Prayers for Leora’s Letters

May 2018 – May it even turn young hearts to thinking about lives paid for our way of life even in the midst of their cellphones and activities. May there even be Dallas County kids who will “adopt” the Wilson brothers at Perry, like Europeans do at our American cemeteries overseas.


My habit is to journal first thing in the quiet of morning. Probably 25 years ago my journals contained a prayer that the Wilson family stories would never be forgotten. I even prayed then that eventually people would travel to see where they lived out their ordinary but compelling lives–at Dexter, Minburn, Perry, Iowa.

Back then I was trying to learn to write well enough to share their story in a book. Well, more than one book, I guess. I know too much for just one volume.

Then I took time out, nearly two decades, with an unwellness that included not being able to write. Nor even read. And all-over physical pain. Chronic fatigue, they called it, then decided it was fibromyalgia. Finally coming slowly out of the misery, the want to share the Wilson stories began to shimmer again.

I guess I’m working backwards, starting with their WWWII years at Minburn, then Perry.

Their Depression Era years (at Dexter) are mapped out, ready to begin shaping the stories for the next book.

Right now the third I’ve designated Turn of the Century (mainly Guthrie County, including Stuart), which includes Leora Wilson’s childhood, marriage, and starting her family.

Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is in the process of being self-published through Amazon’s KDP, and should be birthed in about a month.


Meanwhile, I’m so thankful that local historian, retired history teacher and coach, Rod Stanley, made a large wall display of the family at the Dexter Museum. He’s also featured them in history programs he gives regularly.

Wilsons (2)


After my Memorial Day essay was published by The Des Moines Register a few years ago, Jeanette Peel-Peddicord of Perry took it to heart. She and the Perry Preservation Commission bought permanent flag medallions to add beside the Wilson stones at Violet Hill Cemetery, and they held a moving ceremony and reception. The man in the picture at left is Gene Peel.


Forest Park Museum

Deanette Snyder had wondered for years why no one knew about the loss of the three Wilson brothers of Dallas County. She and her husband Lee made sure they are remembered but donating a poster (stand made by Lee Snyder) to the Forest Park Museum, which is not even a mile north of where Clabe and Leora Wilson bought an acreage after all five sons had left to serve in World War II.

Forest Park Museum: Cousins Elizabeth Wilson (widow of Delbert’s son Delbert Ross Wilson, from Arizona) and Chris Scar (widow of Darlene’s son Dennis Scar, from Earlham).


Ray Sorensen was probably in grade school or junior high when I prayed that prayer long ago. He painted the Original Freedom Rock while still a teenager. His talent has burgeoned into a wonderful gift for the State of Iowa, the goal being a Freedom Rock in each of our 99 counties.


If the Dallas County Freedom Rock, with the five Wilson brothers borne on the wings of an American Bald Eagle and canopied by an American Flag, is an answer to my long ago prayers, this is beyond anything I could have imagined.

The dedication of this memorial is tomorrow, October 19, 2019. Maybe the Wilson family is looking down from Heaven today, also amazed that their enormous sacrifice for our country is being honored and remembered.

I am humble and thankful.

Ray Sorensen’s grandfather Michael Sorensen died Wednesday. The funeral is tomorrow, so Ray won’t be able to come to the dedication. I’m not only speaking about the Wilson family, I’ll also be including some of his remarks about the Dallas County Freedom Rock.

A compelling story about the Sorensen family from 2014.


  1. You have done so well. I admire you for your fortitude, determination and willingness to uphold the memories of the past for future generations to cherish.

    • Indeed. Or one young artist. I’m still in awe of Ray “Bubba” Sorensen. He painted that first Freedom Rock when he was still in his teens. His mission has matured so, and Iowa will be come the only state in the union with 99 Freedom Rocks, one in each county–even counties with little population. He’s still a young man, with a darling little family, and yet he’s already created a legacy for us! He’s a new state legislator, as well.

  2. It sounds like your hard work has been paying off. Congratulations on publishing the book. It’s wonderful that so many people have contributed to preserving the Wilson family legacy.

    • I’m also amazed, that here at the end when I’m not so isolated with it, I have a wonderful community of on-line writers, and they are so generous with each other! It’s encouraged my own generosity, when I didn’t think I “had time for it.” Somehow, you time gets enlarged when you engage in largess.

    • We started in the rain, ended in sun. We went an hour early and stayed until everyone went home to listen to the Iowa game (my husband listened in the car). I so enjoyed meeting and talking with people, especially veterans with their stories. One man had heard my stories on Our American Stories, listens to their podcast. I wasn’t even nervous–just ready to tell stories. I got to talk about the artist, the men whose names are on the “storyboard” but needed recognition, and the Wilsons. They’d asked me to talk about the way their loss had impacted the family. Those losses were almost ghosts in our home. No one talked about them. No wonder no one else had remembered their terrible loss. What a blessing to be the one to share their story.

  3. It is satisfying to help God answer your prayer. I’ve been the beneficiary of many answered prayers in my 75 years. Last week I learned that Nile Kennick had a brother Benjamin also killed in World War II. Wished I had known before the rock was painted. Seems he should’ve had a small space with his brother . At this point I believe his family lost two out of three sons. Another sad story of bereaved parents. And we have lived such a life of peace in the United States. Deanette

    • Deanette, that was part of my talk yesterday. Jim Peters had alerted me about Benjamin Kinnick–in a B-25, KIA 1944, New Guinea. Jim was startled at the men I named who were lost in New Guinea–Dale Wilson (Dexter/Minburn) and Francis Love (Dexter). Love is a fascinating story–P-38 pilot, downed three times, got back to base twice. His remains were found maybe a dozen years ago. His 1936 Dexter class ring helped ID him. He was in Mom’s class.

  4. It is a blessed joy to take a book about family to press. I have done four such books and each has been satisfying (if not tremendously profitable). Wishing you the very best with your book.

    • Thanks, Allen. I enjoyed your “Horse Whisperers” and reviewed it on Amazon and Goodreads. Now I’m working through your “Prescriptions from the Rhyme Doctor.” “I Remember Nonna” was especially evocative. Savored it for more than a day. Now it’s “Genealogy.” Catches my breath.

      (I don’t care if my book is profitable or not. The story must be told.)

Leave a Reply to Deanette snyderCancel reply

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