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Column: Memorial Day has passed, but soldiers' stories keep coming

WORTHINGTON -- I know. Memorial Day is past.

In a warrior nation, stories of wars and of the veterans of wars never cease, however. Placing flags and flowers on graves does not still the stories for another year. In a point of fact, the rites serve to stir new stories to light.

Ahead of Memorial Day this column told the story of the soldier named Ray Kimbel. Ray Kimbel came to the Round Lake community and took up farming for Fred Neinaber, an aging farmer who lived north of town near the east border of Jackson County.

When World War I came, Ray Kimbel enlisted for military service. His family was known to no one. Kimbel listed his elderly friend Neinaber as the person to be notified in case of an emergency. When the young soldier was killed in action on the Western front (Oct. 9, 1918), he did not know Fred Neinaber had died in August.

There was an assumption, for the fact that Neinaber was gone and there was no known family, that Kimbel was buried in France. Not so, says Stanley Beal of Round Lake.

Stanley Beal's father, Ralph Beal, lived to become Nobles County's oldest veteran of World War I. The American Legion was important in the lives of the elder Beal and of his wife, Frieda. Stanley Beal remembers:

"During the Great Depression when there was no money, no electricity or much of anything else ... baby sitters were seldom used and we [my sisters and I] would go along to meetings, etc., including the decorating for Memorial Day.

"They put a cross, wreath, etc., on the deceaseds graves and I vividly recall one for Ray Kimbel ..."

So it is that a story takes a new turn. The slain soldier, Ray Kimbel, was returned to America and buried in soil near Round Lake that he had come to claim as home. 

It is unlikely by now that more will be learned of the veteran, Paul Mueller, who died at Wilmont in January 1925. Judge L.S. Nelson of Worthington was called to an investigation where it was learned that Mueller was a U.S. veteran of the war with Spain.

Mueller had come to America from Luxemburg, and for reasons not known he claimed Wilmont as his home. In 1897, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Like Ray Kimbel, Paul Muller had no known family.

The comrades -- the veterans of Edward Dolan Camp 28, United Spanish War Veterans -- arranged a funeral at Wilmont's Presbyterian church. The Rev. P.A. Millard of Worthington's Church of Christ, came to make a short sermon. Judge Nelson and four other veterans were present and, the Worthington Times noted, "There was a nice attendance of the people of Wilmont ... a portion of the burial service of the order of veterans was read by the officers ..."

So Nobles County buried still another veteran, this one from eight or nine wars now gone by.

I was at the Immanuel American Lutheran (Pfingsten) cemetery through Memorial Day weekend. I came again on one of the most poignant of Nobles County's veterans' graves.

The Pfingsten community is a community of German descent. In 1918, there were residents who spoke no English.

One of Pfingsten's young soldiers was Ferdinand Koster, who became an electrician and whose ability was such that he was made an instructor with the army's Dunwoody Training Detachment. Koster earned the rank of sergeant less than two months after his enlistment.

Sgt. Koster was one of 43,000 U.S. soldiers who contracted influenza and who died through the course of 1918. His death came Oct. 7.

Sgt. Koster was a distinguished American soldier but out of a background of America's enemy, Germany. On this young American's grave marker is carved a poem, in German, which envisions the bliss of a resurrection and reunion and which ends, "Wiedersehen."

John Danneman's grave is also in this cemetery. In life, people often told John Danneman's war story.

Like Sgt. Koster, Pvt. Danneman left to fight for America. In the custom of that war, his family received a telegram informing that their son was killed in action.

This story has a rare twist. The telegram was a mistake. John Danneman, though wounded, returned home and lived a long, fulfilling life.

Ray Crippen is a past editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.