Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II


The day the second atomic bomb was dropped, Clabe and Leora Wilson’s postman brought a telegram to their acreage near Perry, Iowa. One son was  already in the U.S. Navy before Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Four more sons worked with their father, tenant farmers near Minburn until, one by one, all five sons were serving their country in the military.

The oldest son reenlisted in the Navy. The younger three became U.S. Army Air Force pilots. 

As the family optimist, Leora wrote hundreds of letters, among all her regular chores, dispensing news and keeping up the morale of the whole family, which included the brothers’ two sisters. 

All five brothers enlisted. Only two came home.

Her fondest wishes were to have a home of her own and family nearby. Leora’s Letters is the compelling true account of a woman whose most tender hopes were disrupted by great losses. Yet she lived out four more decades with hope and resilience.


Artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen has been painting Freedom Rocks in every county in Iowa, to recognize local veterans but also to promote tourism. The Dallas County Freedom Rock in Minburn, Iowa, was dedicated this fall. One side features all five Wilson brothers, riding on the outstretched wings of an American Bald Eagle, and sheltered under an American flag.

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Donald, Delbert, Dale, Danny, and Junior Wilson. The Dallas County Freedom Rock, Minburn, Iowa


Joy Neal Kidney, the oldest granddaughter of the book’s heroine, is the keeper of family stories, letters, photos, combat records, casualty reports, and telegrams. Active on her own website, she is also a writer and local historian. Married to a Vietnam Air Force veteran, Joy lives in central Iowa. 


Her nonfiction has been published in The Des Moines Register, other media, and broadcast over “Our American Stories.” She’s a graduate of the University of Northern Iowa, and her essays have been collected by the Iowa Women’s Archives at the University of Iowa.  

Endorsement: Van Harden, WHO-Radio Personality wrote in his Foreword to Leora’s Letters, “Joy lets us see her grandmother’s personal family correspondence through letters. It is heart tugging. Be ready to be moved by this true story.”

Leora’s Letters is available through Amazon.com

Autographed copies may be ordered through Adel Quilting and Dry Goods at adel.quilting@gmail.com

Autographed copies are also sold in the Des Moines area at the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale, Iowa.
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10 thoughts on “Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II

  1. Kevin, thank you so much for letting me share my grandmother’s heart-breaking story with your followers. She was such a gem as a grandma. You would never have known she’d been through so much sorrow. So thankful the family won’t be foregotten.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thank you for writing such a heart-felt article, Joy. The sentiments shared run deep as your story resonates with others who have read this post. I wish you the best of success with your book.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a compelling post. My father and his 4 brothers from Massachusetts and CA also were called up in WWII. The family was lucky to only have injuries and all 5 sons returned to the US. The pain and suffering was enormous. Thank you for the post.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I can’t imagine the pain that family must have suffered, losing so many loved ones. The Dallas County Freedom Rock inspires goosebumps! What a tribute, as I’m sure the book is, too!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I was lucky to have had my father return, but know the pain of losing a loved one while in the service of his country. It may have happened many years ago, but to those left behind – it was yesterday.

    Liked by 3 people

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