Books honor difficult life experiences

A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation: The Life and Family of Colonel Frederic A. Stone, M.D.—Aviator, Doctor, Missionary, and Friend to Humanity

by Rev. Dr. Judson I. Stone

A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation: The Life and Family of Colonel Frederic A. Stone, M.D.—Aviator, Doctor, Missionary, and Friend to Humanity

by Rev. Dr. Judson I. Stone

A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation is also a son’s retelling of his father’s life, but this book covers Col. Frederic Stone’s entire life, including his decades in the military following World War II. Twice during his career, Col. Stone was stationed at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, and after he retired from the military, he had a dental practice in Negaunee for a short time. Throughout the book, Judson Stone brings to the forefront the qualities that made his father both a typical American and an extraordinary man.

The book begins with some family history. The Stones can trace their lineage back to the Mayflower, and their family had many brushes with significant historical people and events, including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. And yet, these were also typical middle class Americans just working hard to make a living and be good citizens. Perhaps most remarkable is the family’s constant faith in God, which ultimately led to Judson Stone becoming a minister.

As for Col.Frederic Stone, his story is one of growing up in New York in the 1920s and 1930s, falling in love, trying to decide what to do with his life, and finally, becoming an aviator in World War II. Some of the most interesting moments in the book describe how Stone was part of the campaign to fly over the hump in Asia.

After the war, Col. Stone returned home and decided to practice medicine while also remaining in the Air Force and being stationed at various locations around the country. One of his greatest accomplishments was serving as part of the medical recovery team for three lunar missions—Apollo 7, 9 and 10—the last being a dress rehearsal for landing a man on the moon.

While Judson Stone details the significant events of his father’s life, he also places them against a larger backdrop of how national and international events affected his family, and he describes his personal life growing up, including at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, at a cottage on nearby Johnson Lake, and going camping on Isle Royale with his Boy Scout troop. Judson also shares his personal memories of his father and his father’s advice to him growing up.

After retirement, Col. Stone continued to be a remarkable man, and his wife joined him in his endeavors. They became missionaries to Africa, his medical skills serving them well in their goal to help others while also spreading the gospel. One of the most surprising and touching moments in the book comes when, in appreciation for Col. Stone’s medical service, the local chief proceeded to roll on the ground in front of him, a sign of respect for an honored guest—an honor the chief only bestowed one other time.

A Last Chapter of the Greatest Generation is, in many ways, the story of an American family in the 20th century that will seem familiar to all of us. At the same time, it’s the tale of a man who was willing to risk everything to serve his nation, his God and his fellow man. It is a book that reminds us that we are all capable of greatness in our daily lives, and it is, especially, a testament to a father and son’s love for one another. More information about the book can be found at the author’s website: www.JudsonIStone.com

What the willow said as it fell

By Andrea Scarpino

Andrea Scarpino, current U.P. Poet Laureate (2015 to 2017), has written a poetry collection in which each poem seems to build on the one before—it is almost as if each poem is part of the previous one, and the absence of titles to the poems allows them to flow seamlessly from one into the next. The book’s title, What the willow said as it fell, helps somewhat to explain this form—willow trees themselves have a flowing motion or look to them. More importantly, they weep, and while Scarpino doesn’t refer to them weeping, there is much worth crying over in this book.

It’s not a long book—just 71 pages. You could read it in half-an-hour, but you would need to read it multiple times to pick up all the nuances. It takes a bit of puzzle work to put together all its pieces, but the bottom line is that the poet is suffering from what appears to be breast cancer, resulting in a mastectomy. The cancer was detected just two days before her 24th birthday.

The poet uses trees as a metaphor for the body—which has its own roots and branches in its veins. She notes that trees and people share 50 percent of the same DNA. She notes the healing power of trees—providing oxygen among other things—and she uses the ash tree as a metaphor for how ash borers destroy it, just as cancer destroys her, just as surgeons bore into her body.

The poems are experimental in form—one is written like a patient diagnosis. One is a full page of just the words “pain begets pain” repeated, and is followed by “because the borers came” on the next page, as if the two pages/poems are connected.

Multiple lines repeat throughout the book like a refrain—“The day before:” often begins a poem, with memories of her life before the cancer or at least before the diagnosis. Other lines that repeat are “Pain changes everything” and “No one healthy can understand.”

Throughout, the poet questions her situation, the reason for pain, the possibilities of health. She realizes there will be no miracle for her. One entire poem simply says: “And what of/Hippocrates:/body will right itself:/primum non nocere—.” Many things about pain and health are said, but obviously they are not always true.

Another line states, “They don’t just take your breasts—/They change everything.”

There is plenty of pain throughout these poems, and one can sense the poet’s agony, but there doesn’t seem to be bitterness or whining. There is some level of acceptance. There is also some level of escapism into poetry. The book ends with the lines: “My body in pain. Waiting/And then I left it./Turned myself to tree.”

Unfortunately, I do not have the space to reprint the lines I’ve quoted as they are printed in the book with their spacing and line breaks or how they run in tree trunk columns down the page and at other times spread out expansively, like tree branches. I do admire Scarpino’s creativity—how she says volumes with just the right sentence—often in a question format. I’m sure anyone who has dealt with severe pain will find a kindred soul in these poems. Even those who are not readers of poetry will be caught up in the somber musicality that drives the reader on to the final page.

More information about What the willow said as it fell can be found at the publisher’s website, www.redhen.org.

by Tyler Tichelaar

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