In life there are no coincidences.
At a business meeting earlier this month, I met Christopher C. Stout.
In room of more than 80 people, Stout and I sat next to each other.
Stout was to receive an award for Series Writing and Reporting for his work at the Ridgewood News‚ "The Hero Next Door." This series profiled the families of those serving overseas.
Sitting there, chatting, I learned that, earlier, Stout had written a series of articles on the men and women from Ridgewood, N.J., who died while in service.
I expressed my surprise that of all the people he sat next to, he sat next to me.
The compilation of that series and research resulted in his book, AT DEATH HE WAS 25 YEARS OLD, published by King of Spain Press.
His motives for writing the series were similar to the process to mine in compiling the Nutley Sons and Belleville Sons honor rolls. Stout, too, had looked at a war memorial in town and something inside told him to learn the stories behind the names.
Until we struck up a conversation I had only known of one other person, from New Jersey, also, who had done something like this. Robert Caruso's effort resulted in Verona Heroes
As these stories go, Caruso was researching the war dead from Verona and while researching Thurston Woodward who was killed in World War II came across my web site for the sailor whose family later moved to Verona.
Stout and I had a similar conversation that Saturday morning. We spoke of some men who were killed in the war and memorialized in more than one town.
It turned out that Thomas E. Ashton Jr. grew up in Nutley and his family moved to Ridgewood.
The young man's story was in the Nutley Sons Honor Roll and in Stout's book.
Another coincidence turned up concerning the Dec. 24, 1944, torpedoing of the Leopoldville. Nutley's Malcolm Christopher was on the the ship. Also aboard was Ridgewood's Thomas A. Cobb.
Sometimes I find that my sense of loss over the strangers that turn up in my books and these similarly-themed books is overwhelming. I swear to God I don't ever again want to write about the war dead.
And yet. As Stout and I compared notes he mentioned some sources I hadn't tapped. Some sources that might uncover the stories of my guys whose stories have yet to be told.
And I wondered when I might cross check our references and get on with this work, this work that comes from a deep, deep part of the heart.
Order AT DEATH HE WAS 25 YEARS OLD, ISBN 1583968490 Available through King of Spain Press, P.O. Box 221, Hohokus, NJ 07423. $20 for the book plus $2.50 s&h.
Belleville Sons Honor Roll
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