Letter to the Editor

The year an Easter tradition changed

Friday, March 25, 2005

EDITOR'S NOTE -- The writer has agreed to share with our readers the following Easter holiday letter to his children:

The year was 1973 and we lived in the nice big house in Fairborn, Ohio. You kids attended the grade school at Dayton Yellow Springs, only about a dozen blocks from our home.

Easter was special that spring because we shared our home with a young boy named Brett Luebke. Brett was about five years old and lived with us for a several months.

Brett's dad Lynn, an F-4 pilot, and I were both attending AFIT (Air Force Institute of Technology) in pursuit of Masters Degrees.

We didn't attend the same classes, I was pursuing a degree in Systems Management and Lynn did a harder course of study in Electrical Engineering. We had become friends as we endured the pain of academic work together and probably also because we were both graduates from the Air Force Academy.

The Luebke's also attended the same Methodist Church in Fairborn that we joined where your mom and Brett's mom Ida became friends.

Ida was pregnant when we became acquainted, not an unusual condition for young service families. Air Force families develop a sense of community and have a tradition of caring for one another.

It was in that spirit that we offered to keep Brett when Ida went to the hospital to have a second baby. Military families move often; we were in Ohio less than two years, and so when big events like having babies happen, immediate family are often too far away, so service friends stand in just like real family.

Several weeks before Easter we received the call in the middle of the night that Ida was in labor. In short order the expectant parents dropped Brett by our house.

He came with one small gym bag filled with clothes and instructions for when he was to go to school and not much else. Your mom had a bed prepared for him in Don's room and he seemed happy to be with us.

It had to be a strange and new experience for the little guy who was obviously very close to his mother. We presumed that we would have Brett for three days, it turned out that he lived with us for something like three months.

Ida was evidently having trouble delivering her baby. It wasn't until the next evening that I went to the base hospital to check on things. During my time there trying to give aid and support to Lynn, the baby, a beautiful little girl that appeared perfectly normal, was delivered.

Sadly the baby was stillborn and Ida was still in trouble. I'll always remember riding up the elevator with a very devastated dad who had just received the bad news from the attending doctor.

Ida struggled for several days but her kidneys refused to function. She was air-evaced out of Wright Patterson to the huge medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

Lynn accompanied her and stayed for a week or so. He then had to return to AFIT to continue his fast- paced studies. We elected to keep Brett until his mother returned to health as his father was unable to care for him and study at the same time.

Actually Brett was a delight and fit right in with our family. You kids, all older than he was, were wonderful to include him in all you did. I don't remember any jealousy or rivalry; he just became one of us. Ann took him to school, I think it may have been pre-school, and he went to Sunday school and church with us.

The evening before Easter Sunday we all dyed eggs together just as our family always has done.

Brett loved it. After you all went to bed Ann and I hid the eggs throughout the house and in the yard, again our family tradition. Next morning you awoke to find the customary Easter basket for each and excitedly went in search of the hidden eggs.

Brett really loved finding and gathering the pretty Easter eggs. When you all reported back to count your finds and show us all the eggs you had gathered Brett was still excited. Then when he discovered that the search was over he cried because he wanted to do it all over again.  This was a new wrinkle to our tradition, we had only ever hidden the eggs once and when you had found them all the search was over until next year.

It was a new idea, but we hid all the eggs again and the search was on, hide-and-seek until it was time to go to church. After church the hide- and-search activity started all over again. Brett didn't care who hid the eggs, he just loved the adventure and excitement of finding them all again.

By noon when it was time to sit down for Easter Dinner some of the eggs were the worse for wear. Many were cracked and several had most of the shell taken off. It was all great fun to watch Brett's eyes sparkle as he took off to find the eggs all over again and he was so proud to show us his full basket of found treasures.

One Brett adventure happened when our Siamese cat (Chawee?) decided to have kittens.

She made a nest in Brett's suitcase which had been stowed under a bed and had her babies there. He was all impressed with that event. When he eventually moved back home he begged his mother and took one of the kittens with him.

The day came when Brett's parents returned and they were able to live as a family again. For us it was a little sad to see him move back to his rightful home.

Every evening during the time he lived with us, before going to bed your mom had prayed with him for God to help make his mother well. He had learned a lot living with our family and could even say "I love you" to your mother, a phrase that wouldn't come for a couple of weeks after he moved in with us. We all had grown to love him too and his leaving really left a hole in our family for quite awhile. 

After I graduated from AFIT you all stayed in Fairborn while I went off to Florida. There I learned to fly the EC-47 preparing to go to Thailand for a year to help fight the Vietnam war.

The war then wound down before I was sent overseas so that assignment was cancelled. Eventually other orders came and we moved to Moore, Okla. Lynn stayed at Wright Pat were he worked in the SPO that developed guided missiles to be used in air to air combat.

Unfortunately we didn't keep in touch with them after we went to Oklahoma.  

In checking my Association of USAFA Graduates register, I see that Lynn retired from the Air Force as a major in 1985. He would have had 20 years of active duty service at that time. He then died the 29th of January 1989, at Enon, Ohio. We don't know what happened to Ida or Brett.

I went to DEXonline and found (Brett's address in Los Angeles) I've tried to call twice now but only got an answer machine with a lady calling herself "Julie." Whoever it is hasn't called back.

-- Dick Trail is a retired Air Force pilot, and former Red Willow County Commissioner and McCook City Councilman.

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