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This is a letter I received from my dad’s cousin who lives in Minneapolis. I’ve edited a bit out of it because there were some specifics in there and some of it just wouldn’t make sense to you if you’re not me.

Hi Ethan –

I am your dad’s cousin – my mom and your grandma (Jeff’s mom) are sisters.  I haven’t seen you since you were little, I’m sure you don’t remember me, but you’ve probably heard of our branch of the family.  I have many wonderful memories of your dad back when we were kids — at family reunions on the farm and staying at your grandparents house in Brookings.  We lived in Minneapolis and would travel to the farm… at least two or three times a year, and often we would stay overnight at [their] house on the way.  We always had a great time.  Your dad was a few years older than me, but what I remember most is that he was always so nice to me and would take the time to talk to me and actually listen to what I said.  I was kind of in awe of him — he was obviously so intelligent and self-confident and friendly and good-natured — just a great guy.  Your dad’s family growing up was pretty cool – Dex was so funny, and Brian was so nice, and they both were really cool guys.  And Brenda was a little princess (don’t tell her I said that!)… she was four years younger than me, but after a certain age that didn’t matter anymore and we would play together and I feel very close to her still.

Anyway, [your aunt] Brenda told me about your website (is it called a blog?) and so I’ve been checking out your postings since summer.  At first I felt kind of like I was eavesdropping and I decided that if it ever got too personal, I’d just stop reading it.  But it was so sweet with a “Gushing Young Love” thing going on.  I can hear your dad’s a voice when I read his writing.  And your mom is wonderful.  I remember Jeff and Rita came to Minneapolis, I think to visit some friends, and they stopped at my parents house to say hi (they were so sweet to do that).  If I remember right, they were engaged at the time.  I know I’ve seen a picture of them standing in our dining room — I’ve been looking for it and if I find it I’ll send it to you.

But I did find a few other pictures that you should have.  I wasn’t good at putting dates on the back of pictures, but the pictures of Alana with the puppy and the group were shot in 1980.  My husband and I had been married for about a year and had just gotten a puppy when your folks and grandparents and Alana [your sister] were in town and stopped at our house in [Minneapolis].  Looks like your mom is pregnant (is it you or Dana?).  And the picture of your mom with a baby (again — is it you or Dana?) is so cute.  I don’t remember if I took the picture at the farm of your dad and uncles at the table with [our] uncle… but you should have it.  Any idea of what year that might be?

Well, I just wanted to let you know how much your postings mean — it is such a tribute to your dad and mom.


When Nancy asks “is it your or Dana?” the answer is “you.”  Or rather, “me.”  Or rather: Ethan.   Dana is the youngest and was not yet even a twinkle in dad’s eyes.

In other news:  thanks to all of the support I’ve received, I was able to get over 2 hours of tape transferred to digital!  There’s nothing I can post yet, but at this rate I expect to be done by the end of January. All of the pieces are from the Vietnam era so far, so I don’t have anything from the bootcamp era to post.  And since I want to insert the audio into the proper places chronologically, it may be a little before we get any posted.

You should notice however that the donation button is gone.  I think we might have enough to get the lot done.  If not, you will see the button reappear.

I know that it specifically says “don’t tell her I said that!” but right after is says that they are close.  I’ll take the risk.


Those of you who have read this blog for a while know that I have about 20 small reel-to-reel tapes that dad sent from basic training, specialist training, and Vietnam.  I’ve been researching the best way to transfer the audio to digital and post up on the blog here, but there have been some issues.

I’ve tried to track down an open deck to play the tapes hoping I could capture the output on my computer, but good decks have been hard to come by cheap.  I’ve looked for audio cards that could handle the input but they’re kinda spendy and it turns out that after all this the deck and the card are not the problem.

The problem is that these tapes are now forty years old and most likely in a fragile state.  After some lengthy discussions with a few people who are knowledgeable in this area, I’ve come to the conclusion that attempting to do it myself would be dangerous at best and cataclysmic at worst.  The simple act of playing them could end up destroying them beyond recovery.

To quote an expert I consulted: “What I’m trying to say is, if you are willing to take the chance to lose all the recording on those tapes… by all means, go ahead and try to play them. If they are really important enough as a memory of your father, [pay a professional].”

It seems to be the consensus that a professional transfer is the safest way to go and, as a result, for the first time since I left Cub Scouts, I’m accepting donations.

On the left hand side of the page there will now be a “donation” button that looks like this:

Anything you give will go exclusively towards the transfer of the audio and anything we get off the tapes will then be posted here for all to listen to and download.  Once the project is done the button will go away.  Deal?

To be honest asking for money makes me uncomfortable, but with the total potential cost of transfer being in excess of $500 I sincerely don’t see any other way to get this done, and with every year I wait the less of his voice there will be to recover.

So there we are.  I’m using PayPal so pretty much any way you care to give will be possible.  I’ll keep you all updated on how it goes.

Thank you,


Jeff and Rita on her 17th Birthday


How it all works

We publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
For a quick rundown of the family, start by reading this post
Make sure you read the comments. People who are mentioned in the letters will sometimes expand on whatever is being discussed in the posts.


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October 2021