A week before the battle of Bull Run, Major Sullivan Ballou wrote a letter to his wife Sarah. During the battle of Bull Run he was hit by a cannonball that tore off part of his right leg and killed his horse. He died from his wound a week later. This is Major Ballou’s letter:
July the 14th, 1861
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
Amid your burgers and NASCAR and parades and other holiday events, stop and reflect on why we have Memorial Day. Remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom.
She was just a simple stray, dirty and underfed. Her ribs showing this cat needed some tender loving care. In 1936 she found the place for this care, St. Augustine’s and St. Faith’s Church on Waiting Street in London.
Thomas Evans the church’s verger discovered this poor stray cat in the church and tossed her out on the street. Indignant she searched for another entrance, but once again Evans tossed her out. A third time she tried but Evans found her again and ejected her.
Finally she found a window that was not fully closed and squeezed through. Exploring the room she spotted a pile of rags and purring contentedly she settled down for the night.
She awoke the next morning as the sun was peeking through the shutters. Her stomach growling she set off in search of food. Room after room she searched until she spotted a warm glow ahead. A thin line of light spilled out from a partially open door.
Eagerly she pushed on the door until it opened wide enough for her to pass through. A warm fire crackled in the hearth spreading a golden glow throughout the room. A wondrous scent of sausage and bacon hung in the air and her stomach growled once again. Across the room a man sat eating a full English breakfast and sipping tea.
Stealthily she crept toward the man following that heavenly smell intent on gaining some of that bacon. But another man grabbed her from behind and picked her up.
“You again”, said Evans. “How many times do I have to throw you out of here?”
“Easy Thomas”, said Father Ross the other man, “Bring in a dish we can pour some cream in. The poor creature is just hungry.”
“But Father”, protested Evans, “if we feed her we will have that much harder time getting her to leave. I’m just trying to save us the trouble; we have never had a cat here before.”
“Thomas we do not need to get rid of her, we must show mercy. For as the Lord says in the gospel of Matthew, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.’ Let us find her a place to sleep and see if anybody claims her. But until then she must have a name, letus call her Faith after the name of our church plus she has shown great faith in her efforts to stay here.”
“Well my wife Rosalind likes cats”, said Evans. “I suppose we can find her some place to sleep.”
So Rosalind Evans was called in and she knew exactly what to do. She found a medium sized basket and lined it with old blankets for Faith to sleep in. Next to this she placed a shallow dish for cream and a dish for food. She crumbled up some sausage in the dish for Faith and added cream to the other. When Faith had finished eating she crawled into the basket to examine the soft blankets. Snuggling down in the blankets, she showed her approval by purring contentedly.
Nobody claimed her so Faith became a permanent resident of the church. Faith was grateful to her benefactor Father Ross and worked hard to prove herself. She explored every nook of the church and rectory, cleansing them of rodents. She also attended every service with Father Ross, sitting at his feet in the pulpit if he was speaking or sitting in the front row with him if he was not.
Faith became a well-loved member of the church. The older members would bring in treats for her which she would daintily accept. She was no longer skin and bones, Faith had found the TLC she had needed.
One August morning in 1940 while having tea Rosalind noticed that Faith looked just a little bit plumper. Was Clara the alter guild lady bringing in too many extra treats for Faith? Faith did not care, she just sat there licking her lips and waiting for some cream.
A few weeks later, towards the end of the month Faith failed to awaken Father Ross. Every morning she would enter his room and jump on his bed licking him in the face to awaken him. Today she had failed to do so. Father Ross went looking for her and found her curled up in her basket.
Lying next to her was the reason she was still there. Over the night Faith had just had a kitten, a tiny tom cat white with black ears and tail. An announcement was made and a celebration was held. The church choir celebrated his birth by singing All Things Bright And Beautiful at the Sunday service. They decided to name the young kitten Panda since his black and white coloring resembled that of the bear.
A few weeks later Father Ross noticed Faith trying to open the door into the basement. When he had opened it for her she went and grabbed Panda by the scruff of his neck and took him downstairs into the cold dank basement. Thinking that it would be bad for him down there, Father Ross carried Panda back up to his basket with Faith following and protesting all the way.
Twice more Faith took Panda down to the basement with Father Ross moving him back upstairs. Finally he consulted with Rosalind and some other women in the church who decided that Faith thought Panda must be in some danger upstairs. They felt the best thing to do would be to move the basket down to the basement and humor Faith.
The following day on September 7 the Battle of Brittan had begun. The Luftwaffe sent 348 bombers escorted by 617 fighters to batter the city of London. The bombing started at 4 p.m. and continued until 4 a.m. Father Ross had business away from the church that day and spent the next night in an air raid shelter.
When he returned to the church on September 9 it was destroyed from the attack. There were small fires everywhere and support timbers laying in the rubble. The rescuers asked Father Ross if anyone had been in the church at the time of the attack and he replied that only Faith and Panda were there.
The firemen told him they were most likely dead and he needed to leave as the building could collapse at any moment. But acting on faith, Father Ross struggled through the building to the spot in the basement where he had taken the cat’s basket. They were still there, huddles in the blankets Faith covering Panda with her body. Father Ross grabbed the basket and carried them out of the church just before the roof collapsed.
Father Henry had Faith’s photograph taken and hung on the chapel wall. This was displayed below the photo:
Our dear little church cat of St. Augustine and St. Faith.
The bravest cat in the world.
On Monday, September 9th, 1940, she endured horrors and perils
beyond the power of words to tell.
Shielding her kitten in a sort of recess in the house (a spot
she selected three days before the tragedy occurred), she
sat the whole frightful night of bombing and fire, guarding her
The roofs and masonry exploded. The whole house blazed. Four
floors fell through in front of her. Fire and water and ruin
all round her.
Yet she stayed calm and steadfast and waited for help.
We rescued her in the early morning while the place was still
By the mercy of Almighty God, she and
her kitten were not only saved, but unhurt.
God be praised and thanked for His goodness
and mercy to our dear little pet.
Her devotion and bravery became well known throughout London, inspiring many a person through the dark days of the war. Faith could not be awarded the Dickens Medal because she was a civilian pet. A special silver medal was made instead and presented to Faith by the Archbishop of Canterbury on October 12, 1945.
You have most likely heard about Balto the dog that saved the town of Nome, Alaska from an epidemic. In freezing and whiteout conditions, Balto delivered the serum. Using his sense of smell he found the right path to Nome.
In 1925 diphtheria was ravaging the town of Nome. They had serum, but it was expired. Rather than risking the expired serum the town doctor radioed for more serum. Because of the extreme cold and weather no train or plane could make the trip so sled dogs were used to transport the serum.
Dr. Welch had requested 1 million units of serum but they were not available. However 300,000 units were found at the Anchorage Railroad Hospital and they were sent to Nenana for transport to Nome. The teams ran 674 miles across Alaska from Nenana to Nome. 20 mushers and over 150 dogs participated in the “Race for Mercy”. The trip took five days to complete.
The team that transported the serum for the last 55 miles was Gunnar Kassen and his team of dogs led by Balto. When Kassen reached Nome he became a celebrity, but he insisted that just as much credit be given to his lead dog Balto. But there were others who made the run that did not get all the glory.
Another musher was Leonhard Seppala with 20 dogs, his lead dog was named Togo. Seppala was supposed to pick up the serum in Shaktoolik and deliver it to Nome. He raced 91 miles into the oncoming storm to pick up the serum. To save time he took a dangerous shortcut across the Norton Sound. (Even today the Iditarod does not cross the sound as it is too dangerous.) The temperature fell as he traveled, it dropped to -34° F but the gale force winds lowered the wind chill to -84° F. Racing the storm he made it to the other side a little over 100 miles outside of Shaktoolik.
Believing he had over 100 miles to go still to reach Shaktoolik, Seppala pressed on. He spotted another team whose dogs were tangled from an encounter with a reindeer, but he decided not to stop as he needed to pick up the serum. Suddenly he heard a shout, “The serum. The serum. I have it here.” It was fellow musher Henry Ivanhoff who was supposed to deliver the serum to Seppala. He informed Seppala of the fact that the epidemic had worsened, that was why they added more mushers.
With the situation being so desperate, Seppala decided to return across the sound. Cracking ice and drifting floes made this a risky move as Seppala could wind up stranded unable to reach the shore. Whiteouts of blinding snow left Seppala unable to see and wound up relying on Togo to find the way with his nose. But Seppala had faith in Togo to lead them there safely.
On a previous trip across the sound, the ice cracked and left a gap too wide for the sled to cross. Racing across the ice, somehow Togo sensed the break and stopped short preventing disaster. But it was too late as the ice had started drifting and there was no way off the ice floe. For over twelve hours they drifted across the water until the ice drifted near another floe that was still connected with land.
But still there was a gap of water over five feet wide, Seppala was unable to jump it or cross with the sled. The had come so close but still they were stranded. But Seppala had a plan, he tied a lead around Togo and heaved him across the gap on to the other ice floe. Togo began pulling on the lead, bringing the ice floe closer to the one he was on. But then the lead snapped and the end fell into the water, the floes were still too far apart.
But all hope was not yet lost, for Togo leapt in to the water and swam to the broken end of the lead. Grabbing the end of the lead with his mouth, Togo once again began pulling. Slowly the pieces of ice began coming together, little by little until finally they were close enough for Seppala to escape. He drove his team and sled across the gap and headed for land. Togo had saved the day.
This time though they could not afford such a delay, the serum had to get to Nome. Through the storm they raced across the ice with Togo leading the way. Fortune smiled upon them and they reached the roadhouse at Isaac’s Point by eight p.m.
Exhausted they rested until two a.m. when they set out across the sound once again. The storm had increased and the ice was cracking, but Togo lead them straight and true. The reached Little McKinley Mountain by daylight where Seppala turned to see that the ice they had crossed was now all cracked apart and drifting. They had barely made it safely to shore.
Climbing to 5,000 feet they crossed the mountain, descending they saw their destination ahead. Reaching the bottom of the mountain they headed to the roadhouse at Golvin. There Seppala handed the serum to the next musher and fresh team of dogs.
By the time Seppala finally pulled into Nome, the newspapers were proclaiming Kassen and Balto as the heroes of the race for mercy. Featuring one team was more exciting than the tedious list of many mushers. Kassen and Balto even starred in a film about the run and toured the United States.
Togo however eventually got his due. He was flown to Maine where he was bred and in 1930 became the father of the modern Siberian Husky breed. (Balto was not bred as he was neutered as pup, since he was considered an inferior specimen). Also in 1997 the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo added statues of Balto and Togo outside of their wild wolf exhibit.
In 2003 in Memorial Field on Valley Parkway, the Cleveland Metroparks dedicated a statue to the smallest war hero and the dogs of all wars. She stood only 7 inches tall and weighed only 4 pounds yet this little soldier won 8 battle stars on 12 combat missions. Smoky the Yorkshire Terrier was probably the cutest service member in WWII.
In February of 1944 in the New Guinea jungle, American soldier Ed Downy found Smoky in an abandoned foxhole. Thinking she may have been a pet of a Japanese soldier he took her to a nearby POW camp. But Smoky did not understand commands in Japanese or English. Mr. Downy gave Smoky to Motor pool Sargent Dare who then sold Smoky to Corporal William A Wynne for 2 Australian pounds. He sold her so he could return to his poker game.
In the next 18 months, Smoky lived in tents and shared C-Rations with Corporal Wynne. They backpacked in the New Guinea jungles and went on combat flights. She spent hours dangling from a pack and even jumped from a 30 foot tower with a specially made parachute. Smokey served in the South Pacific with 5th. Air Force, 26the Photo Recon Squadron and flew 12 air/sea and photoreconnaissance missions. Smoky was credited with 12 combat missions and awarded 8 battle stars. Corporal Wynne credited Smokey to saving his life while they were on a transport ship. As the ship deck was booming and vibrating from anti aircraft gunnery, Smoky guided Wynne to duck the fire that hit 8 men standing next to them
In January of 1945 Smoky’s status was elevated to War Dog and Heroine when she rose to the challenge to serve her country in a most unusual way. Corporal Wynne’s group was helping revamp a former Japanese airfield for use by American planes. They needed to string communication wire under the airstrip which was a major challenge. This three day job would have required digging up the airstrip and putting it out of action for that time leaving it vulnerable to Japanese bombing. Smoky solved the problem by helping guide the wire. They tied a string to her collar and Corporal Wynne coaxed her through the eight inch pipe under the runway. She climbed through piles of sand accumulated in the 70 feet of pipe to bring the string out on the other side. Smoky’s special mission in the combat area of the Lingayen Gulf on Luzon resulted in teletype and phone lines being activated for the U.S. and Allied forces.
Not long after Wynne adopted Smoky, he caught dengue fever and was sent to the 233rd Station Hospital. After a couple of days, Wynne’s friends brought Smoky to see him. The nurses were charmed by the tiny dog and her story, they asked if they could bring her around to visit with other patients who had been wounded in the Biak Island invasion. For five days while he was in the hospital, Smoky slept with Wynne on his bed at night. In the morning the nurses would collect her to take her along on patient rounds to help cheer up the patients. At the end of the day they would return her to Wynne to spend the night with him again.
Smoky had a powerful effect on the soldiers in the hospital. She lightened the mood with her presence and her personality and Wynne noticed it. They laughed as she chased the butterflies, and of course, they loved the tricks Wynne had taught her mostly to relieve the tedium.
The duo’s repertoire started modestly enough with basic commands, and Wynne soon had his diminutive charge playing dead. When Wynne would point one finger at her and yell “bang!” not only would Smoky fall over to the ground at the command, but she also would lie there listless while Wynne came over to poke and prod her and even as he lifted her from the ground.
Wynne eventually trained her to ride a homemade scooter, walk a tightrope and even spell her own name. He had large cutout letters set out, and as he called them out to her Smokey would pick them up in order.
Word of their act spread, and while Wynne and Smoky were on convalescence furlough in Australia, they were invited to perform at a few hospitals. As he watched the men in wheelchairs holding Smoky in their arms, he could see the difference that the tiny dog was making. “There’s a complete change when we came into the room,” he says. “They all smiled; they all loved her.”
Smoky was hardly the only dog aiding in the recovery of wounded veterans in the aftermath of the Second World War. At an Air Force convalescent home in Pawling, New York, the medical staff witnessed the remarkable effect one dog had on a reluctant patient, completely changing his mental outlook. After that, they brought more dogs into the hospital and eventually built a kennel on the grounds to house them all.
The trend caught on, and in much the same way patriotic owners volunteered their dogs to serve with American forces fighting overseas, they brought their pets to serve as hospital dogs to provide uplift for injured soldiers as they recovered from their wounds. By 1947 civilians had donated about 700 dogs. In many ways, these dogs were the first therapy dogs, whose curative abilities were not only recognized but also harnessed to great effect. Therapy dogs are still used today, visiting hospitals and nursing homes to help cheer up the patients.
After the war was over, Wynne and Smoky continued to tour hospitals, bringing their act to recuperating soldiers back home. In 1955 at the age of 12, Smoky retired. Two years later at the age of 14 she died peacefully in her sleep in 1957.
As Bill Wynne remembers her, “She was just an instrument of love.”
Hannah and Michael
One cold morning Arnold Fine, editor of The Jewish Press was walking home in Brooklyn. Looking down at the street he spotted a wallet that someone had lost. Being an honest man he opened the wallet and looked inside for identification so he could contact the owner. But all he could find were three lonely dollar bills and a crumpled envelope that contained a letter. The letter was worn and looked like it had been in the wallet for years; the legible thing on it was the return address.
Fine opened the letter hoping to find a clue to the owner, but his hopes sank when he saw that it had been written sixty years earlier in 1924. It was a “Dear John” letter, written in beautiful feminine handwriting. The writer named Hannah was writing to Michael to tell him that she would no longer be able to see him because her mother forbade it. Even though they were apart, she would always love him.
Unfortunately Michael had no last name and neither did Hannah so Fine was not able to find the owner that way. But Fine did not give up; he called the operator and inquired if she could help him. The operator was not able to give him a number, but transferred him to her supervisor. The supervisor called the phone number at the address on the envelope and asked if they would talk to Fine.
Fine asked the woman on the other end of the line if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah. She replied that they bought the house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago. She also told Fine that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home and they might have a contact number for her, even though her mother had passed away a few years before.
Fine thanked her and called the nursing home, the woman who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in a nursing home. He then called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living. The man who answered told him that Hannah was staying there.
All though the hour was late, it was 10 p.m., Fine asked if he could stop by and see Hannah. The man answered that she might still be watching television in the day room if he wanted to chance it. Fine drove over to the nursing home and went to the day room where the nurse introduced him to Hannah.
Silver haired with a sweet disposition, she had a warm smile and twinkle in her eye. Fine showed her the wallet and told her about finding the letter inside of it. The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, “Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael.”
Softly she said,, “I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor.”
“Yes, Michael Goldstein was a wonderful person. If you should find him, tell him I think of him often. And,” she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, “tell him I still love him. You know,” she said smiling as tears began to well up in her eyes, “I never did marry. I guess no one ever matched up to Michael…”
Fine thanked Hannah and took the elevator to the first floor. Now he had a last name for Michael and he was just a little bit closer to finding him. On the first floor the guard inquired if Hannah had been able to help him and Fine told him she had. He informed the guard that he now had name to go with the wallet he was trying to find the owner for. He then took out the wallet to show it to the guard.
When the guard saw it, he said, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He’s always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the halls at least three times. He’s one of the old timers on the 8th floor. He must have lost it on one of his walks.”
Fine thanked the guard and returned to the nurse’s desk where he told her this new information. They took the elevator to the 8th where they talked to the nurse up there.
The nurse told them that he might still be in the day room as he liked to read at night.
They entered the day room and saw an old man sitting there quietly reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked him if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein checked his pocket, looked surprised and said yes he had. The nurse told him that Fine had found his wallet and was there to return it to him.
Mr. Goldstein smiled when he saw his wallet and offered Fine a reward for returning it. But Fine declined the reward and told Mr. Goldstein that he seen the letter in the wallet and read it hoping to find the owner.
The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. “You read that letter?”
“Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is.”
He suddenly grew pale. “Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me,” he begged.
“She’s fine…just as pretty as when you knew her.”
The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, “Could you tell me where she is? I want to call her tomorrow.” He grabbed my hand and said, “You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I’ve always loved her.”
“Mr. Goldstein,” Fine said, “Come with me.”
They took the elevator down to the 3rd floor where they went to the day room. Hannah was still sitting there watching television. The nurse walked over to Hannah and gently tapped her on the shoulder.
“Hannah,” she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting with me in the doorway. “Do you know this man?”
She adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn’t say a word.
Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, “Hannah, it’s Michael. Do you remember me?”
She gasped, “Michael! I don’t believe it! Michael! It’s you! My Michael!”
He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and Fine left them together with tears streaming down their faces.
Three weeks later, Fine got a call at work from the nursing home. They wanted to know if he could come out that Sunday and attend a wedding, Hannah and Michael were getting married.
Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall and Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. The residents of the nursing home wore their best and all turned out for the joyous affair. Fine was best man and the nursing home even gave them their own room. A 76 year old bride and 79 year old groom but they were as giddy as a couple of teenagers.
A love worth waiting for, they spent 60 years apart but had found their perfect love.
Helen Kurtz ran a small family owned pizzeria, but pizza was not her specialty. Helen was known for her famous spaghetti and meatballs; everybody loved her spaghetti and meatballs. Wife, mother, business owner and exceptional spaghetti cook, who could ask for anything more?
But one day Helen received some bad news. She had gone to the doctor and the tests came back with the dreaded “C” word, Cancer. It didn’t look good. But Helen was a fighter, she fought that cancer and she won. Yes, that cancer went into remission. Life was good.
But it did not last, for eventually the cancer returned. This time it was terminal, she had 2 months to live. But Helen did not despair for she was a fighter.
Helen called all her friends, and then she started cooking. She made a huge pot of spaghetti and gathered all her friends together at her house. There she served them all spaghetti and meatballs. She then passed out the recipe and broke the news about her cancer.
You see rather than have everyone mourn her after she had passed; Helen brought them all together to celebrate life. It was her special way to say “Goodbye” to everyone.
Helen passed away shortly afterwards, but she left us with a legacy. A legacy written on recipe cards, a legacy written with love. So the next time you sit down for a plate of spaghetti and meatballs remember Helen Kurtz.
She taught us the lesson that we need to love those who are with us now while they are here, not after they are gone. She taught us to celebrate life, all with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs.