The Library at the Hotel Pattee

This note was such a lovely surprise.

The hotel’s library

Historic Hotel Pattee has been renovated, with each of 40 rooms decorated to reflect something of local or Iowa history. The building itself has a fascinating history.

The hotel also has a bowling center, a full service dining room and lounge, and its own dedicated library. That’s where Mark Hilliard found a copy of Leora’s Letters

Perry is also on the Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail.

Mark Hilliard actually listened to the Audible version of Leora’s Letters on his way to Florida (and learned that I’m just a few days older than his mother). After he returned to Iowa, he made another trip to Perry, this time to find the Wilson stones in Violet Hill Cemetery.

Mark also visited the Dallas County Freedom Rock® at Minburn, where all five Wilson brothers are remembered. Minburn, just ten miles from Perry, or just seven if you take the Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail.

The Wilsons were tenant farmers not three miles southwest of the Freedom Rock® until late 1944. After all five sons had left to serve in WWII, Clabe and Leora Wilson bought an acreage near Perry.

You can see Mark’s truck in both photos.

Surely Mark’s notes and photos were an answer to a long-ago prayer that Clabe and Leora Wilson’s family sacrifices and stories would not be forgotten. Thank you Mark Hilliard.

He plans to donate his copies of the “Leora books” to his local library. What a nifty idea!


My favorite chauffeur and I stayed at the handsome Arts and Crafts Style Hotel Pattee for our 50th wedding anniversary and, two years ago this month, for our 55th. Since it was Memorial Day weekend, we also took flowers to remember the Wilson family at Violet Hill Cemetery. Perry is only an hour’s drive for us now, but life with fibromyalgia has curtailed several treasured customs.



  1. I have always loved old hotels. There’s something about the old world charm, the creaking wooden floors and staircases, not to mention marvelous light fixtures. Of course, there’s so much history to these places of rest. So much to be learned.

    • Leora certainly has fans! I think her surviving so many terrible losses in just three years, then living as a delightful mother, sibling, neighbor, friend, and grandmother for so many more decades is such an encouragement to so many with losses of their own.

  2. What a wonderful person to go to the lengths he did to know and feel close to your family, Joy. Bravo!

    • He listened to the audio version. Paul Berge especially brought Grandpa Clabe to life for me. I never had a chance to know him. It brought me to tears more than once, as the story has enveloped so many others. Amazed and humbled by all of this.

  3. The Hotel Pattee! What a gem in Dallas County, Iowa. Several times we took your Aunt Darlene there after church, for the Sunday buffet. AND, we took time to explore the public spaces. Your post brought back happy memories. C. Bob

    • Thanks for your memories! Did you also visit the cemetery when you were there? I think at least one of you brothers went with Aunt Darlene when we took flowers for Memorial Day. David maybe?

  4. What a wonderful testimonial from a fan! I think that bike trail looks like a fun adventure, especially with hotels like the Pattee along the route.

    • When I gave a copy of “Leora’s Letters” to my eye doctor, he did a double take. I mentioned that the Wilson brothers are also remembered on the Freedom Rock at Minburn. He’s ridden out on the bike trail with friends the weekend before, and here were those brothers’ photos on the cover of a book by one of his patients!

  5. We have been to Violet Hill many times. Once or twice as a “kid”. I remember the “acreage” well. I always picture the small barn at the end of the driveway. Perry is a great town, but Adel, the county seat. Both towns quite bigger than Dexter, Earlham and others. I hope your other readers enjoy this “local” chit-chat!? Bob

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