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Down Memory Lane
Aubrey LaFoy

TRAGIC

Posted Thursday, August 14, 2014, at 9:41 AM
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  • Good evening, Mr. Lafoy—

    It seems we have a common interest: Walter "Wave" Miguel. I wish there were some way for me to be concise with this story, but I'm not quite sure how to condense thirty years into a few paragraphs. Simply put, I "met" Wave Miguel about 1988. Like you, his marker in the cemetery captured my imagination. I lived in Spirit Lake at the time but worked in Milford, so I passed the Okoboji Cemetery twice a day. One day I stopped to investigate and discovered he had died the day before the armistice was signed. At the time my marriage was falling apart. While I'd spent every summer at my grandparents' home on West Lake until I went to college, I didn't have any close friends in Spirit Lake. So Wave's grave became my sanctuary. I talked to him for hours and hours.

    When I was hired by Roger Matz to edit the Lake Park News and work as a staff writer for the Spirit Lake Beacon and Okobjian, the first front page feature story I wrote was about Wave. It was a Veterans Day piece, and I was able to talk with one of his relatives while trying to learn about his life. This was long before the internet, and in retrospect, subsequent research leads me to believe some of the stories she told me may not have been correct. But at the time I had no reason to doubt her.

    I'm remarried now and have lived in Colorado for twenty-six years. When I travel to the lakes region, I make certain there's time to visit that weathered, white iron cross.

    In the back of my mind, I've always wanted to write a book about WWI based (very loosely) on Wave. A year ago I began researching his life online and found a few pictures of him as a child, numerous articles, and documents — including his actual draft registration card. I've located addresses for several descendants, but haven't contacted them. In the end, the soldier in my book is fictional, but Wave was the inspiration.

    My husband and I have made two trips to France and Belgium, visiting WWI battlefields both times. There are now at least 100 books about the war monopolizing one of our bookcases. I've also acquired all sorts of WWI artifacts ranging from a gas mask to a trench periscope and everything in between. Capt. Raymond Scallen's well-worn officer's tunic hangs on the wall in my bedroom. It's complete with Sam Brown belt, insignias, and a victory medal. All of those items and many more become teaching tools when I'm asked to make presentations to local civic groups. Next month I'll be teaching three classes about the war through the outreach program of our local school district. I guess it's safe to say my passion is sharing information about WWI and the lasting influence the conflict has had on the world we live in today. And it's all because of Wave and a white cross in the Okoboji Cemetery. If you would like to see any of the pictures or documents I've found, just send me your email address, and I'll forward them to you. Thanks for listening to my ramblings.

    -- Posted by LaurieB on Wed, Aug 30, 2017, at 1:34 AM
  • An added note: Thank you for your service, Mr. Lafoy. I serve on a committee currently raising funds to build a veterans monument In Estes Park. It will honor all men and women like yourself who have served both in peacetime and in war. We're very close to our goal and hope to dedicate the monument this year on Veterans Day.

    -- Posted by LaurieB on Wed, Aug 30, 2017, at 1:41 AM
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