Faces of Love: Generations of Pride

So, who knew I had a completely badass brother? In 2008, my brother, John J. Newkirk, published The Old Man and the Harley.

Look for the book at theoldmanandtheharley.com. Tyndale was smart enough to publish it, and you can be inspired to get it on Amazon.

Look for the book at  theoldmanandtheharley.com. Tyndale was smart enough to publish it, and you can be inspired to get it on Amazon.

John’s a pretty bright guy. He’s also the best brother a gal could have. He’s a double EE from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute, Dad is also a graduate as well. Both with a powerful sense of family, history and citizenship.

In the summer of 1939, my dad, a young Jack Newkirk, set off on a rickety Harley to see both the New York and San Francisco World’s Fairs. He had no way of knowing it was to the the autumn of his youth, and that his entire generation would soon be thrust into the most devastating conflict in history, WWII.

Seven decades later, John retraced this epic ride with Dad, in a silent hope the old soldier will still be proud of the America he fought for. Each mile brought discovery as the author learns of his namesake, “Scarsdale Jack Newkirk”  the heroic Squadron Leader of the legendar Flying Tigers, and of his father’s life on the road and in the jungles of the South Pacific during World War II.

The result is quintessential Americana, a sweeping portrait of the grit, guts, ingenuity, and sacrifice that defined a nation, and a timely lesson from the Greatest Generation on how we can overcome our most pressing challenges and reclaim the American Dream.

I’m proud of these two generations of men in my family. I’m the mother of a firstborn son, and thank God he had the first eighteen years of his life with a man who wasn’t afraid to be manly, like John and Dad.

Study this one with me for a minute.

You could say apples don't fall far from trees. Except that God grafted Abi into our family tree, and Dad couldn't be prouder.

You could say apples don’t fall far from trees. Except that God grafted Abi into our family tree, and Dad couldn’t be prouder.

So here’s part of the third generation now. Faith is wearing the Salutatorian banner, and Abi is a National Merit scholar. Dad’s goofy grin takes over the picture, he just couldn’t be prouder.

Since my girls lost their dad, I’ve been praying for  ‘manliness’ to surround them. Now, don’t laugh, I realize the words ‘masculinity’ and ‘manliness’ have become comic fodder these days.

But when dealing with families, completeness is such a luxury. Male influence is necessary for child development, I’m convinced of it.

Now, before I get deluged with all kinds of mail about how intolerant I am, let me remind you I’m a single mother. I am not on the prowl for a spouse because my kids need a dad. That’s ridiculous. Loss abounds. One of my favorite bloggers, Prego and the Loon, recounts the tale of her near escape from a dad who very nearly killed her and her child. Bird Martin, of Everyone Has a Story, has very wisely chosen to restrict access to the kids by her meth-addicted husband. Men make mistakes, and women often have to make hard choices. A dear friend also lost her husband to cancer, two weeks before she gave birth. It can be a lonely life.

But how about the normal, healthy masculine guys? The ones like Dad, who fought for this country, came home and slugged out a living for sixty years, took pride in his kids and their accomplishments, and thanked God for his opportunities.

Or John? Electrical engineers are a dime a dozen in this raggedy economy. John is getting older, his kind of jobs are getting fewer and father between. So he regroups and slaves away and produces this marvelous book.

Or my friend Jeff? Look at this picture for a moment. Jeff has endured his fair share of loss. Jeff is familiar with spousal betrayal, the loss of precious friendships, and the restrictions of his rights as a father.

But even in his fifties he slugs it out. Jeff has three kids, two still need to be provided for. He’s a soldier, a defender of our freedoms, and works two jobs to get it done.

Look closely at this one. Cradled in his big arms, his powerful, careworn hands gently handle the most fragile of our species. A prideful smile plays across his craggy face, and the power of masculine gentleness radiates from the shot

Grampa Jeff when he's not flying a big scary plane.

Grampa Jeff when he’s not flying a big scary plane.

So what to do with all of this? For single people, I have found that Valentine’s day can be a little difficult. It’s a beautiful thing to reframe things sometimes. The love of a father, brother, the love of a child, all of these things truly are blessings from the Lord, and gifts to be treasured.

In fact, if I were a man, I might even give a hearty UH-RAH!

Much love,









Love, Death, and Everything In Between That I Call Mine

Evergreen Children’s Chorale is having their spring show season starting on Thursday, April 26 at Center Stage. It’s an eight show run, and these kids are pros. I’m sitting here in the darkened back row, watching the final set, and it is just overwhelming.   Does that type of thing ever hit you folks sometimes? Nearly sixty kids, singing and dancing their hearts out. Gorgeous little faces belting out “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, it just makes you want to weep with joy.

I think it was C.S. Lewis who said that each of us has a broken piece of mirror that reflects the face of God. Nowhere is that more true than in the faces of  hardworking, talented, singing children.

I wonder sometimes about the way things work out. What gifts we get from our Heavenly Father, who loves us more than anything. Here’s one-

Christopher, number one son, was six months old, then, POW, he was twenty. Amazing!

Here’s another:

Sixty one years ago this beautiful woman met my dad. They invented The Denver Hydrocephalus  Shunt, and saved thousands of lives. This January, she went to be with her creator.

Somewhere, I know Chris is doing something like this. I would never want him back, because I know he’s so much better now.

I don’t weep for him anymore. I weep for a future I can’t quite  see. Perhaps someday.

Sixty years ago men like my dad made a world of difference. I pray we still have men of courage, “Men with stout hearts” like we did then. Men who went to war, men who served, brave men who sacrificed their time, money and considerable energy to right wrongs and make the world better. Even in the little things, men who do the right thing, just because.

When beauty had faded, and accomplishments dimmed, men and women stayed together because they were fond of each other. Sometimes it still seems like Mom’s around.

And now, today. I, the widow, and my dad, the widower, get to sit beside the fire and have tea. What a gift.

Much love,


Author’s note: the photo credits all belong to Christopher Lierheimer. Watch this kid, you can find more of his work on Facebook. He’s getting better.

Carolyn Jordan Newkirk 1/18/20 – 1/8/2012

As Fiona in “Brigadoon”  1953

The Soldiers’ Angel


The time has come, the mistress said
to talk of many things
of little girls- and railway songs- and soldiers taking wing
And why the world is full of strife
and mothers giving things.
“But wait a bit,” the children cried
“Why should we care today? We don’t want to hear these tales
We want to go and play.”
The mistress frowned and rapped her stick
Quite hard upon the desk
It’s time to listen, time to learn, for one has come to rest.
Carolyn had hair of gold, and a voice as clear as water
As Depression era girls were made, she was the ideal daughter.
She sang for joy, she sang for church, she sang to give those pleasure,
But at the railway station out , the boys loved her without measure.

Twelve years old, she was, a miner’s daughter, sure,
But to the boys who marched to war, an inspiration pure.
She sang them off, she waved goodbye, they waved happily on the track
The train pulled out, she shed a tear, knowing how most would sure come back.

Determined to be the first in life, she worked to make her parents proud.
Til the trains would rumble back, in time, and pull up, blackly loud.
Boxes would be unloaded, would rest upon the stage
And Carolyn sang to mother’s grief, and to their father’s rage

She loved her God, and trusted Him, to care for these young souls,
and to create in her a heart that’s pure, and tender through her age.
She’s gone from us, she was taken home, only just this morn,
A bright new soul at heaven’s gate, that’s only just been born.

Here’s a gift for you, my friends. Especially those of you who were Carolyn’s peers, and loved the old musicals as much as she did. She sang the lead in “New Moon” written by Oscar Hammerstein and Sigmund Romburg. We found this recording of her when she was  in her mid twenties, singing in her flawless soprano. Read the words first, as it captures a sentiment that, I believe, most women have today. Then, click the purple-highlighted title, you Luddites, you. Much love, Victoria.

One Kiss-CJN

In this year of Seventeen Ninety Two

Our conventions have been thrown all askew

And I know I’m out of date when I seek one mate

One faithful lover true

To be really in fashion today

You must have a dozen beaux in your sway

But somehow I don’t believe in the modern plan

I want to wait for just one man

(It’s more fun to love ’em all
Kiss’em all, short or tall)

I have only scheme

It’s my only dream

One Kiss, One man to save it for

One love for him alone

One word, one vow, and nothing more

To tell him I’m his own

One magic night within his arms

With passion’s flower unfurled

And all of my life I’ll love only one man

And no other man in the world

(You’ve been reading stories of romantic glories)

(Are you growing sad for your Galahad?)

Soon my Knight may find me

Softly steal behind me

Put me on a horse

And carry me away

Laugh all you like at me

I’ll find my man, you’ll see

One kiss, one man to save it for

One love for him alone

One word, one vow and nothing more

To tell him I’m his own

One magic night within his arms

With passion’s flower unfurled

And all of my life, I’ll love only one man

And no other man in the world.

Written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, popularized my Nelson Eddy and Janet Macdonald in 1942.

I miss you already, Mom.
Love, Victoria

Thanks,Dad! Veteran’s Day, 11/11/11

Navy Lieutenant Jack Newkirk, the Admiralty Islands, 1944

I believe I learned what the term ‘degaussing’ meant way before I learned barely any childish vocabulary at all.

In 1944, my father, John Newkirk, was 24 years old. Nearly five years previous,at age 19, he had  completed an epic Harley ride across the country, riding his 1930 Harley Davidson VL Big Twin  30V8229C. He went from the 1939 world’s fair in New York to the 1939  World’s Fair in San Francisco.  This unique journey was chronicled in my brother John Newkirk’s  inspirational biography The Old Man and The Harley. (Thomas Nelson, 2008) 

After that remarkable ride, he went to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and graduated with a degree in metallurgical engineering in 1941.

(I’ll hawk my brother’s wares any day. Get the book. It’s on Amazon, and is a wonderful, uplifting read with terrific photo essays. )

Dad decided to join the Navy, and was ranked a lieutenant almost immediately because of his degree. He had many jobs that I really wonder if 24 year olds are brave enough now to undertake.   I think the most interesting one was his job leading a degaussing crew in the South Pacific. To save your curiosity, here is what it means

de·gauss http://img.tfd.com/m/sound.swf (d-gous)

tr.v. de·gaussedde·gauss·ingde·gauss·es

1. To neutralize the magnetic field of (a ship, for example).

Dad’s technical background, water skills, weapons expertise and physical fitness qualified him for a position in an elite Naval Diving Unit in San Francisco Bay. Part of his training there including degaussing.

Our naval vessels at the time were ferrous, or mainly iron. Iron has a magnetic field,  and iron ships act like a giant magnet. Our German enemies ingeniously developed mines that would be attracted to iron objects, or at least have triggers that would detonate these bombs if something iron passed nearby. Here is a picture of a trigger that was removed from this bomb.

Now, I’d encourage you to stay with me, because this is actually pretty interesting stuff. Refer to a website called  eaglespeak.us, a fascinating site that has all to do with ship history, for more details.
 At the start of WWII, the Germans developed a this kind of  magnetic trigger for mines- one based on the mine’s sensitivity to the magnetic field of a ship passing nearby. (The trigger is the first picture, the mechanical looking device)  The design of such mines fortuitously fell into British hands, allowing them to develop countermeasures for such mines:

The British experienced a stroke of luck in November 1939. A German mine (you see that in the segmented black eggshaped object) was dropped from an aircraft onto the mud flats of the Thames estuary during low tide. As if this was not sufficiently good fortune, the land belonged to the army, and a base with men and workshops was at hand. Experts were dispatched from London to investigate the mine. They had some idea that the mines used magnetic sensors, so everyone removed all metal, including their buttons, and made tools out of non-magnetic brass. They disarmed the mine and rushed it to labs at Portsmouth, where scientists discovered a new type of arming mechanism.-eaglespeak.us (How lucky was that? And how brilliant?) 

So, if we understand that a ship is basically a giant magnet, then we can more easily imagine that the trigger would be set to a unit of measure called the ‘milligaus’. Gauss is a measurement of the strength of the magnetic field; the ship would concentrate the field at that point. The mine’s detector was designed to go off at the mid point of the ship passing overhead. How brutal.
Now, before we go on with the lecture, just picture that for a minute. In World War Two, our navy had ships of all kinds. Relatively little ones, with names like ‘escorts,’ ‘frigates’, or ‘corvettes.’ These were of the two thousand to five thousand ton variety. Lightly armed, they were maneuverable and fast.
The broad category of  enormous warships includes battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines — all of which saw active service against enemy craft during World War II. These ships were among the most enormous of the time, often in the eighty to ninety thousand ton displacement category.
Both of these categories of ships, and everything in between, were costly assets for the navy, and damage or destruction of these things could heavily influence the war.
Picture being an active duty sailor on a mission. You are innocently escorting a destroyer when your world is obliterated. Your escort has passed over several of these mines, and they have exploded as your ship crossed them.
You can now see the importance of degaussers.
Dad likes to call his time in the South Pacific things like “a cake walk”, or ” time in a country club.” Typical of the greatest generation, they like to minimize their accomplishments. I have found that the most interesting people are always more than they appear to be.
The picture you see here is Dad in the Admiralty Islands, a group of eighteen landmasses and atolls in the South Pacific, north of Papua New Guina and the Solomon islands. Manus island was the largest. A shallow channel separated Manus from it’s nearest neighbor, Los Negros. Together they formed Seeadler Harbor, where countless ships were demagnetized, or degaussed.

Dad wasn’t shot at, and never really feared for his life in the most immediate sense. But in a very real way, he and his crew saved the lives of hundreds of soldiers who manned these ships, by demagnetizing  them and keeping them from blowing up. Remarkable.

Dad on Manus Island. With a mustache never seen before or since!
Dad Returning to the Admiralty Islands, Fifty Years Later
I wish I could say I had the same faith in our young men now as I did then. I am afraid for this generation. Afraid for their sense of justice, and their sense of selflessness. The young men of World War Two had a clear sense of right and wrong, and didn’t hesitate to risk their lives to preserve it. I don’t see the same sense of manliness, the same sense of respect for women, or the same desire to protect the weak and the powerless. I see men more entitled, men used to the gratification of the now.
I have a man in my house, next February Christopher will turn 20. I think, and this is just a guess, but I think that Chris and I did our part with Christopher. Generally, he is a young man with a sense of right and wrong, and a sturdy respect for women. He is careful with other lives that are less powerful than his, you can see this in his gentleness with small children and animals. He stands up for his convictions, but gives mercy and grace when needed. He is interested in pleasing God and his important adults, and finding his place in the world.
Perhaps there are more like him, perhaps they are even in the Navy. I hope so, as history tends to repeat itself, and we will surely need them.
Much love,