In an attempt to get back to blogging, I started looking for memories that my uncle had written. I didn’t find them. But, that led me to look through a few of his mother’s (Eveline) things and one of the items I re-found was this poem. The poem is written and illustrated in brown ink with water color details. It is on thin, but sturdy, art board.
This may have been on Eveline’s bulletin board at one time because of the holes made by tacks. Or maybe it just hung on a wall.
Several years ago I did a google search to see what I could find out about the poet, Alice Conner Harness, but I came away with pretty much nothing. Since my grandmother Eveline was a school teacher, I wondered if a student had made this for her, or if the poet was someone who lived nearby. Was it a favorite poem of my grandmother and someone illustrated it for her as a gift?
Yesterday’s google search took me to a query I had posted about the poem in 2003 on the Appanoose County Iowa Genweb board. It seems that a few other people have something similar in their possession.
A response in 2010: I also have a copy of this old poem on hard backed paper. ALso looks handwritten and sketched with a tree to the left of the poem. If anyone has any information about this poem or the author I would love to know the background. This was in my grandfather’s trunk.
A response from January 2015: Some 30 years ago my wife’s grandmother died. As we cleaned out her home I found the poem “Tall Tree” on card stock in brown ink and with the drawing of the tree on the right side. My call sign was “Tall Tree” due to me height and so I captured the poem and have had it ever since. It is slightly damaged with a water stain in the lower right corner. I would love to know more history and/or information about the author or the poem. Thank you.
About a week later, someone added an obituary, a little additional information, and the poem typed. The post provides the following information: Alice was born in 1902 in Jefferson County, Iowa, taught for one year, raised a family, moved to California in 1953 and died in 1997. She and her husband, Ezra, lost a son in the Battle of the Bulge. Alice worked as a counselor in the California prison system and started a halfway house for those released on parole.
A little more searching and I found that Alice Conner Harness wrote a 32-page book of poetry titled Along the Way. It was published by the Tribune Printing Co. of Fairfield, Iowa in 1948. It looks as though a copy of the book is available in the Grinnell College Burling Library in Grinnell, Iowa, including the author’s inscription and autograph. Copies may also be available for library use at University of Iowa Libraries in Iowa City and at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
And one more thing about Alice – she was a member of the Gold Star Mothers.
According to Wikipedia: “The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star. Gold Star Mothers are often socially active but are non-political. Today, membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor.”
I found one other poem by Alice Conner Harness in a google preview of a book titled That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America by Holly S. Fenelon. Appendix C contains poetry and clippings.
GOLD STAR MOTHER’S PRAYER (1950)
God, help me be worthy of the son I bore
Who, by his sacrifice in the white-hot hell of war,
Paid the price of freedom;
Help me pray for peace;
That men may find wisdom and that wars shall cease.
God, help me be humble when homage is shown
To me, his mother;
This honor is not mine alone.
In his name I am proud to accept it posthumously;
That honor alone is enough for me.
God, keep me ever true with courage so strong
That though the bitter struggle for peace be long,
My faith in the principles he died to uphold
May make me worthy to wear the star of gold.
Alice Conner Harness Batavia, Iowa
Now I know a little more about Alice Conner Harness, but I still have questions:
*Did Alice write and illustrate the poem onto art board? If not, who did?
*Why do several random people with connections to Appanoose Co., Iowa have a similar or exact item in their possession?
*Tall Tree is about grief and pain, perhaps especially meaningful to those who had lost a loved one. Were these sold to raise funds for some endeavor? Were they given to someone who had experienced a loss? My grandmother did not lose a child in a war, but lost a 5-year-old son to complications of measles.
I hope someone can help us solve the mystery of the Tall Tree!
Fenelon, Holly S. That Knock at the Door: The History of Gold Star Mothers in America. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, 2012