Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

Five brothers served. Only two came home.

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military. The oldest son re-enlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots.

As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the whole family, which included the brothers’ two sisters. Her fondest wishes were to have a home of her own and family nearby.

Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.

Joy Neal Kidney, the oldest granddaughter of the book’s heroine, is the keeper of family stories, letters, photos, combat records, casualty reports, and telegrams. Married to a Vietnam Air Force veteran, Joy lives in central Iowa. Her nonfiction has been published in The Des Moines Register, other media, and broadcast over “Our American Stories.” A graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, her essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.


Beaverdale Books is Des Moines’ independent bookstore (515-279-5400
beaverdalebooks@gmail.com). They will ship autographed paperback copies.

Click here to order from Amazon:  Paperback, hardback, ebook, and audiobook.

Click to listen to a clip of the audiobook, or to order it from Audible: audiobook, narrated by Paul Berge.

Leora’s Letters was a finalist in the 2020 Indie Book Awards, Regional Nonfiction Category, for independently published books.

It is the story behind the brothers remembered on the Dallas County Freedom Rock® at Minburn, Iowa.

Joy is also the author of Leora’s Dexter Stories: The Scarcity Years of the Great Depression and Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots.

Three-minute interview with Roger Riley, photojournalist of WHO13 News