Veterans Air Express research precarious

Timing plays an inextricable role in Veterans Air Express research.  An emotional, precarious role.

Before I can go forward today, I must backtrack. To November 2016. To a meeting of mixed emotions. I was privileged to communicate with Michael Frome, our DC-4 international Navigator, but never met him. My circuitous Veterans Air Express research led me to him via email on July 19, 2016; Michael passed away September 4, less than two months later.

Red-colored park bench with plaque celebrating Michael Frome's 90th birthday. A gift from his wife, June.

Michael Frome – 90! Voice for the Wilderness. Let you who sit here find peace

Now en route to the “tree house” in Port Washington, WI, I was about to meet June Nilssen Eastvold, his widow, and Michele Frome, his daughter.

Michael’s extraordinary life in no way can be captured or even encapsulated by me. (But I am extremely proud to share the parts I know.  For more about Michael’s military and civilian life and his passing, click here.)

My endeavor on that glorious November day was to capture a greater sense of him for myself. Being immersed in that unique deep-woods surrounding, with those two women, gave me a fabulous, treasured glimpse. It also made me sadder not to have known him longer and face-to-face…that’s the emotionally precarious part of my research!

A measure of affection and tribute that moved me greatly was a bench placed in a Port Washington park on the edge of Lake Michigan. It was June’s surprise for Michael on his 90th birthday. The dedication is lovely and touching.

Michele Frome sits with Gaye Lyn on the bench celebrating Michele's father's 90th birthday.

Sitting on the Michael Frome bench is his daughter Michele with Gaye Lyn, meeting for the first time.

At 96 Michael still wrote a monthly wilderness conservation newsletter.

Michele was her father’s scribe. My definition, not hers, but I believe she would not mind. She facilitated my communications with her Dad…and oh! so many other kinds of communications with the outside world. At 96 he still actively dictated a conservation newsletter to Michele which she then published on his behalf.

As my “coincidences” go with doing Veterans Air Express research, while I was in Chicago for one of my husband’s art shows that November, Michele was visiting Port Washington from Maryland – about 2+ hour drive north.  She had come to help Erin Passehl Stoddart, Head of Special Collections and Archives at University of Idaho Library, Moscow, gather materials to establish the Michael Frome Special Collection Library.  Michael had been Visiting Associate Professor at the university from 1982 to 1986.

Their dual coincidental presence allowed Michele and I to meet for the first time.  Plus, understanding the curator’s objective allowed me a peephole into Michael’s bigger life – life after Veterans Air, after he had navigated our DC-4s twice to Prague and once to Warsaw.

Crisp May morning bundled in wool caps with placid Lake Michigan behind them, June shares her Michael memories with Gaye Lyn.

Crisp May morning on a bluff above Lake Michigan with June Eastvold, Michael’s extraordinary widow.

Visited June again.  And Michael’s bench again.  Poignant again.

Here, now, six months later, 4 July 2017, I can only share my photos. And those taken just two months ago when I revisited June. (Dear Reader, these days you must be genuine in inviting me to visit. As you’ll learn in my next Post, I now have a magic carpet. Her name is Gracie and we’ll be more than happy to roll up on your driveway and sit a spell!)

June was graciously and genuinely happy to see me again. And I her. Harry was with me and he loved every minute of June’s vivacious, mischievous, soulful, sacred persona. So do I.

June and Gaye sharing a hug.

A cherished hug from this marvelous woman. An unexpected treasure.

Michael and June surely electrified any room they graced together.

June Nilssen Eastvold, a force in her own right. 40 years a Lutheran minister (a pioneer ordination that long ago!), published author, community activist to the 1,000th power. I can only imagine the electricity – and love – that permeated any room that June and Michael jointly occupied. Oh! how I’d of loved that opportunity.

 


 

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Then & There…

A RECOMMENDED READ and irreplaceable for me: "Memories of the Jing Bao & Beyond," Authors Choice Press, 2001. Written by our own JACK Z. STETTNER - Veterans Air Express Co-Founder, Investor, Pilot and Operations Manager. As well as his considerable WWII experiences, Jack's book revealed new details about Veterans Air Express...plus the spirit and character of this organization that Jack obviously loved!