Luxurious Legacies, Local Legacies, and Life Legacies
My father was a war correspondent and consummate story teller and I can remember some of his best stories were about his experiences in World War II. While war stories aren’t exactly what we like to hear about today, the men and women who served our country during WWII and all wars are very proud of their country and their accomplishments to preserve our freedoms. Some of those stories were never written and many of them are forgotten. My father before WWII, was an editor in New York and New Jersey for the Associated Press. He continued his writing after the war and for a time worked with the NY State Senate as chief of communications during Nelson B. Rockefeller's tenure as Governor. Before his death he had published at least three books. None of the books were autobiographies.
One of his favorite stories that he loved to embellish and share was his romantic “love story” for my mother. The story, as I recall, put him in the midst of a significant battle on one of the Solomon Islands, Bougainville, in the South Pacific. There was an unnamed, unmapped river and lake that had to have a name for the purposes of communication and positioning of the troops. My Dad said the reason these bodies of water were not named was because natives said they were filled with “ghosts!” The Australians wanted to name the lake for King George IV’s daughter, Elizabeth. Somewhere in the discussion, my father chimed in and shared his passion for his sweetheart at home. He hoped to marry her one day so he suggested that the spooky lake be named for her instead of Elizabeth. The Marines and the Australian government agreed to the new name. My mother, Kathleen, became his famed “Lady of the Lake”, making headlines across the world. The romance continued by arranging to send Kathleen a “rose a day” until he came home and married her on December 9, 1944. Lake Kathleen remains on the world map to this day.
There is more to this story, I am sure, but alas, I can only recall bits and pieces and can only read the account of the story from old newspapers. Often, I asked my father to write down some of his stories so I would remember them or even tape record some of them. Sadly that never happened.
While attending one of my weekly Ponte Vedra Sunset Rotary meetings last month at Sawgrass, The Players Club (TPC), I had the fortune of meeting and listening to Susan D. Brandenburg present a mini version of her course “How to Write Your Life Story”. Ms. Brandenburg, aka “Susan the Scribe, Inc.” teaches this course though the University of North Florida’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute). My favorite quote from her that night was “Everyone has an extraordinary story to tell.” And that got me thinking about my father and his lost stories and how I wish Susan D. Brandenburg had been in my life earlier while my Dad was alive. Perhaps she would have written an astonishing life legacy for me to cherish and pass to my children about the man who was a hero, a romantic, a writer, a teacher, a politician, and devoted father.
Susan D. Brandenburg is a biographer who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach. Susan writes personal legacies gifted to generations yet to come. Susan is also a journalist and newspaper columnist who contributes articles locally and nationally. You may have read her articles in the St. Augustine Record. In the current “Beaches Magazine” she presents a wonderful vignette on the accomplishments of locally renowned residential and commercial architect, Gerard Vermey. This particular piece is just a snippet of Susan’s talent and her writing style which captures all of your senses and your imagination as you read along.
Interviewing and spending time collecting life histories has become her “passion” and “mission”. Since 2009, Susan has been commissioned to write nine personal biographies including some very prominent Ponte Vedra Beach citizens. Her biography “Hummingbirds & Hard Hats, The Ingrid Reeves Circle of Love Story,” is currently under consideration for a Hollywood movie. Susan admits that writing comes naturally to her and she considers it a gift passed down to her through her family generations.
“My mother, comes from a long line of Texas artists and writers with a lineage reaching back to George Washington, the Royal Plantagenet’s of Great Britain, and even as far back as Charlemagne. My father was an Air Force Navigator who flew in the Berlin Airlift, and he came from the prominent Pittsburgh Symington family, whose ancestor, Francis Scott Key, wrote the Star Spangled Banner.”