The wedding photo is interesting because the painting in the background, titled, “Portrait of a Young Girl,” by Simon Harmon Vedder, 1890, was passed down to my mother. Sadly, it had to be sold to settle her estate debt in 2010.
This weekend as I thumbed through a 1918 address book I realized that it was an alphabetical listing of the wedding gifts my grandparents had received at their wedding. My grandfather served in World War I and World War II. In this wedding picture the young men stand so tall and proud in their army uniforms. Within months of when the wedding photo is taken, one of these young men, Ira M. Dempsey, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, is killed in action.
I discovered that Ira M. Dempsey was twenty-six years old and KIA on 15 October 1918, twenty-seven days before the Armistice was signed. He is buried at Cambria, Pennsylvania beside his parents.
Perhaps because it’s May, Memorial Day, this entry jumped out at me. I am honored to be guest speaker at a local American Legion Memorial Service this spring. Perhaps it jumped out at me because suddenly I came face to face with one of my grandfather’s friends and almost one hundred years later I empathize with him, the angst he felt when he received the news that one of his groomsmen had been killed in action. As I speak this Memorial Day I will remember a smiling young man, frozen in a 1917 photograph who had less than a year to live.