Bluffton Street Fair, Speaking Engagements Inform about WWII Vets

Seaman Richard Block served at Okinawa.

Seaman Richard Block served at Okinawa.

Whew! It’s been quite a week of promoting World War II veterans! Last week my husband John & I met hundreds (thousands?) of people as we manned our booth at the Bluffton Street Fair. It was great fun with lots of opportunities to tell people about the 100 World War II vets I’ve interviewed and my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans. Often we had the privilege of talking to vets of other wars—mostly Vietnam.

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The poster I made just prior to the fair was especially popular. Having just completed my 100th World War II interview, I cut out photos of each veteran and placed them alphabetically on the poster. Many people from the community recognized men and women they had known but perhaps never knew were vets.

After five days at the fair, we are dog tired, but thankful that the weather was ideal with temps in the upper 70s all week. That caused attendance at the fair to be estimated as above average. Book sales during the week were helped by my keeping with a Street Fair tradition. Many businesses offer discounts for fairgoers. I chose to offer World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans at a sale price– $20 reduced to $15.

Carl Capatina K poster

Quite a bargain for the 28 detailed stories contained within! Several friends stopped by for a copy and I snapped their photos before they could get away! Strangers picked up hundreds of me business cards and dozens of people signed up to win a free book. My next blog post will announce the winner! People asked if I was planning another book. That’s a question I’ll address after Christmas. Stay tuned!

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This time of year is especially busy for me for another reason—Veteran’s Day (Nov 11). A number of groups have asked me to speak on the subject of my project of interviewing as many World War II vets as I can.

My talk with the Zanesville Lions Club a few weeks ago was a great experience. They are a most gracious group of people. Daughter Mandy attended with me. We were impressed with their friendliness and interest in the subject of WWII.

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I was particularly impressed with the students who attended as ‘Leo’ Lions (beginners). They listened respectfully and asked pertinent questions. One high schooler floored me when he told me afterward that he liked what I was doing in interviewing World War II vets. His grandfather had been a World War II veteran. “I think Grandpa would have liked being in your book if he was still alive,” he said.  I was so touched to think this young man honored his beloved relative and the military and me simultaneously without realizing it.

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The meeting was especially valuable because one of the vets from my book—Homer Bates – attended as a special guest. His good friend, Sue Harris (I’m glad to call her my good friend too), brought him and I read his story to the group. Those who purchased a copy of the book were thrilled when Homer agreed to sign their copies. That’s a benefit of this book—bringing generations together.

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The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper published another one of my World War II stories today as they have done every other Monday since February. These are new stories not found in my book

Today’s story was especially poignant. Richard Block was a Navy seaman who fought as part of the communication group aboard ship during the bloody Battle of Okinawa. Later he was an esteemed educator in the Fort Wayne area.

Sadly, Mr. Block died on September 19, 2015, just days before his story was published. His photo in uniform is pasted at the top.

Block Richard 08-15 (3)

That is part of the risk we take in working with men and women whose ages are older than 88 years old. Still, it is a sad occurrence and I’m always glad that we were able to get their story before they passed.

I can’t interview every World War II veteran still living. I challenge everyone reading this to find a World War II veteran and ask to hear stories he or she may be willing to share. If the veteran is not willing to talk, thank him/her for the military service they provided and move on to another veteran.

If we work together, we can gather these stories before they are lost to us completely.

Happy Birthday Air Force!

The official birthday for the US Air Force is 18 September 1947 as enacted under the National Security Act of 1947.

I can’t let this occasion slip by without saying thank you to all of the fly-boys who have contributed to this newest branch of the American military.

My wonderful husband John retired after 21 years of serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard. We're proud of him!

My wonderful husband John retired after 21 years of serving in the Air Force and Air National Guard. We’re proud of him!

My husband and son have both been airmen of which I’m very proud.

Here are photos of some World War II vets whom I’ve interviewed who have also served.

Thank a veteran today!

Homer Bates

Homer Bates

Homer Bates (Legacies)

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Ed Goetz (Legacies)

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Max Kaufman and his wife (both deceased)

Max Kaufman

Kiester uni

Robert Kiester

Myers Roger old

Roger Myers (Legacies)

WASP Margaret Ringenberg

WASP Margaret Ringenberg

Margaret Ringenberg (Legacies)

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Paul Sell — deceased

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Don Shady fought in Army Air Corps in WWII.

Don Shady (Legacies)

Marty Wyall served as a WASP during WWII

Marty Wyall served as a WASP during WWII

Marty Wyall (Legacies)

Spreading the Word about WWII Vets

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In TV studio of WANE Channel 15

Last week was a busy, fruitful week for spreading the word about honoring our nation’s World War II vets!

Not one, not two, but three speaking engagements! One was even on TV! That’s a trifecta for this small town girl who enrolled in Toastmasters to learn how to speak to a group!

On Sunday August 30 at 8:30am WANE Channel 15 in Fort Wayne interviewed me for a segment about my book and my quest to interview as many World War II vets as possible. The link is WANE 15 WWII author

Those three minutes go fast! The hosts were friendly and professional. It was a pleasure working with them to tell my story.

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On Thursday, September 3, Peggy Roth invited me to speak to a group called LIFT (Living Information For Today). It is sponsored by Dignity Memorial for those who have lost spouses.  We met at Don Hall’s Factory in Fort Wayne. The first hour was a social time to meet other people and have fun in a comfortable setting. Then the group, which meets monthly, has a speaker.

Several in the group of 44, including a female, were veterans so we recognized them for their service. Then I told them about my book, World War II Legacies: Stories of Northeast Indiana Veterans, and my goal to interview as many World War II vets as possible to help preserve our national heritage. Several people purchased copies of my book. I wish I had more time to get to know these kind, friendly people!

Edwards K Sara Wagner

That evening, after a break of a couple of hours, John and I arrived at Dupont branch of Allen County Public Library for yet another event. Branch manager Rebecca Wolfe (right) and I began the first of what we hope will be many monthly World War II veteran talks at the Allen County Public Library Dupont library branch.

The meeting began at 6pm. Al Edwards, a Navy veteran whom I had interviewed for the News-Sentinel WWII stories. This column has run every other Monday since February. Al served as our guest of honor. We had an audience of all ages, including one little guy who was around age 10!

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The crowd was so interested in listening and asking questions that we went past the 7pm time frame, but no worries as the library stays open on Thursday until 9pm.

Edwards Al grson Wagner

A special bonus for Al is that his grandson showed up to honor his grandfather’s special night. Another young lady was there—Sara Wagner. She served as Al’s guardian on his Honor Flight of Northeast Indiana.  You can see from Al’s expression that he was delighted to see both.

It was a great night and one we plan to do again on the first Thursday of October which happens to be October 1.

We plan to hold these meetings on the first Thursday of the month, weather permitting. Call the library to confirm the date and time.

Here’s a clue for the next month’s meeting: The World War II veteran who has agreed to be our guest was in the Army. He not only helped liberate a concentration camp, but has sobering photos of what he saw there. It’s sure to be an informative evening. He may bring another veteran so we’ll have double the military impact! Please keep in mind that circumstances may influence our choice of speakers.

The Dupont library is located at 536 E. Dupont Rd. 260.421.1315. This is sure to be an educational and poignant series as we learn from our nation’s oldest vets what it was like to serve 70+ years ago!

As always, take the time to thank a veteran for his/her service!

Local Opportunities to Learn about WWII

Al Edwards served as a Seabee during WWII.

Al Edwards served as a Seabee during WWII.

I’m thrilled for this exciting day to finally be here! Two events are happening that will result in more people knowing about our World War II vets and ways they can honor them.

First, I’ll be speaking about my interviews with WWII vets to a group called LIFT (Living Information for Today). It is sponsored by Dignity Memorial for people who have lost a spouse.  It’s a social time to meet other people and have fun in a comfortable setting. The group often has speakers and you know me – OK, maybe some of you don’t know me – but I jump at the chance to tell people about our nation’s oldest veterans. The meeting occurs at a local restaurant.

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans

World War II: Legacies of Northeast Indiana Veterans by Kayleen Reusser

I’ve been told several people are interested in purchasing my book, WWII Legacies: Stories of Northeast IN Veterans. Copies will be available there. Copies are also available through this website. See the ‘Buy Now’ button on my home page.

Then this evening at 6pm I’ve been asked by the manager of the Dupont library branch of Allen County Public Library to host a series of talks with World War II vets from the Fort Wayne area. These talks will be held the first Thursday night of each month (weather permitting).

Al Edwards (left) and two brothers who also served in WWII-- Herb (mid) and Bill.

Al Edwards (left) and two brothers who also served in WWII– Herb (mid) and Bill.

Tonight we’ll be honored to have Al Edwards as our main speaker. I met Al a few weeks ago when I interviewed him for a story in the News-Sentinel. The series runs every other Monday. Several stories from the series are still posted. Unfortunately, I don’t see Al’s story posted at their website or I would paste it here..

Here’s an excerpt from Al’s story:

‘On June 6, 1944, a year after leaving Fort Wayne, Edwards operated a rhino barge as part of the first wave of troops to approach the shore at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. “A rhino barge carried tanks and troops,” he said. “We had no protection from enemy fire as we guided it in.”

When the boats and troops reached the shore, the news was grimmer. “We put ramps down from our boats and saw dead GIs already on the beach,” he said.

Edwards and other Allied troops spent three months in France, encountering shooting from the enemy troops and searching for mines embedded in the sand planted by German soldiers.

After the beaches had been secured, Edwards and other Allied troops became part of the Red Ball Express, a truck convoy that supplied Allied forces quickly through Europe after D-Day. “Trucks were identified with red balls on their sides as they drove along a closed route,” said Edwards.’

Al is a jovial man—quite a kidder! The photo doesn’t show that side of him. He has hosted tours at the Military History Center

in Auburn, Indiana. He’s informative and has his own story to share—both of which make a great combo!

I hope you can make it tonight at 6pm to the Dupont library—536 E Dupont Rd, Fort Wayne IN  46825, 260.421.1315. Put it on your calendar to attend each of these meetings on the first Thursday of each month. You’ll be informed and appreciative of what our nation’s oldest vets did for our freedom!

Always remember to tell a veteran thank you!