Keeping our Family Legacies Alive

Memorial Day:

  • A time of remembering and to honor loved ones
  • A day off from work
  • The time to be with family over a barbecue

The weather is usually warm, as it is right before the summer heat. Some families visit grave sites with flowers for their lost loved ones. This time and these moments invite our stories and make us think about preserving our family legacies, some who had died in war or in service while safeguarding America.

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FAST FACTS OF THE HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY :

The practice of a day of memorial started in ancient times, long before America.

Way back in 431 B.C., soldiers killed in the Peloponnesian War were honored with a public funeral and speech given by Greek statesman Pericles. It was likely the first communal ceremony of recognizing those who had given their life in war. Year after year, ancient Greeks and Romans hosted similar commemorations.

Early memorial celebrations in the United States….

One of the first “Memorial Day” celebrations in the United States was by newly freed slaves. On May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, following the end of the Civil War, members of the U.S. Colored Troops and others honored the dead with flowers, prayers, and honorary moments of silence.

By the late 1860s, many Americans had begun hosting tributes to the war’s fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and flags. States and organizations stepped up in action to pause and remember those gone. In 1886, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia resolved to commemorate the fallen once a year. This day of memorial became commonly known as “Decoration Day.”  

The Poppy Flower

In the spring of 1915, a Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker, Moina Michael began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to all who died in war. Her action was in response to bright red flowers (poppies) being planted in the ravaged lands of France, war-torn by The Great War (WWI). The poppy remains a symbol of remembrance to this day.

The day of memorial becomes Memorial Day.

Later, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. At first, it was but a three-day weekend for federal employees to pause in their work and honor those who died in war. Three years later, in 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday for everyone in America.  

*Historical facts above, in part, were retrieved 5/27/2019 from History Channel, online.

MEMORIAL DAY:

As we gather with family and loved ones this Memorial Day, let’s regard our family legacies with sweet remembrance and a moment of honor, carrying their stories through our generations to come. If we don’t tell our story and the story of our ancestors–and our own story–who will?

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My father, Robert Wells (1943-2015) served a two-year tour in the Navy during the Vietnam War. If only I could remember him, however I am honored he fought for America.

I remember my maternal great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). My current writing project, a biography of Marie, involves research in archived newspapers which documented her achievements. Marie was an active participant in the American Legion Auxiliary. Her membership began in the 1940s and she served as Chapter President for her local community and later as District President for her greater area.

As the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, this auxiliary has many committees which voluntarily serve to help war veterans. One is the Red Poppy Committee. Only today, in preparing for this blog post, did I come to understand the correlation between my research discoveries of her and why poppies are a symbol for this national holiday.  

What is there for you to learn about your family legacies? For those who have read my debut book, Out of Chaos: A Memoir, you may remember my maternal great-grandmother, Marie, or Nana as I called her. When I was young, I struggled to live up to her standards, and am now, through my research coming to a better understanding of who Marie was.

There are many ways to keep your family memories alive, not limited to writing a biography as I am. I have a friend (his name is Andrew,) who, often writes a letter about his remembered loved ones, and passes it on to his many friends—I get his postmarked letters in my mailbox.

Please share in the comments how you can carry their stories forward to future generations.

RESOURCES:

American Legion Auxiliary at
https://www.legion.org/auxiliary

History Channel, online at https://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-memorial-day

Moina Michael, American Humanitarian at http://www.greatwar.co.uk/people/moina-belle-michael-biography.htm

Robert Wells, my father, U.S.N.R. 1969.
http://ellemottauthor.com/index.php/dedications/

Marie, my maternal great-grandmother and Past President of American Legion Auxiliary, District 3. http://ellemottauthor.com/index.php/dedications/

Have a safe and Happy Memorial Day weekend. I hope you carry these above thoughts into your days following our holiday.  -Elle-

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Stamp Out Hunger.

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11, please help to stamp out hunger.

What is the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive?

It is a food drive led by our post office mail carriers and supported by people like you and me. It happens once a year, on the second Saturday in May— Donations to ease hunger in the winter months, like near Thanksgiving and Christmas, tend to spike. Now, six months later, those donations have dwindled. Mail carriers pick up our donations from our homes when they deliver our mail. Next, they deliver our donations to community food pantries.

Stamp Out Hunger is the nation’s largest single-day food drive. This is its 27th year.

When is it again?

Tomorrow, Saturday, May 11. The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is held each year on the second Saturday in May. For me, this is easy to remember—my birthday is in mid-May—each year as I look forward to, or otherwise am aware my birthday is soon, I make the connection that so is this national food drive. For you, it may be easy to remember that it is at about the same time as Mother’s Day.

Who does it help?

It helps anyone in need, regardless of circumstance—the homeless, the working poor, persons who have recently suffered loss from losing their job, or perhaps a house fire or natural disaster, and women and children who have fled from domestic violence, among others.

How do I help stamp out hunger?


1. Gather non perishable food items.

While canned foods are a good option, another option, if not better, is dry goods. I like to think of our mail carriers who not only carry our mail but will be carrying these sacks of food. When it comes to gathering food, I didn’t make a special trip to the grocery story. Instead, I opened my cupboards and pulled out a few things, same as I would if someone came to my door in need. The box of pumpkin stuff, I bought on sale, thinking it would be tasty, yet you know what? I never bake, so add that in. I will be okay without a box of rice and so on. What can you be okay without to help someone out?

2. Bag it and put it by your mail box.

Put the food items in a bag and and set it out by your mailbox in time for the mail delivery tomorrow, Saturday. You may have received a postcard in your mail this past week that looks like this:

If so, tape it to the sack. If you don’t have this post card, mark your bag accordingly so the mail carrier doesn’t miss it.  

3. The mail carrier takes it from there.

Our donations are tax-deductible because all the food collected in this food drive is given directly to non-profit charity food agencies in the community where the food was collected. However, when itemizing your taxes, the proper credit goes to your community agency that will distribute the food—you can find out which agency this is from the website for National Association of Letter Carriers.

Why Help in this Food Drive?

It’s a community thing. Together we can make our community better. Together we can help those who need a helping hand. I help because I used to be on the receiving end—today I am on the giving end.

For me, this opportunity of giving causes me to think of the good works my maternal great-grandmother did in her community. For those who have read my memoir, you likely already know a little about her, as I struggled when a young woman to live up to her standards.

She (Marie) was quite active in her community, and in the 1940s and 1950s spear-headed an organization, Polly’s Pantry, to help those in need. She wrote a weekly column for many years, titled “Needs of the Needy” in Lebanon, Oregon, in which she encouraged community involvement to help the needy.  

In my current writing project, I am learning more about this remarkable woman, my maternal great-grandmother. Each day I dig in to archived newspaper articles and other resources that documented her community volunteer work. This research is not only expanding my understanding, but also lending credence to my next book, a biography of Marie.

She made a difference. We can make a difference—you and me, by joining in this food drive to stamp out hunger. Please share in the comments about your community involvement to help those in need.

Resources:

National Association of Letter Carriers  

https://www.nalc.org/community-service/food-drive

United States Post Office: About Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

https://about.usps.com/corporate-social-responsibility/nalc-food-drive.htm

About Marie (Conner) Schmidt, née Gosney (1904-1987)

Found on my Dedications Page at https://ellemottauthor.com/index.php/dedications/


Video courtesy of National Association of Letter Carriers.

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-Elle-

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