Love connection

By EVE BYRON, Independent Record | Sunday, February 21, 2010

A weathered leather wallet.

A straight-edge razor.

A pipe lightly scented with tobacco.

Growing up, Colleen McCarthy and her three brothers knew not to open the large cardboard box their mother, Darlene O’Leary, stored in the basement of their Helena home for half a century. One brother, Scott O’Leary, had snooped inside it as a young boy and was angrily rebuked by Darlene.

But when she unexpectedly died last September and their father moved to an assisted-living facility due to health issues, the siblings decided to sell the family home on Ninth Avenue. That forced Colleen and her husband Mike McCarthy to begin the somber task of going through her parents’ possessions, since her brothers no longer live in Helena.

Colleen doesn’t like spiders, so she worked upstairs while Mike cleared out the basement.

“He was down there for several hours, then walked up the stairs and said ‘You will not believe what I found,’” Colleen said. “He set the box on the table and we opened it up. We knew we had something significant and special when we unrolled the proclamation signed by Harry Truman. Not a stamp, but a real signature.”

An unemployment voucher from a timber mill.

A silver wedding band in its white box.

A framed photograph of a rosy-cheeked, baby-faced man in a uniform.

Colleen’s family knew their mother had been married at age 16 to a man named Arnie Graham, and widowed less than a year later after he was killed in the Korean War in 1951. They knew that she visited his grave every year on the anniversary of his death and that he was from Minnesota originally, but little more.

The box changed that.

“This was a part of mom’s life she never spoke about. I can’t imagine the devastation, the hurt and the pain she must have felt,” Colleen said recently, as she gently lifted mementos out of the box.

An identification card says Graham was born on Jan. 31, 1928. A school award commends his perfect attendance one year in Dundas, Minn. A yellowed Army form shows Graham enlisted April 18, 1946, and went to basic airborne school that year before being honorably discharged Oct. 19, 1947. Another form shows he enlisted in the Army’s Reserve Corps on Sept. 29, 1947, and trained at Fort Snelling in Minnesota.

Colleen didn’t know what drew Graham to Montana. His identification card says when Graham married the former Darlene Haley on Jan. 20, 1950, he weighed 163 pounds, was 5-feet-9-inches tall, with blue eyes and brown hair. Their wedding album has their names filled in, but no guests signed the book and there aren’t any photos of the happy couple.

A bronze bracelet with his name on the front of it shows he was called “Arnie.” The piece of jewelry was a gift “from Earl,” which was written on the back. An obituary Colleen later found said Arnie had an older brother, Earl, as well as six other siblings.

The marriage came two days after Graham was laid off by Mixer and Co. near Silver City, where he was a lumber handler. His home was in Marysville, according to the motor vehicle registration card for his 1949 Studebaker, licensed on Jan. 3, 1950.

A telegram.

A watch.

A photograph in a brown leather frame

with a bullet hole through it.

Colleen doesn’t know why or when Graham went to fight the war in Korea, although news clippings she found say he was called to active duty from the reserve corps Oct. 15, 1950.

She pulls a yellowed Western Union telegram from its original envelope, though, and knows when he died.

“The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your husband, Sgt. Graham, Arnold, was killed in action in Korea 9 Jun 51. A confirming letter follows.”

The telegram is dated June 21, 1951, shortly after Darlene turned 17.

A letter from William McCaffrey, the commanding colonel for the 31st infantry, follows the telegram in July 1951, noting Graham had “the appropriate services” at a Protestant church and that Graham “performed his duty splendidly and was admired by all who knew him.”

A letter on Aug. 14, 1951, added that Graham was temporarily interred in a military cemetery near Tanggok, Korea, until the Army could verify his remains. Another telegram on Nov. 14 notified Darlene that her husband was coming home to a final resting place via a train from San Francisco.

Darlene was notified on Oct. 17, 1951, of the circumstances surrounding Graham’s death and his award of the Silver Star.

Graham, by that time a sergeant, was near Nodong-Ni, Korea, as part of a platoon supporting Company I, which “was assigned the mission of attacking and securing strategic enemy-held high ground,” according to a document that came with the medal.

The enemy launched a counter-attack; Graham noted the ensuing confusion and rushed forward to help.

“In the face of intense enemy fire from automatic weapons and small arms, Sergeant Graham, with complete disregard for his personal safety, continually moved from one dangerous position to another without benefit of cover or concealment,” the typewritten letter states. “He frequently engaged in close-in fighting with the enemy and single-handedly destroyed seven of the enemy. When the company was ordered to withdraw for consolidation of positions for the night, Sergeant Graham voluntarily remained with the rear guard and directed heavy fire on the enemy until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire.”

The shot went through his breast pocket, through the photograph of Darlene in the leather case.

Korean currency.

A Purple Heart.

A camera.

The Army sent Darlene her husband’s effects that he carried into battle, and she carefully placed them into the box. They were mundane yet fascinating to Colleen: Arnie’s wallet, with receipts, stamps and money; what appears to be a brass opium pipe; a folding camera without film.

President Harry Truman sent Darlene two medals, a Purple Heart for being wounded in combat and the Silver Star for Graham’s bravery.

The government sent her a check for her loss, about $5,000.

Darlene used the money to buy two houses on Ninth Street, one for herself and one for her parents. She also bought four cemetery plots at Forestvale — one for Arnie, one for herself and one for each of her parents.

A few years later, Darlene married Dean O’Leary. Theirs was a good marriage, and they had four children.

When her parents died, Darlene interred them in the Forestvale plots. Darlene’s husband — Colleen’s dad — is a veteran who can be interred in the cemetery at Fort Harrison if he desires. The family is Catholic, so they also can be buried in Resurrection Cemetery. Colleen said her dad wants to be cremated when he passes on, with the ashes spread over property near Austin where she and her husband now live. Colleen said she’ll probably tuck some of those cremains near her mother.

But her mother left no final wishes when she died from an aneurysm on Sept. 29, 2009. The family was perplexed as to where her final resting place would be, so Colleen went to all three cemeteries and asked the four winds what her mother would want.

“There was no question in my mind that she needed to be buried next to Arnie,” Colleen said, her eyes filling with tears. “Many, many of my mother’s relatives are buried there, and she needed to be near her family and Arnie.

“He’s been waiting all those years, and that’s what I had to do.”

A paratrooper patch.

A photo album of men in the military.

An application for benefits.

Colleen initially didn’t know what to do with the box of memories, but eventually thought of the new Army National Guard museum at Fort Harrison. They are thrilled with the donation.

“This is a treasure trove,” said Ray Read, one of the museum’s founders. “What’s unique is this was basically a lost box, basically buried in the house.”

He noted that along with the personal effects in the box are correspondence between the government and Darlene, some of which they hadn’t seen before, which provides a snapshot into the history of the nation’s relationship with veterans.

Read added that if others stumble across memorabilia from veterans, the museum staff is happy to look it over and possibly display items. He hopes they’ll be able to do that with Arnie and Darlene’s mementos.

“This is the classic Hollywood love story that you used to see in the old black and white movies,” Read said.


Top Climate Change Scientist Unveils Racy Romantic Novel

Ecorazzi – Elizah Leigh

Being a climate change scientist isn’t exactly an auto-pilot career choice, particularly in this day and age when our planet faces far more challenges than ever before. People are asking hard questions, and Dr. Rajendra Pachauri – chairman of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — is intimately familiar with the increasingly intense scrutiny of his position, having been the author of countless academic reports that have purportedly been peppered with factual blunders.The 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner quite recently found himself in unfavorable spotlight due to widespread news media claims that he was well-aware that Himalayan glaciers would not disappear by 2035 prior to attending the Copenhagen climate summit, an accusation that he recently just acknowledged. The doctor has further been steeped in controversy since it is suspected that he allowed that convenient error to go uncorrected so he could score substantial financial grants for his New Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

The latest soap-opera twist to this sordid story involves Pachauri being the author of Return to Almora, a salacious tale of a climate expert burdened with the weight of the fragile ecosystem on his shoulders. Published in India, the distinctly different literary foray has his main character Sanjay Nath — a 60-something academic taking a mind-expanding journey throughout Peru, India and America — tumbling into bed with a bevy of willing women.

The press has had a field day with the climate change scientist’s latest career pursuit, going as far as to mock his prose style and collection of perhaps lofty literary rendezvous aspirations that have him bedding everyone from the students in his main character’s meditation class to their naturally promiscuous friends. Even actress Shirley MacLaine plays a crucial role in the novel but manages to cling onto her modesty, succumbing to not even one single romp in the hay with the lothario climate scientist.

Repeatedly using amateur novelist descriptions like “voluptuous” or “heaving” breasts as well as longer eyeball-rolling lines such as “he was overcome by a lust that he had never known before…” and “the excitement got the better of him before he could even get started…”, it appears as though Dr. Pachauri could benefit from taking a Romance Novel 101 writing class. Still, taking a leap of faith by trading dry facts and academia for the far more fertile territory of rising bosoms and infinite conquests is something that should be celebrated.

Here’s a round of applause to Pachauri for daring to step outside of his safety zone – Carpe Diem with a side order of literary lust is what makes life so much more fun! As for the other troubles brewing in his life, the environmental community will likely not be as congratulatory.


Woman of the Hourglass

Christina Hendricks: Unwitting Poster Girl for New Brand of Beauty

‘Mad Men’ Star Christina Hendricks Makes a Statement in Lingerie Spread in New York Magazine

ABC News: By SHEILA MARIKAR – Feb. 17, 2010

Christina Hendricks has captured something.

The Tennessee-born “Mad Men” actress glows on the cover of New York Magazine’s Spring Fashion issue, clad in a white lace bustier and matching panties. Her auburn hair twists down and around her body, reminiscent of Botticelli and a goddess-brand of beauty.

Of course, it’s not unusual to see a photo of an actress semi-nude on a newsstand. Throwing an arm or a strategically-placed accessory over one’s breasts has become standard operating procedure for pretty girls posing for glossies (see: Jen Aniston, GQ, Jan. ’09; Rihanna, GQ, Jan. ’10).

But in an age where images of same-sex models making out (hello, Armani) and oiled up actresses slithering in the sand (Eva Mendes for Calvin Klein) seem almost mundane, Hendricks’ portrait stands out.

There’s skin. There’s fat. There are curves. There is a woman, a real, gorgeous woman, fronting a fashion magazine. How long has it been since that happened?

For years, up and coming female stars have attempted to evoke the aura of Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page, or more beauties from a bygone era who oozed sex and sensuality. Take Lindsay Lohan‘s forced mimicking of Monroe’s “Last Sitting” for New York Magazine’s 2008 fashion issue. The hair, the makeup — that was easy to fake. But the body, the allure? Not so much.

Hendricks is the first woman in a long time — certainly, this millenium — to embody the aesthetic of the pinup and The Big Hollywood Star so effortlessly. And the fact that Hendricks doesn’t care about the “body issue” makes her all the more appealing. She’s winning acclaim for her work in “Mad Men,” she’s slated to appear in three upcoming big-screen features. She wants to be known for her work, not her figure, even if that’s what’s currently captivating everyone.

“It kind of hurt my feelings at first,” she told New York Magazine. “Anytime someone talks about your figure constantly, you get nervous, you get really self-conscious. I was working my butt off on the show, and then all anyone was talking about was my body!”

“It might sound silly,” she added, “but I didn’t realize I was so different. I was just oblivious. Sometimes I would go on an audition and someone would say something like, ‘Girl, you’re refreshing!’ That was it.”

“Refreshing” is an apt adjective for these times. It’s as if Hendricks is being poured over a celebrity-watching public that began quenching its thirst for curvy, normal, non-famished women with Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Kate Winslet and the like.

Slowly, the fashion world has started paying attention to that desire to see normality too. Glamour magazine’s photo of “plus-size” model Lizzie Miller drew a flood of fan mail last year; V magazine dedicated its entire January 2010 issue to voluptuous women wearing designer clothes.

Of course, there are detractors. In January, The New York Times infamously quoted a stylist who said, “you don’t put a big girl in a big dress” in reference to Hendricks’ ensemble at the 2010 Golden Globes, and initially ran the critique alongside a disorted image of her.

NYT: Further Reflections on a Golden ‘I’

Hendricks’ husband, actor Geoffrey Arend, stood up for her, as did a bulk of bloggers.

“I was just upset about the whole Golden Globes dress thing. I thought she looked so gorgeous,” he told People magazine. “And that New York Times blogger saying that … It’s so ridiculous. … What was nice was seeing the entire internet come after that blogger. That was really cool. It was the first time I saw just a solid block of ‘You’re crazy! What’s wrong with you? You should be ashamed of yourself!'”

There are indirect affronts to the woman Hendricks represents as well. As this story is published, stick-thin models continue to strut down the runways of New York’s Fashion Week (where Hendricks has been spotted), holding up fabric like living, breathing coat-hangers.

But Hendricks seems to transcend all that. Whether she wants to or not, she’s touched on a collective desire for a healthy conception of beauty. Give the girl more magazine covers — give her ad campaigns, give her more roles, give her more press. Considering the attention her latest one has gotten all over the Internet, it’s clear the people want it.


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