Today my stepson Andrew and I will travel to the Wilbur Cemetery on a hill overlooking the farming land all around to give honor to Harold Roloff, his grandfather and my friend and former father in law. Harold enlisted in the Air Force and flew missions into and over Germany from an air base in Italy in WW II. He survived and came home to Lincoln County to raise cattle in the scablands south of Creston. He lived on a spread of 20,000 acres. Ten thousand were owned by the Swanson Family and later when the Uncles who lived there, by Donna Roloff, my mother in law, and 10,000 were leased. Lincoln County remained his home.
Harold was a quiet man, a self-sufficient and independent man.
On this day I always remember my big cousin Tom Timm. Tom was on Corregidor with General Wainwright, and when it fell he was a survivor, as was the general< of the Bataan Death March.
Going out to the cemetery will bring many emotions to heart. As a high school student in the Mound High School (Minnesota) Memorial Day was a town event, speeches at the high school where in variably the song “My Buddy” (the song filled me with lament and tears always came to my eyes. Next there was three-mile march to the town cemetery where many men and women who had died in our wars were laid to rest.
Two trumpeters took their places and the opposite far reaches of the cemetery. After the prayers for the dead the trumpeters would play taps in echo — my brother Bud (George) played beautifully each year until he went on to college at Carlton. His trumpet was the one I remembered mostly — I knew the special sound he could make.
There are cemeteries and fallen soldiers buried in them all along the Yellow Stone Trial, that combination of roads along the Northern Tier of America, the High Line, now mostly known as US Highway 2.
For many of us, Memorial Day is also a day we honor our relatives and friends who have passed on and are buried in, or whose ashes have been spread over, the land — for me, in Mound, Minnesota — mother and father, grandfather, aunt and brother — the first three from Switzerland having come here to make a home. In Appleton, Minnesota at the near end of the Yellow Stone Trail relatives from the maternal side of my family, mostly farmers are buried in the town cemetery. In Okanogan/ Omak and Seattle the memories of my adopted brother, sister and two children — Chuck, Annie, Derek and Colin Goldmark are honored at an overlook on Lake Washington, Mount Rainier(a mountain Chuck and I and friends climbed the summer before’ looming in the distance the south end of the lake. They were murdered in Seattle in 1985 by a man at war with illusory enemies of his politics and his religion.
I honor my friends who are dead on Memorial Day. As Andrew and I honor Harold Roloff, I hope to instill in him the elegiac quality which permeates my being on this day, bringing into life the souls who have passed. And, knowing souls never die.
On this Memorial Day after placing flowers on Harold Roloff’s grave I will be honoring him and all those who have served one way or another, who by living had left us with lasting truth that the souls who passed are still present in the world.