Epinal Cemetery – Part 3

Last month, my husband and I drove back home to Indiana and had a very fun and fulfilling weekend! It started off with my son’s wedding and reception (Greg and Stacy are now happily married) and then continued on through Sunday with visits with family and friends. On Monday, my sister Janie and I drove to Zionsville to meet Marlene Mendonsa, who had just returned from her trip overseas. Arrangements had been made for Andrea McCann, from the Zionsville Times Sentinel, to come and listen to Marlene’s story.  Click here to see the story!

Neither Janie nor I were prepared for the extent of Marlene’s devotion and enthusiasm for her trip. An avid WW II history buff, she was knowledgeable about the war and determined to honor Raymond and my mother’s memories by her visit to the cemetery. Marlene presented my sister and me with the two small flags from Epinal that framed Raymond’s cross, as well as the dirt from around the cross. She also presented us with the “rubbing” she painstakingly made of Raymond’s memorial cross. Our family plans to take the flags to Raymond’s memorial in Fayette and then scatter some of the French dirt around Raymond’s memorial, before sprinkling the remainder around Mom’s grave in Lebanon. Our visit was very enriching and humbling, and Janie and I left that day with a renewed appreciation for our country as well as the hard work and time spent in maintaining military cemeteries around the world. We are so grateful to the Mendonsas for not only taking this awesome trip, but allowing us to be a part of their journey.

As we said good-bye to the Mendonsas, I told them that I would be presenting a power point presentation at the Indianapolis Public Library Franklin Road Branch book club later that evening. I invited them to come, and they did! Marlene even shared a little bit of her trip with the members, bringing the evening to a wonderful close.

What a fantastic weekend!

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Epinal Cemetery – Part 2

In my last blog I explained that, after reading When You Come Home, Marlene Mendonsa from Indiana planned to travel to Epinal, France, to visit the American Military Cemetery where Raymond Kelley was laid to rest following WW II. In my next email from Marlene, she explained that she and her husband David arrived in France late July and were escorted around the cemetery by Mr. Anderson, the superintendent of the cemetery. He introduced the couple to a local gentleman named Mr. Adam, who adopted Raymond’s grave two years ago. Marlene had purchased a beautiful red, white and blue floral arrangement and placed it on Raymond’s grave, right between two small flags – one American and one French. She also placed a copy of my book and an enlarged picture of Mom and Raymond at the gravesite. After taking several pictures (which she brought back for my family), Marlene carefully made a “rubbing” of Raymond’s cross, with these words: “Raymond R. Kelley PFC 179 INF 45 Div Indiana Sept 10 1944.” Finally, before leaving, she reverently spread some Boone County, Indiana, dirt at the foot of Raymond’s memory cross, and scooped up a handful of dirt from Epinal to bring back home.

When the day ended, it became time to lower the French and American flags. Marlene was invited to participate in that event and she later told me, “I’ve never felt more proud to be an American. I’ve never felt more honored and privileged.”

My next blog will describe my face-to-face visit with the Mendonsas!