Uncle Hank in France
Note from Uncle Hank: Lenore, I thought you might want these (letters) for your files. It was odd, Elma Ludwig’s February 23rd was the first info on Dad’s death I received. Your Feb 18th was next followed by the March 4th letter, then came Howard Becksted’s Feb 25th letter. I never did receive the Red Cross cables, etc. Henry._____________________________________________________________________________________
To Sgt Henry M. RolfFrom Elma Ludwig
February 23, 1945
Dear Hank,Received your V-mail of the eleventh and it was swell hearing from you.
Will was very lucky and got home yesterday with only a four hour lay-over in Cheyenne. He got in at 6:00 instead of 12:00 like he was supposed to. He likes flying and now that’s the only way he wants to travel from now on. He thinks his son is pretty wonderful but he doesn’t live up to all those father stories cause he’s not a bit nervous with Chuck. I wanted to see him act like all new fathers do—you know, afraid he’s breakable. But he doesn’t act at all like he should. I was very disappointed!? He brought home a pair of salt and pepper shakers from the pane. They are made out of paper and are real cute.Ray’s address has been changed to “Branch #5, Hondo Army Air Field Hondo, Texas.”
I’m very sorry, Hank, about your father’s death. It was a shock to us and I know that you are deeply touched by it too. My mother and father also send their sympathy.Hope you are feeling fine. Until next time. Always your friend, Elma
_____________________________________________________________________________________From Lenore Lytle to Sgt. Henry Rolf
475 E Third St, Ext.
February 18, 1945
Dear Hank,This is very much of a red letter day in a sad way for all of us. Daddy has called upon his last reserve of will power and gallantly rode to his maker.
He and Mom along with Grandpa and Grandma Cox went to Dave and Marie Kinner’s 25th anniversary celebration Saturday night and on the way home he had a heart attack driving the car. Henry, God must have been steering the car through his lifeless hands because the Buick steered a straight course over the curb and landed in a clump of bushes for five……illegible…………….car was going.
It was an awful…illegible…and is still hard to believe but mom wants you to know that daddy didn’t suffer and you know dad would not have been happy if he couldn’t have died with his boots on. Mom is holding up beautifully and I know she will continue to hold the fort.
We are not worrying about the business. That will have to iron itself out as we go along. Mr. Balash is working on getting Wilbur back if possible. If that cannot be arranged something else is sure to pop up. I’ll keep you posted on developments.
I called the Red Cross on sending you a telegram and they advised writing mail, but if I insisted on a cable to send one via Western Union. I did that and am posting this letter too. They didn’t guarantee delivery for two weeks to a month so I’m hoping the cable gets through faster than that.Everyone has been wonderful and …illegible...is coming over in the morning to handle the details for us. Clayton is going to work a full week and he will be a good rudder for Warren because he is like a lost soul knowing he doesn’t know everything. He will be all right though and Clayton will be a great help. I know there is no use telling you not to worry because I know you will but we will do the best we can so just do your stuff in getting this war done so you can come home.
Dr. Burr is taking it hard and felt badly when he had to stand by helplessly and say there wasn’t a thing he could do for Dad. There was very little delay in getting him to the hospital as the Parma and Cleveland police were right there with the ambulance. They had trouble getting him out of the car because he had slumped over to one side. Mom tried to revive him with snow before she went for help but when she saw he was gone she went back to Kinner’s to call. As far as she can determine he died about half way down Velma Avenue because when she told him he better slow down for 14th Street he didn’t answer and then she realized the car was going too fast for the icy roads. By that time they had jumped the curb across 14th and ended up in the field. She got the ignition off. I don’t know how she did it because she was in the back seat and that is an awful long reach to the dash board. None of them were even bruised because the muddy field helped slow down the car and the bump over the curb must have knocked his foot off the accelerator or else somehow or the other he put his foot on the clutch. We will never know but someone guided the car. Grandma Cox has some sore arms from trying to hold Daddy up in the seat but she is all right otherwise. Mom will write in a couple of days. There are things she has to do but we are all thinking of you and keeping our chins up. I hope you are sitting down when you get this, Hank. Love and more love, Lenore._____________________________________________________________________________________
To Sgt Henry M. RolfFrom H. S. Becksted
Feb 25, 1945
Dear HenryI hope your mothers cables have reached you before this letter for I would not want to break such news to you in this manner. Just one week ago today you and I lost the best friend we ever had or may hope to have. There is nothing unusual in this except that it does seem untimely. You must have sensed that something like this might happen in view of his previous attack. It should be some consolation to you to know that your father was called a very good friend by many people. That was plain to see from the great number who came to see him for the last time. He was just and generous in many ways and for these things we pray that he may receive his reward. I can realize how hard it is for you to be so far away at a time like this and you have my deep sympathy. Being a good boy, who is now a man, I know you will come back to take a man’s place and carry on. Sincerely yours, Howard B
From Lenore Lytle to Sgt. Henry Rolf4214 W. 21 St.
March 4, 1945
Dear Hank,Johnny brought up five letters I had at home. Boy was that ever a haul. This mail situation certainly has been messed up since before Christmas. I hope things keep moving now because you boys need the letters we civilians write.
I am still in Cleveland with mom and will be here until Wednesday the seventh. By then we should have most of the details taken care of and then I have to go home and take care of some of our affairs. Things surely do pile up. I don’t like the idea very well of leaving Mom alone but there isn’t much else we can do right now. She is considering trying to find someone who would like to stay nights and that way she wouldn’t be alone all of the time. Of course we will come up every weekend but she has to be here during the week to take care of things.I should have written sooner Hank, but this second letter was harder to get started at than the first one. Then, I guess, I still didn’t believe it because I hadn’t seen Daddy but it is true and as he would say “The show must go on.” We are doing our best and I think everything will work out for the best. We have some hopes of getting Wilbur released from duty. But things like that usually hinge on the right guy reading the applications. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed. Halash is helping us all he can and we have some other contacts, so all in all things look half way promising.
His going leaves an emptiness that can’t be filled, but all our hearts are full with his goodness, his cussedness, and other things that were just W.E.R. We have a lot to look back on, especially the past few years. He saw the things he wanted to see, spent his dough, bragged about his granddaughter at the drop of a hat, kidded the life out of us about spending money to get another brat instead of the other way around. He wanted us to have another one though and now I do hope it might be a boy. Oh yes, I’m half afraid to say anything but 40 days have elapsed since the last period so maybe I’m finally on my way. I hope so.We are not going to do any watch work at all in the shop unless Wilbur comes back. Warren was getting along just swell but he didn’t know some of the harder parts and if he ran across something he couldn’t do you would just have to give the watch back to the customer and that wouldn’t be too good. They are going ahead though and fixing clocks. Warren does that after hours while Buck is doing his work from three to six. It gives Warren something to do. He was working on a model airplane but that doesn’t bring in any money.
Mom is doing a swell job of holding down the fort, but those nuts down at the Service Recorder don’t have someone to calm them down. They are going off on too many tangents. They’ll settle down in time but it makes it tough in the meantime trying to keep them all straightened out. Ike is trying to get home but about all he can get is a thirty day furlough and that won’t do much good, though he might be able to give Ed and Ralph some orders as to what they can do and what they can’t do. The job is too big for them. I don’t need to tell you that, though. We are going over to Gram and Gramp Cox’s for dinner today and I’ll write more often now, I promise. The sun is shining all day so far for the first time in ages. Love, LenoreIn this letter Mom is staying with Grandma in Cleveland and Dad is coming up from Barberton on weekends. And, she's pregnant with my brother, and look at the little story I'll never know--spending money to get the brat--which is a conversation I can imagine between my mother and my uncle.
Mom and Uncle Hank