THE BACK STORY
Elwood J. Hanson, a young man from Ashville, New York, enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War II. Unfortunately, he was killed in action near the Roer River in Germany on November 25, 1944. Elwood is just one of 83,000 American Soldiers buried in the American military cemetery near Margraten, Netherlands.
In that same town, a fourteen-year-old girl named Catherina, witnessed with overwhelming emotion, the liberation of her country after four long years of German occupation. Those years of fear, hardship, and extreme uncertainty left a large impression on her young life. Her gratefulness for freedom lead her to adopt the graves of two American soldiers in 1946. One soldier was repatriated to his home in the states; the other soldier was Elwood J. Hanson.
Catherina visited his grave often, and repeatedly attempted to gain the address of his family in the United States in an attempt to set their minds at ease. The American gatekeeper was restricted from divulging any information about living descendants of the deceased soldiers, but after having watched her solemn devotion for two years, he finally gave in. Catherina corresponded with Elwood’s parents until their deaths, and then with his sister Hilda until her death. Contact was then lost in 1991.
THE REST OF THE STORY
A December 2010 email from Pieter van der Woude in the Netherlands, to Jamestown City Hall and a few other organizations were left unanswered. On December 24, Norm Carlson and I were buttoning up loose ends at work when an email appeared from Jamestown City Hall. They were forwarding Pieter’s email but warned us to be careful as it had come from another country. Without opening it we could see that it was regarding a local World War II soldier and it wasn’t long before the History of North Harmony divulged the sad fact that Ashville had lost a soldier named Elwood Hanson during World War II. In Pieter’s attempt to reunite his aged grandmother with members of Elwood’s family, he offered to share photos that Elwood’s family had shared with her many years ago. Norm and I were giddy with excitement to quickly send Pieter information about the Hanson family and while wishing them all a very Merry Christmas I added that after Christmas I would be trying to find related family members on this end. Norm and I hastened out the door at the scheduled time eager to share such a heartwarming story with our families at our own Christmas gatherings.
Part 2 is just as amazing and will be shared in the next newsletter!