About the Author

Joy Neal Kidney the oldest granddaughter of Leora Wilson, who lost three sons during WWII and was widowed, all during a three-year period. Through the decades, Joy helped take Memorial Day bouquets to the graves of those three young uncles, not knowing that only one of them is buried there–until decades later, after the death of her courageous little Grandma Leora.
Joy became a writer in order to tell her grandmother’s stories.

Joy lives in central Iowa with her husband, Guy (an Air Force Veteran of the Vietnam War and retired Air Traffic Controller). Their son and his wife live out-of-state with a small daughter named Kate.

A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, Joy has lived with fibromyalgia for two dozen years, giving her plenty of home-bound days to write blog posts and books.

All of the “Leora books” tell stories about world and national events reaching into the American Heartland–westward expansion, two world wars, pandemics, how mental health issues were handled, the Great Depression, and surviving great personal losses. But they are hopeful as well. What Leora Never Knew: A Granddaughter’s Quest for Answers is Joy’s journey to learn what she could about what happened to the three brothers who were lost during the war.


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 remembered on the Dallas County Freedom Rock® at Minburn, Iowa. Leora was their mother–Joy’s delightful grandmother.

All five enlisted. Only two came home.

FreedomRockFurneaux (2)

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

Joy the photobomber, so this was the day of the dedication, October, 2019.


Available from Amazon.com in paperback, hardback, and ebook, and now as an audiobook (narrated by Paul Berge). My Amazon Author Page. Leora’s Letters was a finalist in the 2020 Next Generations Indie Book Awards for Regional (Non-Fiction). 

If you’d like an autographed paperback copy of this one, or the next three Leora books, Beaverdale Books (515-279-5400) will ship them, as will Off the Rails Quilting in Bondurant (515) 967-3550.

Autographed copies are also available at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale, and at the Dexter Museum (books at the museum are donated so the museum retains all funds).

Available from Amazon.com in paperback, hardback, and ebook. 







Please join Joy on Pinterest, where blog posts are divided into even more categories. Here’s her Our American Stories board.

Here are some endorsements and favorite reviews of “Leora Books.”

Joy’s social media


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.

    • Still having fun! Waiting for a critique on Leora’s Depression Era stories, I’ve started Leora’s early stories and even one about her Christmases through the decades! Blog post #500 is coming up–how did that happen?

  13. My name is Marilyn Frost, Black, just received your book and enjoyed it very much. I found my Aunt on page 73, where you mentioned the Basketball team, 1933. My Aunt IG and my mother Cleo Hoy , both played on the 1931 team. That is the year My Mother graduated. My Grandfather, Martine “Jim ” Meister purchased the property listed as Peyton acerage on your 1930 map. Lived there off and on until fall 1949. Know a lot of the people you talk about.

  14. Hi Joy, thanks for the like on Mitch’s post. I love to write and try to put a little “how to”, a little “good for you” and maybe a little old fashioned wisdom in my books and posts. Looking forward to reading more about you.

  15. Wow!!! What a legacy you will leave for your generations to come. You got the message! We all should be about leaving our mark on this world. Contributing good stuff that will encourage, help, empower and protect others. Hopefully, you have chosen your epitaph. Mine is, “In all thy getting, get an understanding. (Prov. 4)” In other words, I do not want others to label me…I want to speak for myself. Even from the grave.

  16. I’ve been jumping around your site and I am enjoying reading your stories. I will be back for more!

    • It’s such a humbling surprise, but looking back, I can see that I was “in training” for this for decades! Grandma would be delighted! Thank you for your encouraging note, Nancy!

  17. 1934……at 11 years old, Uncle Danny already had an earnest, focused look about him. True about many in the family, yet they all managed to possess great humor. A great example for all of us.

  18. Joy,

    I love your desire to honor your grandmother. I am the youngest granddaughter of my maternal grandmother, Grace Stella. After her death I learned her story from my Mom, Leota. She helped me with the research and I was able to publish, Through The Eyes Of Grace, in 2012. I found you via Mitch Teemley’s blog, and I’m glad I did. I hope to read your books.

    Debi Gray Walter

  19. Your package arrived late yesterday! If you told me it was coming by email, my apologies, that address no longer works. (and frankly, I don’t have a clue why!)
    I greatly appreciate you thinking of me and I will post a review when I finish it.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.