April 14, 2014

Soldier's time capsule from WW1

Sealed for a century: 'Time capsule' from soldier who died on the Somme contains possessions that his parents couldn't bear to see - including the German shell that killed him

Private Edward Ambrose, from Hertfordshire, was killed on the Somme, just days he arrived at the front in 1916
After a telegram telling of his death, his last belongings were sent back from the trenches to his heartbroken parents  But the family left the case unopened, finding its contents too painful to look at, and it was placed in an attic for years.

After visiting a local historical exhibition, Private Ambrose's nephew has now opened the package for the first time.  The case includes black and white photos of his family, letters from his parents, a half-smoked pipe and cigarettes.  The items, including a locket with photos of Private Ambrose and his sweetheart, Gladys, will go display later this year

 Wwi-Soldier's Time Capsule

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 AM | Permalink

Corpses in trenches in NYC

One million buried in mass graves on forbidden New York island..  A public cemetery closed to the public

Most New Yorkers don't even know it exists. But a million forgotten souls are buried in mass graves dug by convicts on a tiny, forbidden island east of the Bronx.

Since 1869, still-born babies, the homeless, the poor and the unclaimed have been stacked one upon the other, three coffins deep, on Hart Island.

Corpses are interred in great, anonymous trenches. There are no tombstones. Small white posts in the ground mark each 150 adult bodies. A thousand children and infants are buried together per grave.

It is one of the largest cemeteries in the United States. And the least visited.

The men doing the digging are convicts from Rikers Island, petty offenders tasked with carrying bodies to their final resting place.

Nearly 1,500 fresh corpses arrive each year, says visual artist Melinda Hunt, who heads the Hart Island Project, which campaigns to make the cemetery visible and accessible. The authorities say nearly a million people have been buried here since 1869.

It is forbidden to film and photograph the uninhabited, windswept island. Visits must be authorized by the Department of Corrections, which runs the island.
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Records long inaccessible -

For years, records of who's been buried where have been patchy and negotiating access has proved challenging.  Some have been lost, others burnt. Families sometimes cannot even find out if their loved ones were buried by the city.

"You have a right to know where a person is. It's very important not to disappear people. It's not an acceptable thing to do in any culture," Hunt said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2014

How the New York Times decides whether an obituary is warranted

Margalit Fox who has written over 1000 obituaries for The New York Times Answers the Question:  'Why That Life?'

As we often say to one another ruefully, running the Obituary department of The Times is like presiding over the admissions committee of the most selective college in the world.
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Besides the monarchs and captains of industry, likely candidates for our page include another, lesser-known group. These are history’s backstage players who, working quietly, have nonetheless managed to reshape our culture – the men and women who have put enduring creases in the social fabric. And it is these unsung actors whom obit writers love best.

In my decade in the job, I have had the great narrative pleasure of writing about Jack A. Kinzler, the NASA employee who designed a humble parasol that saved the imperiled Skylab space station; Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell, who almost single-handedly opened the modeling profession to African-Americans; Ruth M. Siems, the General Foods home economist who invented Stove Top stuffing, and Leslie Buck, who designed the Anthora, the blue-and-white Greek-themed cardboard cup from which decades of New Yorkers drank their coffee.

Each day, it is our job to come to know such strangers intimately, inhaling their lives through telephone calls to their families, through newspaper and magazine profiles culled from electronic databases and through the crumbling yellowed clippings from the Times morgue that can fall to dust in our fingers as we read them. ….

If all has gone well, we have also arrived at the solution to the mystery, for in the course of the day we have learned not only how our subjects got from A to B to C in their lives – and how much of that progress was a product of free will and how much a result of pure blind fate – but also how, and why, they embodied the age in which they lived.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:50 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2014

The Worst Nightmare

We have replaced the age old fear of being buried alive with a new one.

Paralyzed stroke victim experiences every patient's worst nightmare as he hears doctors discussing whether to donate his organs but couldn't speak out.  While on an outing with his family on the Gothenburg archipelago, Jim Fritze suffered a brain hemorrhage.

'I managed to catch my girlfriend's attention - I was bright red in the face, and she's a nurse so she managed to keep my airways open,' Mr Fritze said.  An air ambulance was unable to land on the island, so he had to wait nearly two hours to reach Sahlgrenska hospital by boat.

[He lay] paralyzed in hospital and listened in horror as doctors discussed organ donation with his family after telling them he would not survive.  Jimi Fritze, 43, heard every word but couldn't protest because he was unable to speak.

His heartbroken relatives had come to say their final goodbyes after doctors said brain scans showed he had 'no hope' of pulling through.  As they surrounded his hospital bed, doctors asked the family about the possibility of donating his organs when he died, not realising Mr Fritze could also hear the conversation.

Mr Fritze said: 'Only my ears and eyes were working. They (the doctors) told my girlfriend that there was no hope'.

But three days later another doctor who had returned from holiday gave more positive prognosis.  Mr Fritze said: 'She looked at my scans and said "This doesn't look too bad" and told the staff to give me cortisone to bring down the swelling in my brain.'

It took another three weeks before he could communicate his horror to his family and more than two years on he has only just recovered enough to take action against the hospital.  He has sent an official complaint to the health and welfare board, which oversees quality of healthcare in Sweden.
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

April 1, 2014

The Death of a True Hero

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., Vietnam POW and former U.S. senator, dies at 89

Jeremiah A. Denton Jr., a retired Navy rear admiral and former U.S. senator who survived nearly eight years of captivity in North Vietnamese prisons, and whose public acts of defiance and patriotism came to embody the sacrifices of American POWs in Vietnam, died March 28 at a hospice in Virginia Beach. He was 89….

Adm. Denton was a native of Alabama, where in 1980 he became the state’s first Republican to win election to the Senate since Reconstruction…..he remained widely known for his heroism as a naval aviator and prisoner of war, and particularly for two television appearances that reached millions of Americans through the evening news during the Vietnam War.

In the first, orchestrated by the North Vietnamese as propaganda and broadcast in the United States in 1966, he appeared in his prison uniform and blinked the word “torture” in Morse code — a secret message to U.S. military intelligence for which he later received the Navy Cross.  In the second television appearance, during Operation Homecoming in 1973, he became the first freed POW to step off a plane at a U.S. air base in the Philippines. He spoke through tears before cameras, expressing his gratitude for having had the opportunity to serve his country under “difficult circumstances.”
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Adm. Denton was subjected to four years in solitary confinement. Living in roach- and rat-infested conditions, he endured starvation, delirium and torture sessions that sometimes lasted days....Adm. Denton once reflected on his survival in North Vietnam.

“If I had known when I was shot down that I would be there more than seven years, I would have died of despondency, of despair,” he told Investor’s Business Daily. “But I didn’t. It was one minute at a time, one hour, one week, one year and so on. If you look at it like that, anybody can do anything.”

Jeremiah Denton for the Ages   Remembering an exceptionally courageous POW and an American hero.

Here he is blinking morse code - T-O-R-T-U-R-E

RIP with the thanks of a grateful nation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink