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.

K J booth

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.

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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.

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