Everyone has a story
Not too long ago, members of a newspaper group to which I belong began discussing — perhaps debating — the merits of paid versus free obituaries.
Feelings were split among the editors who chimed in on obituaries and how many words they should be. Other editors stated that obituaries should reflect a person’s life and become a piece of that community’s history. Smaller weekly newspapers have the luxury of spending more time and space in writing articles about their residents, some who have most interesting backgrounds.
I have, on many occasions, yearned for more time and space in telling about our county residents who have left us. Unless that person is a well-known icon or the person died in an unexpected accident, we will never know how the person contributed to his or her community.
If space and money were no object with a small community newspaper, I would quickly jump at the opportunity to have a reporter write stories on former residents and interview the survivors to mold a piece of Americana for the local readers.
From time to time, though, the opportunity arises for the LVN to reveal more about a person than the year of birth, parents and siblings, employment and time and location of death.
During the past two Memorial Day weekends, the LVN features the writings of Argus Harold “Gus” Forbus, who served with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. When I attended his funeral in January 2012, I did so as someone who first met Forbus when he assisted a National Guard battalion to which I served in the early 1990s. His wife, Connie, had spent years as a volunteer for one of the thrift stores. Forbus’ son James spoke elegantly of his father’s exploits during World War II on South Pacific Islands such as Guadalcanal, New Caledonia and Okinawa. Both James and Gus worked on a manuscript revealing the perils of war for a young Marine fighting thousands of miles from home.
As for one of his ventures on Guadalcanal Canal, Gus wrote, “One of our primary objectives when we went in was to find and destroy their long-range artillery, which was 75mm or larger caliber guns. We thought there was one such gun, but we found and destroyed three.
“It was one of the longest patrols in Marine Corps history. I believe we covered almost 150 miles in the 31 days we were behind their lines. Our initial purpose was to locate and destroy their heavy artillery …” and so the story continues.
Many soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought in WWII are slowly passing away, and with many of them, so are their stories.
Earlier in the month, the family of Lorene Kamps traveled to Fallon to hold a memorial service for their mother, who died in 2011. Many residents of Churchill County never personally knew of Lorene, who graduated from Churchill County High School in 1940. The American Red Cross invited me to attend her service because of her contributions to the organization both during World War II and also in peacetime until she retired.
The timing of her story came at an opportune time, days before Mother’s Day, and with the lessons she handed down to her two daughters and grandchildren. Those in attendance learned of Lorene’s dedication in assisting those who needed a shoulder to cry on or offered a helping hand from the Red Cross.
Being a Navy wife herself, Lorene understood the trials and tribulations associated with military service, especially for the families. Sue Kamps, the youngest daughter, previously discussed the memorial service with the Red Cross in Reno:
“Sharing her stories with them is something we so wanted to do — an era of special individuals that should never be forgotten. The Red Cross came in support and appreciation for Lorene’s service.”
Six weeks ago, a friend from my National Guard days died unexpectedly. I was holed up in my office on a Thursday afternoon, eyes glued to the computer screen and fingers typing furiously on the keyboard to clean up a story for print. It was production day. A close friend popped her head into my office, asking if I had heard the news of Jim Kitchens’ death. I had not, but the shock of the news caused me to bury my head into my hands.
Jim had been a fixture with Fallon’s Nevada Army National Guard company in the 1980s and for most of the 1990s as a supply sergeant. The unit was headquarters for a military police company that on many occasions trained with their counterparts at Naval Air Station Fallon.
Before Jim and his family relocated to Fallon in the late 1970s, he forged an interesting career as a printer in the Central California valley after receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 1964 after a four-year tour.
Before he married his sweetheart Cheryl, a marriage that lasted 48 years, Jim served in the United States and overseas on Guam as a jet engine mechanic during an interesting time in U.S. history with the intensifying Cold War with the former Soviet Union, the increases tensions perpetuated by the Cuban Missile Crisis and the beginning of a military buildup in South Vietnam.
He toiled long hours as a printer, first in Dinuba working for his father-in-law and then in Fallon with the the old Fallon Eagle Standard on East Williams Avenue. He eventually owned his own printing company before he decided to accept a full-time position with the National Guard.
As he neared the end of his military career in the mid-1990s, our paths crossed a final time at Gowan Field near Boise, Idaho. With the troops in the field and Jim left behind at headquarters, Jim and I persuaded the Idaho Army Guard to take us as passengers as the Blackhawk maneuvered its way though the mountain valleys north of Boise on a training mission.
Every person has history, a story to tell. That’s what makes a community unique in adding chapters to its book of life.
Steve Ranson is editor of the LVN.