The war had been over officially since early September, but the Wilsons were still in limbo, with one son buried and two sons still listed as Missing in Action. Danny had been missing since February, in Austria. The war in Europe had ended in May. Still no word by Christmas.
And Dale. He and his crew were shot down in November two years earlier. Nothing. At least they were able to write the families of the other crew members, but they were all left with a strange anxiety.
When Junior was killed in August, Delbert came home to Perry for the funeral. He was soon discharged from the Navy and moved home with his wife (who was expecting another baby) and daughter. They lived on the acreage with his folks.
With two sons still missing, how can life begin to settle into a routine? But there were chickens to feed, eggs to gather, and Leora regularly churned butter now that they had cows. Clabe went to the dentist for a bad toothache.
And the Wilsons were finally able to get a phone installed. It rang one October night after 9:00. Donald and Rose had just arrived in Perry in their Studebaker. They’d driven from Washington State. Donald was still in the Navy, still thinking then that he would make it his career–having served since 1934.
Donna Gaye was born November 21 to Delbert and Evelyn at the King’s Daughters Hospital. When Doris and Darlene visited their folks, they also went to the hospital to see Evelyn and baby Donna.
Clabe had a tooth pulled. Evelyn and ten-day-old Donna Gaye came home from the hospital. Leora churned four pounds of butter, which they sold in Perry, probably at the Thriftway, along with eggs and twenty hens they’d raised.
December 4 was Leora’s 55th birthday. She received her annual “kerchief” from her mother (who lived in Omaha), a plant, nightgowns, and a box of Drews Chocolates from their old hometown of Dexter.
Delbert begin to wire the little house for electricity. Clabe had more toothaches, and Leora as well. Clabe had another tooth pulled the next day. Leora’s jaw was swollen but she waited another week to have two teeth pulled. Clabe bought a Guernsey bull. Leora churned more butter.
The Wilson family probably listened to the National Tree Lighting Ceremony, the first since December 24, 1941. “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for. . .,” President Truman began.
Sleet and snow fell all day Christmas Eve. Sam and Darlene, with Richard and seven-month-old Robert were to bring “roast chick & dressing” the next day but couldn’t. So Clabe and Leora, Delbert’s family (wife Evelyn, daughters Leora Darlene and Donna), and Warren and Doris with toddler Joy had a Christmas dinner of bacon and eggs.
What a comfort to have their oldest son and his family living with them, a blessing at the end of such a terrible year. Even in the middle of the heartache.
Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II is the story of the Wilson family. Five brother served. Only two came home. All five brothers are featured on the Dallas County Freedom Rock at Minburn, where the family farmed during the war, until all their sons had left for the service.