Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 5, 2007
Art has often said that if he had to choose one word to describe himself that word would be curious.
And the smallest thing can set him off. Roasting marshmallows over a campfire one evening made him wonder about the origin of the word. Now we know that the root of the mallow flower which typically grew near marshes was the original source of the spongy substance that led to the sweet treat.
This Christmas when Art's brother Tommy, who is similarly afflicted, said that he was unable to discover whatever became of 1950s bandleader Ralph Flanagan, I knew Art would take up the challenge. About a half hour of Internet cruising yielded a complete biography.
Family members have often benefitted from Art's need-to-know brain. Several years ago when an uncle was trying to get his old flight school buddies from World War II together, he was stumped in his attempt to locate one of the men. Two days later, after sharing information with my hubby, that uncle was talking with the missing airman.
In December 2004, Art decided to see if he could locate my mother's Mostrom relatives in Sweden. Just six months later, sister Gaila, her two girls, Mom and I were meeting those relatives in Northern Sweden.
It was also two years ago when Art began looking into his Uncle Pete's service as a bomber pilot in WWII. Pete died in 1976 and his kids didn't know too much. That was like a red flag being waved in front of Art's bullish curiosity. Since then, we have attended the reunion of Pete's bomb group in England, recorded the data from the missions Pete flew and secured pictures of his primary B-17. As a bonus, Art uncovered the fact that not only was his former boss at K-State in the same bomb group, he was stationed at the base during the same period Pete was there.
But it isn't just family that gets his juices flowing. About five years ago while we were antiquing in Northern Wisconsin, he came across a shadow box of items containing memorabilia for a young woman who had been an interpreter for the Nazis. Art felt the box should be with someone from the woman's family rather than being a curiosity piece in some stranger's living room. It took him until last July, but he eventually located a distant relative in Hamburg, Germany who was able to supply the name of the woman's husband who is still alive and living in Wisconsin. We now have a date with Ernst next summer.
But some of his efforts have led to far more than the mere satisfaction of his curiosity. In his quest to keep up with the comings and goings - in this case, primarily the goings - of distant family members, he periodically reads the online obituaries in his hometown newspaper. In 2000, he came across one for the mother of an old high school classmate. He wrote to Jo and discovered her husband had died years ago. In their catching up on old times, Art mentioned the fun he's had locating people. Jo had always wondered what had become of an old college flame so Art couldn't let that challenge pass. He found Robert, who had never married, living only 100 miles away from Jo. Art passed that information on to Jo. By the following Thanksgiving, Jo and Robert became inseparable and they have been together ever since.
When Art's cousin Claudia recently mentioned she wondered what became of the family who owned the camp where her Dad used to hunt, I knew what would follow. Art asked what the name was and Claudia was unsure, but thought it was Yacomstaller. A few seconds later, Art was on her computer, only to report that no such name appeared anywhere on the Internet. He said he'd look into variations of the name when he had the time.
Later, while driving home, it suddenly occurred to me that because in Germanic languages a J is pronounced the same as a Y in English, perhaps the name was Jacomstaller or maybe even Jacobstaller.
Art immediately liked the idea.
But another thought struck me. Egad, maybe Art is rubbing off on me!