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Marjorie Irish Randell was born and raised on a farm in western Michigan in the pre-war years of the Depression. Her closely knit family was interested in music and the arts as well as the day to day work of a farm. An English teacher in her freshman year of high school planted the seed in her mind that she could write. Her first year in college was marked with extra English courses and Creative Writing classes at the YWCA. World War II called a halt to education and found her enlisted in the US Marine Corps Women's Reserve. She married newly commissioned Army Air Corps Pilot Edward Randell in 1943 and formal education was put off until retirement in the 1980's. Raising four sons filled the years but always long detailed letters kept flying between California where she made her home and Michigan where her parents still lived.
When she retired from selling real estate she began taking classes in creative writing and putting into words the short stories that had been living in the back of her mind. She enrolled in college again, but it wasn't until after her mother died when Marjorie found the letters, telegrams, clippings and pictures her mother had saved that she was stimulated to put her brother's story into a book. The Irish family...Marjorie, her brother Howard and her parents were a particularly close family and the loss of her brother has permeated her life. The writing of his story is a memorial to that family and to the young man who gave his life for us.
Marjorie has put together an anthology of her short stories which speak of another era that may otherwise be forgotten. At present she lives with her husband in the foothills of the High Sierras in California and is working on a new contemporary novel.
I sit on the floor amidst a jumble of papers, blind and deaf to what is going on around me. I turn the pages of a scrapbookholding letters still in their envelopes, glued to the pages of the book. One by one I carefully remove the letters, read each one, folding and replacing it before taking out the next. My heart fills with sadness and tears though mixed with a kind of euphoria. My mother glued the letters into the scrapbook in the chronological order of their arrival in the old mailbox out by the road going past the farm where Jack was born and grew up. Jack is my brother, four years my senior, although he remains forever young in my mind as he was one of the young men lost to the world in World War II. From the day of his going into the Army as a reservist in May of 1941 Mother saved every postcard and letter Jack ever wrote home. It's been more than fifty years since they were written and many years since read. I've been busy raising four sons and trying to keep up with an ambitious husband, things that Jack never was able to do. What would he look like now? At seventy-nine would he be bald? Daddy was bald at twenty-nine. My last sight of Jack was his curly blond hair as he waved a farewell to us in San Francisco not knowing that it would be the last farewell. Jack had insisted that we drive together to San Francisco in his car to see him off aboard the USS President Pierce, his destination the Philippine Islands. As Daddy, Mother and I drove east across the Bay Bridge heading back toward Michigan my eyes were blinded with tears. How could Daddy have been able to see to drive that night? We drove Jack's little brown Chevy home to Michigan to keep it for him until he came home again.
I read his postcards and letters now sometimes laughing, sometimes crying, wishing the dark years away. As I read the last postcard he sent from the Japanese prisoner of war camp a strange feeling engulfs me. It's as if Jack is alive again. I don't know if he has come forward to now or if I have gone back to then, but I cannot shake the feeling that the phone will ring with a call from him, or the mailbox at the curb will reveal another letter from him. I feel so close to him, so close to my mother and father and the happy foursome that we were. It's as if I could put out my hand and touch him, look up and see his laughing blue eyes teasing me. The feeling persists. I am amazed, hopeful, a little frightened and not able to understand. As weeks pass my strong feelings fade but I continue to look at other papers and letters Mother saved. Not knowing exactly why I am doing it, I open letters from the War Department, from Jack's commanding officers, from friends made in the prisoner-of-war camps, clipping each to its envelope and arranging them in order of the dates they were written. My one manila folder is not adequate. I separate the letters into years - 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, each year in its own folder.
There is, among the letters, the cover of a Collier's magazine dated March 3, 1945. Inside are pages torn from that magazine as well as from the inside of the March 10th and March 17th issues. They are the story, "WE LIVED TO TELL ," written by Corey Ford and Alastair MacBain; the stories of three of the survivors of the sinking of the Shinyo Maru, the ship upon which my brother and six hundred and sixty-seven other prisoners of war were lost. It is as I open these pages to read the story that I understand why I have been so carefully arranging all of the material my mother had saved.
Jack has not lived to tell his story. I must tell it. The experience of my search for information has been amazing.