‘Leora’s Letters,’ family story of war, remembrance, now on sale

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"Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II," by Perry-area author Joy Neal Kidney, has been released and is available on Amazon.

A new book, “Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II,” by Perry-area author Joy Neal Kidney has been released and is available on Amazon.

Five sons enlisted. Only two came home.

The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry. One son was already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military.

The oldest son reenlisted in the U.S. Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots.

As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the whole family, which included the brothers’ two sisters.

Her fondest wishes were to have a home of her own and family nearby.

“Leora’s Letters” is the compelling, true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses yet who lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.

The five Wilson brothers are featured on the new Dallas County Freedom Rock in Minburn, painted by Iowa’s Freedom Rock artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen.

The Wilson family were tenant farmers near Minburn during the war, but Clabe could no longer take care of the work after all five sons had left for the service. They bought a small acreage south of Perry, at the corner just south of where Forest Park Museum is today.

The museum has a poster about the family. Clabe and Leora Wilson and one of their sons is buried at Violet Hill Cemetery, with another stone which remembers two more sons.

Joy Neal Kidney, the oldest granddaughter of the book’s heroine, is the keeper of family stories, letters, photos, combat records, casualty reports and telegrams. Active on her own website, she is also a writer and local historian. Married to a Vietnam-era U.S. Air Force veteran, Joy lives in central Iowa.

Her nonfiction has been published in the Des Moines Register, other media and broadcast over “Our American Stories.” She’s a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and her essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.

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