OAKDALE -- Ready and refreshed after Sunday morning's extra hour of sleep:
DOUGHBOY REVISITED With Veterans Day upcoming, this one stems from the war that spawned the commemoration.
Ernest A. Reels died when his granddaughter was only a few years old. Consequently, Melissa Tozzi of Oakdale didn't really know him.
But as happens in so many families, she became acquainted with him through documents passed down through the generations.
While visiting her mother in Reno in September, mom gave Tozzi a letter and asked her to transcribe it. Reels composed the letter hand-scribed over 30 pages on brown YMCA paper to his father from Germany in March 1919, four months after World War I ended Nov. 11, 1918.
Beginning in 1926, Armistice Day recognized veterans from World War I. The name changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to recognize all military veterans, and Congress in 1978 made Nov. 11 the permanent annual date of celebration.
Tozzi is the wife of Stanislaus County Superior Court Administrator Michael Tozzi. Her grandfather's letter provides great details about battles in Somme, Marne, Château Thierry and Boise Ballcau. By the time Reels mailed it, he'd already sent gifts home to dad, among them a "Heine" gas mask.
Perhaps most vivid is his description of a French soldier dying from wounds suffered when a shell exploded nearby.
"He was facing me squarely as we passed and the look he gave it, the mute appeal yet utter despair in his eyes was one thing in this war that will never be forgotten," Reels wrote.
Another excerpt: "At Brier we found a wash house full of Hienies (sic) and had a lot of fun taking souvenirs away from them. There was quite a lot of German equipment there. It was there we got a chance to send Fritz a few kisses."
Tozzi's own parents served during World War II her father as a flight surgeon and her mother as a nurse and they spoke periodically about their experiences. She knew little about her grandfather, though, until she transcribed his letter this past month.
Hence, that became the first understanding she gained into his personality. He died from pneumonia at 62 in 1958, and Tozzi suspects exposure to the gases used by the Germans which he also addressed in the letter contributed to his demise.
"I never got to meet him," Tozzi said. "I was too young when he died. I don't really remember him as a person. I think it was most interesting getting to know him."
BUDDY SYSTEM Last week, I mentioned the Veterans of Foreign Wars' distribution of "Buddy" Poppies, a tradition created in the 1920s to develop a source of financial support for disabled World War I veterans.
I suggested talking to the veterans about the story behind the poppies as they hand them out in front of the Save Mart and Raley's stores, because schools don't always teach the children about the history behind the poppies.
Reader Mary Christianson, a retired teacher and a volunteer at Sylvan Elementary, wrote to say that Sylvan's first-graders do get the buddy treatment every year at the school. So kudos to Sylvan and any other schools that make the time to teach that part of our heritage.
VIETNAM MEMORIAL Modesto resident Kathryn Kuehl will be among the 2,000 people who will participate this week in the reading of all 58,282 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The event commemorates the 30th anniversary of the wall, and the readings will be done over four days, beginning Wednesday and concluding Saturday. Two of her brothers served in Vietnam, and she has other connections to the military as well.
OUT OF TIME Nearly a year ago, I wrote about Modesto resident Tammy Lumpkins, who relied on an artificial heart while awaiting a heart transplant at the University of Southern California's Keck Hospital. She'd been using the heart pump machine since September 2011.
In the fall, she developed an infection and was unable to overcome it. She died Oct. 2. It was her 47th birthday.
Her determination and attitude touched many people, among them her heart surgeon, Dr. Michael Bowdish of USC. He wrote a message read during her memorial service here last month.
To read his words, go to http://keck.usc.edu/lumpkins.
HOMECOMING Novelist and Turlock native Carol Cherry Anderson will have a book signing Nov. 17 at the Turlock Historical Society Museum for her novel "Love Transcends War."
She graduated from Turlock High in 1961, attended Modesto Junior College and earned her degree from California State University, Stanislaus. She now lives out of state. The book is her first published novel. The event will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., at 108 S. Center St. in Turlock. For more, contact the museum at (209) 668-7386.
NUTS! In my Sunday column about the transformation of cattle grazing land to orchards and vineyards east of Oakdale, I wrote that China is the world's leading producer of walnuts. Wrong. The United States still dominates the world walnut market.
SHEDDING LIGHT And finally, daylight-saving time always takes a bit of acclimating. Last week, the morning walks began in the dark. Monday, my walk began in total daylight.
I felt like I was already an hour late for work.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.