Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Donald Woodward McNamara, Part II

Ronald McNamara, on the left
Donald McNamara, on the right, ca. 1962

Just ten days ago the story of Donald McNamara, who attended NKHS from the fall of '63 until he enlisted in March, 1964, was reported on the blog.

Without a complete re-write of that story, suffice it to say that Donald enlisted in the Marines, presumably with his mother's permission, rather than graduate, at age 17 1/2, then died in Viet Nam on July 21, 1967, at the age of 20, three months short of his 21st birthday.

Since the original posting, other NHS and NKHS graduates have been engaged in uncovering more.  They have found that Marv Everhart, '61, is a cousin, was serving in Nam in the Army, was part of the detail that escorted Donald home, and was present at the funeral and burial at Graceland Cemetery in Albert Lea.

Ann Swensrud Johnson, NHS '56, has led the search at the local level and coined the term "Project McNamara."  Through her friend Jan Mielke of Lake Mills, she found the above photo in the 1963 LMHS yearbook, with the twins on either side of Steve Kvale, the fellow with glasses.  Donald and Ronald had been students at LMHS prior to transferring to NKHS, and the photo caption identifies them as Ron and Don Carberry.

At this writing we have no other photos of Donald to share, though Ann has discovered that Marv and the daughter of a half-sister have several - which will allow us to meet the original commitment of posting his photo on the Virtual Wall and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, where his military information is available.

Donald and twin brother Ronald were buried at Graceland, Donald with proper military rites, having been transported to an Albert Lea mortuary from Minneapolis.  Thus Northwood was left "out of the loop" if you will, which is not surprising given his short attendance at NKHS, from September '63 to March '64, yet he enrolled as a Northwood resident, and his military records reflect that.

At this point we are researching any connection or commemoration for him at the Northwood VFW.  Marv has a copy of a short obituary that appeared in the Anchor on July 27, 1967, and notice of his funeral service two weeks later, August 3.

If you happen to be standing right now, you may want to sit down for this next part.  The bigger story for all involved in this research came four days after the original post.

We received an email request from a fellow named Shane Edgar, asking if we could provide more information about Donald McNamara.  He had Googled the name, found our post, and sent the email.  We told him we had posted what we knew, and asked Shane, as a point of curiosity, what his connection would be.

His email answer:  I am trying to get some information on him because I was recently told he is my father.

We were all shocked, and our search went into overdrive, resulting in much of the information above.

We have since spoken directly with Shane, who is piecing together his own story, have invited him to meet with several from Northwood and Lake Mills who were connected to Donald in some way, and invited him to meet with several from the Class of '62 during the 50th Anniversay Reunion this summer.

The story of Donald Woodward McNamara is certainly being fleshed out, with help from players like Ann and Marv, who not only was a cousin but a good friend of Donald, and is himself learning things he did not previously know, along with Amber Carberry, the daughter referenced above.

If anything good has come following the Viet Nam War, this just about has to be at the top of the list. Strangely, there have been so many coincidences that have brought it about including, in shortened format, the following events:

  • I had been copied in the past on emails sent to Ann Johnson, and beginning March 10 I connected with her more personally about our parents and family, with a series of email discussions. 
  • On March 13, Stan sent the email about the Virtual Wall, asking if anyone knew Donald Woodward McNamara. I forwarded his email to Ann Johnson, and the day following, she ran into Nancy Hengesteg and Vickie Perkins at the Northwood Theater. They knew him, and the story took wings. 
  • On March 16, as cited above, the story was first posted, and on the 20th, for the first time ever, Shane Edgar Googled the name of Donald Woodward McNamara. 
  • Then, in a bizarre twist, on Saturday, March 24, Shane told me on the phone that his wife's niece, Mary, from the Lyle, MN, area, is dating a fellow by the name of Nathan, who is the grandson of Ann Swensrud Johnson.

What a story. You just could NOT make this up.

Look for additional information and photos to be posted here on the blog as well as the two websites listed above. Donald Woodward McNamara may have slipped through the cracks 45 years ago but we will pay him due respect today. We salute his service.

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