Today's sweet story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about soldier fathers being separated from their babies during war ("A bond between fathers from one war to another") made me think of a story in our "Growing Up in Edina" exhibit, now on display at the Edina History Museum.
Bonnie Ott England grew up on 5524 Brookview Avenue built at the end of World War II. "My parents Bill and Helen Ott built the house at in 1940, one of the first on the block. We had a neighborhood full of kids on that block once other young families moved in. We played outside in all seasons, mostly in our yards, but also roaming the open fields in search of adventure," Bonnie wrote.
All of those children were war babies. Her father deeply missed being home to see the first years of his daughter's life; Bonnie didn't realize how much until after his death when she came across a letter he wrote to her on her first birthday.
"In the 1940s many American families were greatly impacted by World War II and ours was no exception. My Dad Bill Ott served in the U.S. Navy, Pacific Theater. He entered service in September of 1943 when I was just 9 months old. He returned home in November of 1945 as I was approaching 3 years of age.
This was a time of difficult separation, but also of great love and longing, as evidenced by the letters he wrote daily to my Mom Helen. Among those letters is one written to me on my first birthday. It is a gift from him I will always cherish. I read it for the first time at age 59, following my Dad's passing in 2002."
Bonnie was too young to remember her first birthday without her father, but she still has a mahogany child's chair that was given to her as a gift from her family.
And now she knows the gift of a letter, sent before she could read but something she will treasure the rest of her life.
Like the fathers featured in the newspaper this morning, Bill imagined his daughter as she grew: "I still am able to picture you in memory. And more than that, for I can think of you in so many ways, and like for hours to imagine you at different ages ---right up to the time you are twenty-one. But you must know how poor a substitute this is to actually holding you on my lap or in my arms!"
What stories do you have about being a war baby in Edina? Or what letters have you saved that tell a piece of history? Comment here or please email me.
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