Melvin M. Lagoon
1923 – 2015
Melvin Lagoon; Son, Brother, Soldier, Husband, Father, Trucker, Entrepreneur, Uncle, Friend, Grandfather, Great Grandfather – these are just some of the names by which Melvin was known. To us he was Dad or Grandpa; always there to help, advise, hug, joke, and mostly love. Most of us can picture him in a white T-shirt and jeans preparing to work on one project or another, whether it was for himself, or just as likely, to help someone else. We know he is in a better place, resting comfortably, but still we miss him greatly. As Dad used to always say, “We Lagoon’s wear our hearts on our sleeves.”
Melvin grew up on the plains of Minnesota in a large family of twelve brothers and sisters, he being the oldest. When World War II started, Melvin was there. As an Army soldier in the 17th Airborne, Melvin took part in two of the most important campaigns of the war: The Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, and Operation Varsity in Germany. Seeing the horrors of war, Melvin made himself a promise; that if he survived he would lead a good life. And that is just what he did! In 1945 Melvin married his childhood sweetheart, Jane Vincent. Together, hand in hand, for the past 70 years, they have raised four children, Donald, Diane, Daniel, and Darlene. They in turn have provided Mel and Jane with spouses, Jeree, Scott (Clark), Kitten, and Joe (Marushack), who love and respect them as if they were their own parents. In addition, their five grandchildren and six great grandchildren have provided Mel and Jane with immeasurable pride, pleasure, and joy.
After a life full of love and joy, Melvin passed away peacefully at age 92, in St. Luke’s Hospital in Meridian, Idaho the morning of December 10, 2015.
Melvin’s life will be celebrated Saturday December 19, 2015 at 1:30P.M. with a mass at St. Mark’s Catholic Church, 7690 Northview Street, Boise, ID 83704-7242, followed by a military honors ceremony at Cloverdale Funeral Home and Cemetery, 1200 N. Cloverdale Rd., Boise, ID 83713, Phone: 208-375-2212. A “Celebration of Life” reception and social will be held at St. Mark’s following the honors ceremony.
Jane has requested that in lieu of flowers donations may be made to either St. Mark’s Food Bank – 7690 Northview Street, Boise, ID 83704-7242 USA, or Scions of the 17th Airborne: Melvin Lagoon Memorial – 62A Forty Acre Mountain Road, Danbury, CT 06811 USA
Leaving the Brussels Airport Crown Plaza in their airport shuttle at 7A.M., the trip home began and ended with a flight to Dulles and ultimately Seattle, where Jeree and Sarah were waiting to meet me next to baggage claim at about 10:30 at night. During the flight home I had a great deal of time to reflect on our travels and experiences over the past ten days. I kept returning to my initial statement without fail.
When the recounting of our 2015 European adventure concluded, I offered the following thought to my fellow travelers:
[“Just wait until you get home and try to explain the level of hospitality and gratitude we experienced”. My purpose here is to emphasize that thought, knowing full well that any words I use will be totally inadequate. Please know that all I share with you, the reader, needs to be multiplied ten fold when it comes to the Belgian people.]
We began narrating our journey starting on March 18, 2015 and finished on Sunday March 29, 2015. We hope there will be future veterans and/or family members who will have the opportunity to walk in history’s footprints. In any event, we are confident that the memory of the 17th Airborne is alive and well with the people of Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands – our cherished friends.
We dedicate our time and travels to Melvin M. Lagoon and all the other brave young men of the 17th Airborne who played such an important part in history. They were just young men, boys really, who had not seen anything of the world before. They bravely, selflessly dedicated their lives for friends, family and FREEDOM.
Rise and shine! At least that is what I told myself as the final full day got underway. I even managed to think back to the first morning we spent in Belgium in 2013. We woke that first morning to the sound of reveille being played through someone’s cell phone, which was at the Givry house with us. As it piped down the hallway, it seemed a proper way to start the day then – and just the thought of it seemed a proper way to start this, our final full day here in Bastogne.
It seems that nothing changes from day to day. At least that is the case when it comes to our morning routines. Get up early, shower, perhaps pack away some articles of clothing, stuff a souvenir in the corner of a suitcase, hoping it makes the journey home, get a good breakfast to fuel the start of the day, and make it to the bus in time to participate in the day’s activities. Something felt distinctly different though about this morning. It was probably the realization that this would be our last full day together as a large group of like-minded travelers. It started as a trip to honor the memory of the 17th Airborne, and the people in our lives who took part in The Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity seventy years ago. In truth it (the trip) served us well with fulfilling those goals, but it became so much more. It became a platform for learning more about those specific battles, seeing where these historic events occurred, meeting some of the local people that were actually in place during that time, making new friendships, reacquainting ourselves with old friends and so – so very much more.
Quietly driving out of downtown Bastogne we set our sights on the nearby Bastogne Barracks, HQ to General McAullife, who was the acting commander of the 101st AB in December 1944. He is the one who made the famous “Nuts” quotation near the end of WWII. It came about as the German forces managed to surround most of Bastogne, at which point the Germans asked for his surrender on December 22. His short, pointed reply was simply, “Nuts.”
Pulling through the gates we see buildings (barracks) much as they would have appeared 70 years ago. They are made of neat red brick, lined up in rows, much more attractive than the white clapboard barracks the U.S. troops were so familiar with. In the yard is Oliver d’Hoop, who we met in 2013. He is the historian/curator of the Bastogne Barracks. Greeting us enthusiastically, he guides us inside to begin our privately guided tour of the entire museum.
One of the first places Diane and I investigate is a room whose walls are lined with photos of veterans who have returned to the Barracks throughout the years, since 1944. We were told via email that Dad’s picture now adorns this special room. Sure enough, there it is hanging proudly on the wall with all the others. If our current veterans or their families ever have the opportunity to return to Bastogne it is likely that they will see their loved one’s image displayed as well.
Moving through the basement area we see tableaus using mannequins to reenact various episodes of daily life for the soldiers in 1944, to a large Christmas dinner scene, McAullife held with his officers, displayed accurately from photos of the time.
In other rooms we see artifacts from the war, some as mundane as Blackjack chewing gum packages to mortars, rifles, and bayonets. Scattered all about the museum are reproduced photographs depicting events from the actual times. All are displayed in an easy to understand manner especially for the uninitiated. This would probably be a good time to mention that The Bastogne Barracks, being owned and managed by the Belgian Army, are in danger of going away due to reassignment of financial allocations. There is a petition circulating to encourage the protection of such a historical treasure. If you believe in saving this excellent piece of history you may use the link below to show your support:
Strolling from the display section we enter the large hall where an actual glider sits on the stage. It is only in skeletal form, but that doesn’t dissuade our traveling troopers from climbing onto the stage to sit down inside the partially reconstructed glider. How very different their reflections and sensations must be today compared to what thoughts and feelings must have been racing through their minds so many years ago.
Our Bastogne Barracks hosts next produced an attractive framed certificate, which was ceremoniously presented to each of our proud veterans.
Gathering all those present for a giant photo opportunity in front of the glider was a challenge. Everyone handed their cameras over to photographic surrogates to try and capture all of us in one pose. Most of the successful shots were acquired while standing atop a tall stepladder shoved against the opposite wall in an attempt to get far enough away from the large assemblage. It worked!
I wish I could think of a more creative way to say this because the phrase has been overused but “back on the bus”. We are leaving our temporary home, The Melba Hotel in Bastogne behind. Next stop Brussels. Before we arrive, we stop in a small roadside parking lot at the turnoff for Liège and Hotten via N839. There a car is waiting to provision us with our last “box” lunch. The bus stays solitary for a while so that we can have the opportunity to eat without bouncing around or wearing our lunch.
Because it is too early for us to check into our hotel, we are dropped off only a couple of quick blocks from Brussels famous Grand Place (Grote Markt) which is an imposing central square surrounded by opulent guildhalls, The City Hall, restaurants and quaint – pricey shops. Approaching the square we carefully descend a wet slippery flight of stairs directly under a large statue of Don Quixote with a view between the buildings of what lies ahead.
Approaching the square from a side street you can feel the excitement in the air. The noise level increases with each step and streets and sidewalks become more and more crowded. Finally rounding the final corner, the square opens up before us. It seems to be roughly the size of a (American) football field.
It is like stepping back in time as you gaze up at the intricately decorated buildings. Many large groups of young students are gathering in individual groups, listening to their own music choices and literally dancing in the streets. Gregory quickly guides us through the square, promising to allow us more time after he takes us to the side streets off the square where those devilishly delicious Belgian chocolates can be purchased at a somewhat more reasonable price. A snappy duck into the local police precinct house to procure maps of the area for all of us and we are on our own.
We wander in a meandering pattern through many of the streets within hearing distance of the square enjoying the architecture so unusual to our western way of construction. Suddenly a large crowd emerges as we find ourselves face to face(?) with another of central Brussels’ landmarks, Manneken Pis – almost as scandalous as The Grand Tetons… Cameras vie for position and click away as the little imp quietly goes about his business. Sidewalk cafes are prolific but unused today due to the constant persistent drizzle. That does not stop us from getting another Belgian favorite – Belgian waffles. Ours are drizzled with hot melted chocolate. Not a moment is wasted as we eagerly consume the tasty morsel with another hot cup of coffee – sitting outside, under a large red umbrella, to shelter us from the inclement weather. Yum!
At the prescribed hour we return to our coach for the final leg of our journey to the Brussels Airport Crown Plaza. We receive our room keys onboard the bus before grabbing our bags and finding our rooms. Being on a higher floor allows me to look from my room, out toward the airport, an interesting vista.
Late in the afternoon everyone starts to migrate either to the dining room or the hotel bar for another opportunity to sample those special Belgian brews. As we wander into the bar I spy a couple very familiar faces – Gregory’s mother and father. As we greet them, they seem as pleased to see us again as we certainly are to see them. Also standing nearby is Laurent, who has once again brought his daughter along; this time she appears so much more grown up than when we last saw her two years ago. Growing children are such concrete reminders to the passing of time.
Eventually the entire group makes its way down one flight of stairs to the dining area set up for our very last meal together. Conversation and good food dominate as each traveler tries to take a final picture or two, share that last idea or thought, exchange contact information, or exchange a parting embrace.
Tomorrow most of us go home. A few will take a side trip to Paris with family, another driving to Amsterdam. No matter where we go, we know we have shared something special, something very few people have had the opportunity to experience.
Almost one and a half years ago we started making plans to take part in this 70th Anniversary of The Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity, especially as it pertained to the 17th Airborne. It seemed such a long way off – like it would take forever to get here. Now – today – it is almost over. Tonight will be our last night in Bastogne. So many memories to savor, so many friendships to cultivate, so much learned, so many places visited, so many emotions.
Today we continue our usual pattern of getting up early to get a nice start on the day. We will journey to Luxembourg to visit their American Military Cemetery. Much of the visit there will reflect what we did at the American Cemetery at Margraten in The Netherlands.
The route we follow getting there is almost a mirror image of the route the 17th AB took when they traversed the war torn terrain to Belgium in December of 1944. When we pulled up in front of the cemetery’s gates the grey clouds gradually started parting, showing small traces of brilliant blue. It seemed fitting to see the sky and sun radiating mixed signals. That is how many of the visitors feel upon entering these stately gates; pleased to see our dead so well cared for – sadness to see so many dead soldiers represented by their white crosses. Covering fifty acres (~20 hectares).
Our visit started at the visitors’ center where our veterans were asked inside with their families to sign the guest book and receive some special tokens of appreciation. Upon leaving the visitor center the entire entourage headed for the tall imposing chapel to place arrangements of flowers within and stand at attention as taps, and the National Anthem were played over the speaker system.
Next, our three veterans were driven in a golf cart to significant burial sites where more flower arrangements were ceremoniously placed at the foot of bright white crosses. The Caskey family placed a Scions cap on their father’s cross before adding their bouquet of flowers. Diane and I represented Anne Luallen and Melvin as we first placed a calling card from Melvin on the horizontal shoulder of LT. Telesca’s brilliant white marker. Then it was time to place the ceremonial flowers representing the thoughts of Anne, his daughter, and the Lagoon family at the base of the cross.
Following the other veterans around the manicured grounds we observed each of them stop to recognize special “lost friends”. Lynn Aas stopped to verbally reflect what he remembered about several of his former comrades. As we watched the vets faces, I couldn’t help but think of the old adage, ” If walls could talk…” “Wonder what they were thinking as they walked among the fallen…”
Finally it was time to follow the same protocol we had implemented at The Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten earlier in the week. Each member of our group would take another long stem yellow rose, one at a time, to a designated marker representing a soldier from the 17th Airborne. We did not stop until 159 yellow roses had been formally placed at the respective person’s marker. The Luxembourg American Military Cemetery contains 5076 individual burial sites.
Outside the gates our coach awaited. We took time to eat yet another box lunch in the parking lot. As we were eating, students from The Citadel arrived to pay their respects.These young men stood at ridged attention as a color guard was presented throughout the playing of taps and a solitary bagpipe player.
Boarding the coach we headed back towards Bastogne following Skyline Ridge, the high ground the 17th needed, to control the surrounding areas below. Coming down a long hill into the town of Hosingen, we pulled alongside the road and were fortunate enough to have a local police car stop the fast busy traffic rolling down the hill behind us so that we could safely cross the highway to yet another local memorial to the 17th AB. Flowers were placed at the base by our veterans while the rest of us looked on – quietly and respectfully.
Seated comfortably on the coach, we passed through beautiful countryside filled with a wide variety of terrain, villages, rolling hills, and, “Yes, Dad, more well maintained farms and fields.”
Approaching The Our River area, we were told that casualties here were quite high for the 193rd, as heavy artillery fire rained down upon them. Most of the passengers on the bus were as surprised as Di and I were in 2013 when we arrived on its banks. You see; The Our River is a natural divide between Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany. When you read about the battles nearby, it hard not to imagine a much more imposing tributary of the River Sûre. By our standards, it seemed no bigger than a brisk flowing stream.
Finishing our return trip to Bastogne we were told to meet at the tourist shop in McAullife Square to look over their wares; this was actually a ruse to provide time for Greg and the others to hustle over to the pub Le Carré just across the square to prepare a “surprise” for our steadfast traveling veterans. Soon everyone made their way across the square to the pub where the vets were seated beneath the “Memory Wall”. Over the vets’ right shoulders hung a square of silk camouflage. Gregory and the other Belgian friendly as well as all the “touring family” looked on expectantly. Then the cloth was removed with a flourish and four newly framed mini-biographies were revealed; one for Lynn Aas, one for Dan Chipego, one for Austin Steen, and one for John Kormann. John Schumacher’s and Melvin Lagoon’s already occupied a place of honor on the wall from their previous visits.
Eventually our group began to dissipate and drift away from the bar. It was then that we were asked to join Réal, Marianne, Daniel, Nicole, Sylvain, along with Tom and Cindy Gadd for a late evening meal. We simply walked diagonally across McAullife Square again; this time to a popular Italian restaurant located on one of the corners of the Square. Climbing the steep stairs to the second floor, we sat in a corner table with a splendid view over the square below framed in bright neon lights. Dinner was slow and delightful as we recalled so much of what we had seen, the people we now call friends, and again – the very long memory of the Belgians as they continue to hold their hard-fought freedom dear.
Walking to the Hotel Melba on darkened sidewalks with our dinner group, we glanced up at the night sky, surprised to see how clearly we could observe the stars. As the group divided, going off to their rooms or returning to Givry, Sylvain hung back. It was then that he displayed a cardboard box that he carried with him.In it were some parting gifts. Renewing our October 2014 travels with him in the U.S. (a story for a special entry) Sylvain brought forth three bottles of Belgian Scotch, one for Scott, one for Joe, and one for me. In addition, he gave us personal gifts: Belgian chocolates for Diane, and for me, a BMW themed t-shirt since he knows my diversions so well.
“Move that bag. Try putting it over on the other side. Have we got a small bag that can fit in this space?” And so it went as we loaded up to leave Wesel, Germany and return to Bastogne, Belgium. Apparently, some people must have done a great deal of shopping during their free time yesterday in Münster or the day before in Wesel. It was now impossible to get everything reloaded the way it had been on the way to Wesel. Fortunately for us, we had several private vehicles in our AB convoy that did have a little extra space. A wheelchair there, a couple more bags here, and we were finally ready to get underway.
The cool, damp, and slightly foggy countryside went by outside our windows. With each passing kilometer we saw farms, fields (Dad would have loved those, right Greg?), small towns and large, and a wide variety of animals such as cranes, fox, small deer, and birds galore.
Around mid-day we pulled into the parking lot of a familiar place to Diane and me. Stepping down from the bus we walked directly to the front door of the restaurant – the Auberge du Carrefour in Vielsalm. This was the same place where we had a large multi course dinner one night in 2013 with Dad and a wide assortment of our “Belgian family” including many of the reenactors. Waiting to greet us inside the door was Bernadette the proprietress. Before getting seated we had to make sure to look at her display case where she collects mementos from her many guests, especially returning veterans. There, right where she had placed it when we were here last time was Dad’s signed picture and card. Before we would leave her establishment today she would gather more pictures from our current group of veterans to add to her display.
Sitting down to eat we had a variety of cold cuts and cheeses to calm our hunger. Looking back, seeing how often I mention eating, you might think we really never truly got a chance to get all that hungry; but, hey, this touring business is hard work! And we always enjoyed the foods provided for us. At the end of our meal, Bernadette brought out a special cake that she had ready for John Schumacher, who was celebrating his birthday. On top of it was a blazing pyrotechnic to celebrate his special day.
On the way out of the restaurant, Bernadette caught up with us one last time. She was carrying a box of Belgian chocolates that she asked us to deliver to Dad. Tempting, as it was to sample Melvin’s gift, we agreed to honor her generous request. Boarding the coach I couldn’t help but wonder when we would have the opportunity to meet with her again…
About a half hour and about 33 km later we were back in Bastogne. After Daniel’s only mistake of the entire trip (He tried to use a back road that turned out to have an overpass that was too low for his bus.), we found ourselves curbside in front of Bastogne’s St. Joseph School where our returning vets were scheduled to met with and be interviewed by the students. Just as the doors to the coach opened it began to snow – fitting… Because of space considerations many of us did not go into the school with the vets and their respective families. Instead, the rest of us continued on to our Hotel Melba again.
To fill out the afternoon, we returned to The 101st Airborne Museum, which is located just around the corner from the hotel. Walking inside we headed for the top floor to begin our tour, working our way down floor by floor. This time we had much more time to read about the various exhibits. Remembering that friends of ours, Evan and his dad, Franck Ottelet, are the primary historians and organizers of the exhibits, made the visit all that much more special. New to us, was an exhibit all the way down on the basement level of the building. Here you enter a small dark room and take a chair as a tableau is played out. You are transported to WWII, experiencing what many of the local population must have felt when they were being bombed and attacked while using their basements as bomb shelters. Outside the windows you would see bursts of light accompanied by ear shattering explosions and gunfire projected by a system of large speakers and booming subwoofers. Through a broken basement wall you could see local citizens and even GI’s posed in a life-size diorama. Quite an interesting way to portray the realities of war.
Finding ourselves with additional free time on our hands, Diane and I decide that, in spite of the continuing rain, we would take a walking tour of Bastogne. Walking down the quiet sidewalks we enjoyed looking in shop windows, especially bread and candy shops. Always of particular interest to me is observing all the different types of architecture, old and new. Throughout the town are banners and posters marking the 70th Anniversary of The Battle of the Bulge that played such an enormous part in this community’s history. Sometimes feelings of jealousy arise, thinking – why can’t our own country recognize the sacrifice and service the way these towns continue to do?
Ready to return to the hotel, which by now should have our rooms ready, we decide to make just one more stop. We return to the pub Le Carré that played as such a prominent stage during Dad’s 2013 visit. It was here that his mini-biography was covered in camouflage and also where he received his special jacket, etc. Sitting down at one of their small wooden tables we were able to quietly study the “Memory Wall” and all the paraphernalia in the bar. It sure brought back a lot of wonderful memories.
Returning to our rooms, we prepared for a group dinner downstairs in the hotel. During dinner it is announced that because some people feel the need to learn more about Operation Varsity, a special review session will be held later in this room. Gregory had kindly agreed to review the sights and travels we had experienced in Germany the past two days as they related to Operation Varsity. About a dozen folks decided to participate in this ad hoc lesson. Diane and I thought we would stick around in case Greg needed any help. When he entered the room, having traveled from Givry, where the Aas family is housed, he had his arms filled with boxes containing books and maps.
And he had one more thing. He had brought along a framed arrangement of pictures, etc. that now hangs in the restored farmhouse we used two years ago. Everything in the frame is a reminder of Dad’s visit to her home there. Touching.
The evening ended only after Greg talked nonstop, without note about Operation Varsity, including places, names, strategies and so much more – for about two hours. Impressive.
Relaxed, leisurely, and certainly less emotional; those are just a few of the ways that I would describe today’s itinerary. Waking and preparing for our excursions today was probably easier and yet, since we would be seeing something new, equally exciting.
Our driver selected a course that would ultimately take us to Münster, Germany and the surrounding areas. Guided again today by Jos Beck, it was explained that we were generally following the path of the 17th AB after its success in Operation Varsity. General Miley had urged the 17th to take a significant part in occupying Germany, much of it accomplished on foot, unlike other divisions where they were trucked to their new locations. Then the 17th was divided to provide occupation duty across the breadth of the country, just like Dad, who was assigned MP duty in Mülheim, Germany in the closing days of the war.
Clouds, drizzle and fog welcomed us as we pulled into the gardens and parking lot of Wasserschloss Lembeck. The earliest parts of this castle were constructed in the 1300’s. When traveling on the east coast of the U.S., I am often amazed when I see buildings, events and places going back to the mid 1700’s – here we are talking at least four centuries earlier. Crossing over the moat and into the inner courtyard we were surrounded by early examples of aristocratic architecture. Waiting to greet us was a member of the original family. He would be our guide for the remainder of the morning. As he started speaking, he apologized for his appearance; he had not recalled that he had a tour to give so he was dressed in clothes more suitable for hiking in the woods. Before entering the confines of the castle our titled guide stated in English, (which he also profusely apologized for not being well versed in – but he was), “We are very thankful for the Americans who liberated Deutschland from a not so good force.”
Lest you think that this day trip is just all fluff, I should remind you that Jos had chosen this particular castle for a specific reason. A Medal of Honor recipient was awarded for his actions at almost the exact place that we were standing. The American Sergeant’s name is Clinton M. Hedrick, 17th AB, 194 GIR, Co. I. The Medal of Honor that was bestowed on him reads:
“He displayed extraordinary heroism and gallantry in action on 27-March 28, 1945, in Germany. Following an airborne landing near Wesel, his unit was assigned as the assault platoon for the assault on Lembeck. Three times the landing elements were pinned down by intense automatic weapons fire from strongly defended positions. Each time, T/Sgt. Hedrick fearlessly charged through heavy fire, shooting his automatic rifle from his hip. His courageous action so inspired his men that they reduced the enemy positions in rapid succession. When 6 of the enemy attempted a surprise, flanking movement, he quickly turned and killed the entire party with a burst of fire. Later, the enemy withdrew across a moat into Lembeck Castle. T/Sgt. Hedrick, with utter disregard for his own safety, plunged across the drawbridge alone in pursuit. When a German soldier, with hands upraised, declared the garrison wished to surrender, he entered the castle yard with 4 of his men to accept the capitulation. The group moved through a sally port, and was met by fire from a German self-propelled gun. Although mortally wounded, T/Sgt. Hedrick fired at the enemy gun and covered the withdrawal of his comrades. He died while being evacuated after the castle was taken. His great personal courage and heroic leadership contributed in large measure to the speedy capture of Lembeck and provided an inspiring example to his comrades.”
Once inside the halls of the castle we were directed to put on heavy felt slippers to proceed through the public halls and rooms of the castle. This was probably a ruse to cut down on how often the floors need dusting… After the war much of the public areas have been restored to their original splendor. Our guide stated that during the war many of the furnishings, and art were cellared in hopes of preserving them from harm or plunder. Much has been done to not only preserve but also improve upon what the original structure provided. Having been in Russia over the summer, I was suitably impressed on how the artwork here was preserved and displayed, remembering and comparing how the priceless works of the masters was exposed to disturbing levels of temperature, humidity and sunlight in The Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg founded by Catherine the Great.
As we exited the castle and again crossed the moat, I was struck by the fact that now the moat plays an important part in the preservation of the castle walls, keeping the log pilings under the castle walls moist and thus preventing decay and rot.
In the gardens everyone crowded into a small restaurant for a cup of fresh hot coffee or tea and a German pastry to assuage their hunger. Then it was back into the drab weather, onto the bus, and on our way to Münster.
Arriving shortly after noon our coach was parked in a public area near the University at the intersection of Überwasserstrasse and Schlossplate. Hiking together with Diane and Cindy we progressed into the city. Towering above us were a couple of stately churches. Investigating them from inside and out we read and saw that these historic buildings had received the same sort of devastation and rebuilding that we had seen elsewhere in our travels.
Diane commented that Die Lamberti-Kirche looked strikingly similar to what she referred to as “Scott’s Monument” in Scotland dedicated to Sir Walter Scott. St. Paulus-Dom built originally in 1225 is Münster’s diocesan center and the city’s main church. Nearby is Die Uberwasser Kirche, circa 1340. Its Gothic lines followed a more traditional style that we might see in our own larger cities. Each church seemed to have a personality of its own with varying levels of adornment.
Almost as interesting as the medieval architecture was what was occurring outside their immense doors. The city courtyard was filled with trucks, trailers, and booths selling goods of every description. Except for the modern vehicles and lighted displays, one could almost transport oneself to the times when this was the center of commerce for these large towns long ago. Today, there were flowers to purchase, either fresh cut or in small pots ready to be planted in Spring gardens, cheeses of innumerable variety, meats, fruits and vegetables, olive oils, seafood, breads, pastries, candy, and many other equally interesting local products. People were also gathered around small tables eating freshly cooked food prepared on the premises. Sadly for us, we were at the late stages of the market and most of the vendors were now taking down their displays for the day.
Since we were unable to procure a bite to eat at the market we found a small German Café on the way back to the bus. Stepping inside out of the damp air we enjoyed the warmth as we ate a sandwich with a cup of piping hot coffee.
Back on the bus we were lulled into quietness as we left Münster and returned to Wesel. Our temporary home, the Haus Duden, was prepared for our hungry arrival. After freshening up we sat down to eat at about seven in the evening. By now many of us were getting used to the Continental dining schedule of eating later in the evening.
After dinner most people sat around the dining room comparing their adventures of the day and building upon their new relationships. Following dinner and dessert, Greg sought us out to sit down for another video-interview with our steadfast photographer, Frédéric Pauwels. The lights were bright and hot and the questions thoughtful. The answers we gave brought out tremendous pride in our father and incredible emotions. It is not always easy to express your true deep inner thoughts and feelings.