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Monday, July 28, 2014

Ed Slater, Korean War POW

Ed Slater changed my life twice. The first time began in a library in Lee's Summit, MO (a suburb of Kansas City). After viewing his Korean War display and visiting with him, he asked me to write his story. I told him I was the wrong person - I knew little about the military or about the Korean War. When I left, he said, "I'll mail you some stuff."

Over the next six months, he mailed his handwritten story and numerous documents. Each time I told him I wasn't the one but my resistance weakened. Finally I said yes and set out on a course that changed and broadened my view of life and the world.

I entered the world of ex-prisoners of war, heard their stories, shed tears with them, and took them into my heart. The first book, They Came Home: Korean POWs, included Ed's story.

Ed invited me to the American Ex-Prisoners of War conventions in Missouri. He was always full of ideas for my next project, who I should talk to, what I should learn, etc. I visited him at the Kansas City VA Hospital and met his friends.

While I attended a book festival in St. Louis, I met Joyce Faulkner. We joined forces and when Ed began to hear from other Sunchon Tunnel Massacre survivors, Ed invited us to write the whole story of the massacre. We invited them all to a reunion in Branson and the city brought out the red carpet. The city and the entertainers treated them like royalty and gave their story the attention it deserved.

In researching for the book, I spent days in the Eisenhower and Truman Libraries looking for documentation of a largely undocumented event. Joyce researched online sources. As we wrote the book, I faced horrors I could never comprehend. I always had trouble meshing the fun-loving, joke-cracking Ed Slater I knew with the boy who suffered through a long death march from Taejon, South Korea to Pyongyang, North Korea, before he was put on a train and faced an execution-style massacre.

When Sunchon Tunnel Massacre Survivors was completed and published, we brought the survivors together again in Branson. Ed glowed with pride. The survivors joked and argued with each other while they charmed everyone they met.

Last week, on July 22, my life again changed. Ed left this world to rejoin his wife, Phyllis. I had been thinking every day that I needed to call him and meet him for lunch when I was in Kansas City. I will always wish I'd made that call.

Life will go on and I will meet other veterans. I will write other stories but Ed will be part of each one. I will feel him looking over my shoulder and chiding me, "Cookie, quit sugar-coating what we went through. Tell it like it really was."

Ed's obituary is online at:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Take time for the sweet life in Fond du Lac, WI

Will you be visiting Fond du Lac this summer? There's no better place than a candy store or an ice cream store.

Confections by Joel is a treasure - a gourmet candy store owned and operated by an amazing blind man. His candy is delicious, his displays attractive and he's the best at customer service. He creates specialty candies and knows the placement of every item in his store. While chocolate is his specialty, he also offers toffees and other candies.

His shop, where he also sells ice cream, is in an old general store with tin ceilings. Joel's is located in nearby Theresa, WI.

Who doesn't want to visit an old-fashioned creamery and sample premium ice cream during the summer - or any time? Kelley's Country Creamery is the place. This 200-acre dairy has been in the Kelley family for more than 150 years. Enjoy the countryside, watch ice cream being made and sample favorite flavors to your heart's content.