dedication of the Dallas County Freedom Rock, where your uncles are featured. I wish I’d have been able to read your book before the dedication. I will have a lot to say about the Wilson family when we start up YPC practice again in January!

    I’m grateful for the way you and your family have touched my life and the lives of the children I teach! It’s stories like these, that you’re keeping alive, that instill gratitude and appreciation in our children. I’m grateful for the hard work you put into Leora’s Letters – it’s beautifully written, Joy! I will be highly recommending this book to many of my friends.

    • Thank you, Julie! There was no book yet when the Freedom Rock was dedicated! It was still in the final stages, but I didn’t want it to compete with the Freedom Rock. I wish I’d connected with your Young Patriots Club better, but it was only the second time I’d spoken anywhere since coming down with fibromyalgia–18 years earlier! The first time was the week before and didn’t know I’d be speaking at the dedication! Please stay in touch, Julie!

  10. Just a quick note to thank you for the bookmarks.
    January 6 is coming quickly. I will think good thoughts for you. Love, Leora

  11. Hi, Joy.
    I have shared the recent post about your book by GP Cox. You don’t seem to have any share buttons on here, so I cannot share your information on Twitter.
    Meanwhile, I have followed you there.
    Best wishes, and good luck with the book!

  12. Joy, Our backgrounds are very different. I was born in the Bronx, NY,, lived on Long Island and then upstate New York in my teens. I have 7 siblings, four sisters and three brothers, all living and none went to war. Several grandfathers served but never injured. I’m sorry your family has had to endure any loss. I enjoyed your writing. . . .just saying, Claudia

    • Claudia, I grew up on an Iowa farm and have only one sister. Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is about my mother’s family. Leora was their mother, and my delightful grandmother. (My birth, two days before D-Day, shows up on page 223!) My dad and his brother were also farmers who became pilots. Uncle Bill flew over “the Hump” and Dad became an instructor. He had orders for Saipan as the commander of a B-29 when the war ended. Their stories are under the WWII category of my website. Thanks for visiting!

    • I shared the first one when I published a genealogy. The second one was in the front of my first book, published last year. The verse for the next book, of my grandmother’s Depression Era stories, is Psalm 113:7–He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap. Bless you for your note. I start my journaling each morning with, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” Amazed and humbled at the journey he has me on.

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