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October 7, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

This is an article about me! Well, not totally about me, more like what's happened to me since I started writing this news column. I've been clicking away on my computer for almost six years. Initially I was leery about even attempting to write articles, but then I thought, "Oh well, it's just a year or so." Wrong. Now, six and a half years later I'm still writing and was somewhat shocked to discover I like it.

I must admit that on the few times someone has commented about the articles, I am somewhat surprised and yes a little proud, that somebody had actually taken the time to read them. This last year though has been interesting. I've had several things happen that can be attributed directly to the articles, and that have made it all worthwhile for me on a personal level.

Last fall I did an article called "Pop Steele and my Dad" which dealt with my dad meeting his friend Pop Steele in March of 1943, just after dad had been assigned in Durham, North Carolina. They forged a friendship that lasted throughout World War II, and totaling sixty years. Three things happened after that article. I read it to my dad, who suffers from macular degeneration and is virtually blind. He got tears in his eyes and thanked me for telling the story of their war experience (which included the Battle of the Bulge, crossing the Rhine River in February and having their whole unit receive presidential citations for their efforts in ending the war on Germany's Western front, as well as relating the extraordinary friendship between him and Pop.

This winter I received a phone call from a woman in Kansas. She was Pop's niece and had found the article online. We had a nice talk, and I gave her Dad's phone number. She called him and they talked for an hour. Then this spring, I got a call from another of his nieces in Oklahoma. (Although Pop had never married, he had a large and wonderfully close family). This niece had also read the story and was coming to Iowa for a wedding in Des Moines. She wanted to meet my dad, and drove the two hours out of her way to do so, and they had a wonderful time.

Fast forward to this summer. My husband and I recently returned from a short vacation in the Door County area of Wisconsin. We were sitting in a parking lot facing Lake Michigan in Sturgeon Bay. I was going to get out and take a picture of a lighthouse when I noticed a sign, literally right in front of our vehicle. It was a memorial sign for the Christmas Tree Ship that sank just before Thanksgiving, 1912 while transporting 5,500 Christmas trees to Chicago. Normally I would have just read the sign and gone on my way. But I had written an article around the Christmas Tree Ship last winter, and here I was, quite by accident, parked literally right in front of the memorial sign in the area the ship went down!

All in all I'd have to say the experience of writing these articles each week has been a unique experience. I would say it's been pleasurable, but I'll reserve that thought for a while, as I've been asked to speak before a women's group this spring. Not being a public speaker, I can only imagine how that will come out, but I'll let you know!



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