World Peace and Ice Cream along Connecticut’s Mystic River

“Ice cream! The best you’ll ever taste.”  The voice of Timothy Whipple echoed down the Mystic River along with the splash of oars dipping into the river against the current, according to my grandmother who was born in 1896. The west side of the river in Mystic, CT, along River Road opposite Elm Grove Cemetery, was thronged with women in ankle-length summer dresses and men in suits and top hats. Many mopped their brow with white cotton handkerchiefs in the sweltering August heat as children darted in and out of the crowd. The year was 1899 and the Connecticut Peace Society, a branch of the Universal Peace Union, was holding its 32th annual meeting in the same spot where they had started in 1867.  During the various speeches and conversations about world peace,  some attendees rushed to the riverbank hoping to refresh themselves with a paper cone of Timothy’s hand-churned ice cream. Timothy Whipple, a fine chef and violinist, was not only an enterprising entrepreneur but also a descendent of Jonathan Whipple, inventor of the oral method of teaching the hearing impaired, and Jonathan’s grandson Zera C. Whipple, who founded the Mystic Oral School. It was Jonathan, an ardent pacifist from Quakertown in Ledyard, CT,  who discovered the picturesque site along the river and suggested it to Alfred H. Love, head of the Universal Peace Union, as the perfect site for the meetings which drew as many as 10,000 people over three days each year.   Barnard L. Colby, former Editor and Publisher of The Day, whose 58-year career at the newspaper began in 1935, was able to interview eye-witnesses to the meetings, and reported: “…the peace […]

Giving Thanks: Healing and Resiliency after War

Those to whom I give thanks today. As much as we might feel alone in the aftermath of tragic life events, there are many surrounding who have open hearts.   The veterans of Alpha Company of the 2/22 Infantry Division found me by posting their words of tribute and thanks to my husband, Capt. David R. Crocker, Jr., on the virtual Vietnam Memorial wall. My reunions with them since 2006 have provided a consistent strengthening of my spirit with their stories, communications, love and support. Without them I would not have had the courage to visit the  Memorial Wall at a reunion in Washington, DC in 2008. Without them I would never have heard the stories of what a great leader Dave was until his death in Vietnam in 1969. To those people who wonder if there is a benefit to being in contact with old comrades, please don’t hesitate. Take the chance. It may feel uncomfortable, even painful, to imagine meeting people from that difficult time which many have tried to forget, but what you will find is joy; pure joy. Living through the experience of war, losing friends in front of your eyes, needs to be shared. Find your old friends from far away and embrace them. They want to provide support and comfort. Visit and to get started and reconnect. The members of the Gold Star Wives (GSW) have battled since their formation in 1947, with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, to assure that spouses […]

Grief and Mercy

Two of my friends have suffered unbearable losses in recent months. Gina, age 60, married less than five years to a wonderful man, lost him to a swift moving cancer. “It’s so unfair,” she said. “His mother died at 104. I thought I might have another thirty years together with him.”  A younger friend, Mary, was six months pregnant with her first child when, on a regular pre-natal checkup, there was suddenly no fetal heartbeat. “I did everything right, ” Mary said. “No alcohol, no smoking, good nutrition. How could this happen to me? How could my baby die inside me?” Both of these women are trying to bear the consequences of love; the bewilderment at whom they are suddenly without.  How can I comfort them? There are no words that can approach such loss that lodges in the breast and stomach and feels like a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. Or are there words? Searching my own heart and experience I remember a line from Siddartha in which Herman Hesse says. “everything returns.” When I read those words after my husband’s death in Vietnam in 1969 they felt like a key to a locked door; a map to navigate the unlit rooms of my dark sorrow even though their true meaning was a mystery to me. What does it really mean to chant ‘everything returns” over and over when it’s painfully obvious that the object of our love cannot return? Perhaps they are words of compassion and mercy for oneself. In his book describing the process of grief, Unattended Sorrow, Stephen Levine says, “…we must …cultivate mercy for ourselves, which will gradually expand into compassion for other sentient beings … Without mercy… we abandon those most painful memories within us to […]
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