In my collection of family papers I have a letter that my great-grandfather, Walter C. Anderson, sent to his son Milton H. Anderson. The letter is dated December 4th, 1945, so I thought it was fitting to post this weekend. It is written on letterhead from the family business, the Anderson Lumber Company, in which Walter was a partner. Walter suffered an attack of pancreatitis in late November 1945, while Milton was still stationed in Paris following the close of WWII. In this letter he was in recovery following surgery. His tone is light, Walter and Milton were both goofy personalities. He goes into great detail about his treatments.
He relays a story about carrying on a running joke with his two doctors:
“Have had a lot of fun with the 2 Drs. Dr. Arn, the surgeon, told me to tell Dr. Brower, the M.D., that if he got my heart as good as he, Arn, had my stomach I would be good for 200 years. It had Brower stumped for a couple of days then he told me to tell Arn if he would get the stomach in shape to take some good bourbon whisky it would be good for my heart. Arn thought about it a couple of hours and then Sunday afternoon came down and wrote on the chart (reasonable amount of egg nog with good whisky).”
At the end he offers his son reassurance about a recent breakup and says he plans to stay home from work until the new year. He signs the letter “Love, Dad,” but you can see that he started to write “Walter” at first.
Walter took a turn for the worse around December 14th when his wife, Katherine Hartzell, sent a radiogram to her son reading “Daddy seriously ill.” Milt was cleared by the army to return home immediately, but Walter passed away on December 17th. Walter was buried in the family plot on December 24th, presumably the family waited until Milton arrived to hold the funeral. It is sad to think that this letter may have been the last contact between father and son.
This holiday season I will be sure to drink a “reasonable amount of egg nog” in my great-grandfather’s honor.