Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Vincent Van Gogh - Irises

Ona Floyd - Irises

(Left click to enlarge)

These irises are currently blooming next to our home in Cedar Rapids. They are part of the original family (the bulbs have been divided several times now) that Barbara transplanted from my mother's home in Waurika, OK many years ago. I am sure that they will become a part of our children's gardens, and perhaps beyond.

At any rate, I cannot see these in bloom without thinking of my mother, and that certainly qualifies those times as "Mothers Day", even if it does not say so on the calendar..

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Grant Wood Country

At O'Dark-Thirty this morning, I took Barbara to the airport for her flight to join her girl friends from Colorado and California in Las Vegas for a birthday party (at least that's the story!)
Having my wake-up coffee while looking over the paper, I saw that this afternoon there would be an "Art and Culture Tour" along the Grant Wood Highway Scenic Trail, with artisans showing their ware at their studios, galleries, etc. Sounded like a nice Sunday drive as the skys were clear and it wasn't going to be hot and muggy, so I took off in the car for Stone City, the western start of the Grant Wood Scenic Byway.

American Gothic not only made Grant Wood internationally famous (after the Mona Lisa, it's the most reproduced and parodied painting in the world,) but it also allowed Wood to bring wide recognition to Eastern Iowa. His art goes far beyond this painting, but he is forever linked with it. Here is an excellent Grant Wood website: Going Back to Iowa.

- As usual, left-click on any picture to enlarge it -

- Light Text is a link; left-click to follow -

It was spring, and the farmers in the hills of Eastern Iowa were preparing and planting their fields.

This is fairly rural country, spotted with innumerable family farms with their barns and silos, and scattered bits of history such as the Antioch Church, above, with the first headstone dated 1860.

Not far from the Antioch Church is the one room Antioch School. This is where Grant Wood attended first through fourth grade.

Stone City, a village of 200 residents on a good day, is named for the stone quarry, from which the stone for many buildings, large and small, has come. Several local buildings remain such as the church above and the tavern below. During the summers of 1932 and 1933, Grant Wood created the Stone City Colony and Art School. The Colony was headquartered in the large, limestone mansion of the Green Estate, overlooking Stone City. There was a lot of art produced by the attendees of this colony. Many of the artists became well known, at least in “art circles.”

The quarry is still quite active, and continues to supply "Indiana" limestone for commercial buildings as well as residential construction (This is a particularly nice example, inside and out.)

The old Stone City Tavern, on the Wapsipinicon river, is a weekend destination for Bikers stopping for a beer, families out for lunch, and senior citizens on a Sunday Drive. All three groups were there today.

In the later stages of the floods of '93, Barbara, her dad, and I had a bite and a beer on the lower deck, with the water pretty close to our feet.

Close to Stone City is the home of Sharon Burrows and her "A Glass Act" stained glass studio. This was the first (and only) studio I visited on the tour. Her stained glass is beautifully exhibited throughout her home.

Historic, large, and built with Stone City stone the Anamosa State Penitentiary is still an active prison in Iowa. Here is an interesting little website with the history of the ASP. There is a museum in the old cheese factory that is open for visiting 3 days a week.

Inside these stone walls, is a large open gallery of steel cells three tiers high. It is not as bucolic on the inside as it is on the outside.

The administration building, as the rest of the prison, was built with prisoner labor using the local stone.

Not far from town is the Anamosa State Penitentiary Cemetery; on a hill next to a quiet byway .

The headstones in the foreground are recent, and of marble. The older ones are concrete, but are holding up fairly well.

It is hard to contemplate the people who lived and died in the prison (one here at age 77 and the other at only 25), with no one to claim their remains for burial. Very sad thoughts.

Perhaps the most personally disturbing finding in this prison cemetery, particularly with the recent burial of Barbara's dad in Arlington, was this official US Military marker for a prisoner who was a veteran of WW II, but now is buried here on this somewhat forlorn hillside.

Another final resting place, a bit less depressing, is the municipal cemetery just West of Anamosa, with this Civil War Memorial near its entrance.

It is here that Grant Wood was burried after a full and exceptional life.
This closed the circle for my Sunday afternoon drive.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Navy Honors Its Own

Much detail in several ceremony pictures is only appreciated when magnified:
Left-Click on any picture to enlarge it
To have the Navy Hymn playing as you read this post, open this link -
(Click here to listen): - and then minimize the new window to resume viewing this page while the music continues.
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERYBarbara's father had made it know that he wished to be buried at Arlington. Arlington National Cemetery remains the Nation’s most revered burial site, the final resting place for over 220,000 Americans - its grounds consecrated by the sacrifice and dedication of its sons and daughters. A walk through the grounds tells the Nation's history through the stories of those buried there. We who visit Arlington honor those who have served their country in war and in peace and who now rest forever in their final post. In the not too distant future it will be full, closed for further burials, and become a national shrine.

As one of Brokaw's "Greatest Generation," Charles Beckner went beyond the Citizen Soldier of WW II and became the quintessential career military officer. He was a corpsman (medic) in the Philippines before Pearl Harbor. Shifting between PBYs, PT boats and ground units as contingencies required, he escaped twice from Japanese-held territory, made his way to Australia, was later wounded on Okinawa. Following treatment and convalescence on Guam, he returned to island-hopping with the marines and ultimately participated in the repatriotization of China after the Japanese surrender. He continued advancing in the Navy through Korea and Viet Nam, and was the most senior Warrant Officer in service at his retirement. During this career he was awarded numerous citations/awards, including two Silver Stars.
In recognition of this career, the Navy provided Full Honors at his interment in Arlington National Cemetery. Barbara asked me to be the photographer and document the event with some selected photographs.

A light rain throughout the morning provided a proper bit of drama.
As the Chaplain noted, rain always was "a good day for a sailor," a comment Barbara had also heard more than once from her dad.

In addition to the 6 sailors of the casket team, the Navy fielded an 21 member honor platoon, a color guard, a band, riders, chaplain, OIC, NCOIC, bugler, rifle squad, some other NCOs, and a single sailor to stand watch over the casket following the ceremony until actual placement into the ground.

With the band playing The Navy Hymn, the casket was prepared for march by the 6 sailors of the casket team.

With the band in the lead and the Honor Platoon marching behind, the caisson riders and casket team set to follow to the burial site.

Charles's children and other family members and friends followed the caisson through Arlington.

At the burial site with the band playing, the flag-draped casket is transferred to the grave site.

During the ceremony, the flag was suspended over the casket.

The chaplain provided a suitable homage to Charles and his Navy service.

The rifle team gave the 21-gun salute. This was followed by "Taps" played by a bugler out of sight on the other side of a gentle rise.

The flag was folded in the traditional manner with the band playing the
The Navy Hymn.
Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Barbara accepted the flag and the traditional words of gratitude and condolences from the chaplain. After additional condolences from the "Arlington Lady" the military participants marched off and we all made our way back.

For the day before and day of the burial, a wreath was placed at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C.
For America's sea services, the United States Navy Memorial is the fulfillment of a centuries-old dream. In the early days of America's national independence, architect Pierre L'Enfant envisioned a memorial in the Nation’s Capital to "to celebrate the first rise of the Navy and consecrate its progress and achievements." However, it was not built and dedicated until 1987.

Charles himself (who was not into donating money to just any cause) became a "Plank Holder" as an original contributor to the building of this memorial. Although new in construction, it is rich in its heritage and tradition. The water features of the memorial are regenerated yearly with salt water from each of the seven seas. In addition to the water features, a granite map of the seas, and bronze reliefs of historical naval events, there is the statue of a lone sailor on the dock with his sea bag.

Perhaps the most enduring element of the memorial, and the one to which most visitors are drawn, this Lone Sailor depicts a seasoned, seagoing veteran, at most 25 years of age, who willing serves his country, but still looks toward returning home to family and friends. It seems to resonate with anyone who has had naval experience. It contains metal from ships including the USS Constitution, USS Constellation, USS Hartford, USS Maine, USS Ranger, USS Biloxi, USS Seawolf, and the US Navy National Defence Service Medal.

There were once 16 million veterans of WW II, but now only about 2 million of this "Greatest Generation" still are among us. They are leaving us at a rate of more than 1,000 every day, and many of those who remain are limited in their ability to travel and tell their stories. The PT boat organization Peter Tare Inc. held its last reunion in 2007 with only 16 members after meeting yearly since 1947. Veterans more than a year ago held what was likely was the final reunion of the Army's 554th anti-aircraft battalion. That unit landed on the Normandy beaches on D-Day in June 1944, and fought its way to Germany.

We need to stop now and then and recall that these elderly men and women were once strong young soldiers, sailors, and aviators who preserved the integrity of a free society. We should make sure that their grandchildren and great grandchildren know what they did and why they did it, and how they came home and, asking no favors, built or rebuilt their lives.


If inspired, you can also listen to the US Navy Hymn (also know as the Royal Navy Hymn by our friends across the Atlantic) sung by the choir at Ely Cathedral, with some pictures of stained glass windows with Naval images.

Click Here.