Tag Archives: Virginia Gorman

Dear Grandma

1983-dear-grandma

Doug’s Letter to Grandma, 1983, courtesy of Virginia Gorman

Dear Grandma

I haven’t written you in a long time but that has nothing to do with how often I think of you. I received your card for my birthday back in may and I meant to write you and thank you for it but I never got to it. I kept real busy all summer and I’m now in Alaska again for a short while. I’ll be returning to Dallas hopefully before mom and Dad return to Colombia. It will be exciting to see Kathy’s new baby when I return. I hope to see Bruce and Brenda and their new baby as well as Gail + Virginia on the way home in October.

It has been rather interesting working in 10°–30° weather with ice floating all around the boat. The salt water ocean freezes at 28.6° F and is now 29° so we will be forced to head south in a few days. We are working off the coast of Alaska in the Arctic Ocean.

In November sometime, some friends of mine and I are planning a motorcycle trip through Central America to Colombia. I am really anticipating this trip because we have talked about it for years.

In January I plan to go back to school to finish my degree in Mathematics in order to fly in the Air Force. Please pray with me that the Lord will guide me every step along the way. I love you Grandma. Doug

undated letter from Dough (Lee’s son) to Grandma, referencing his parents and siblings; provided by Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter); transcribed by Dawn (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • What was Doug doing on the boat in Alaska?
  • Where did he plan to finish his degree? Where did he begin? Why did he take a break?
  • What his parents think of this venture?
  • Does this letter reference his Duncan grandmother or his Kindberg grandmother? What did Grandma think of this venture?

The Letter in Virginia’s Purse

[Virginia]: To get back to the letter: When Chet [Bitterman] had been—no, it was the day that we found out about Chet, Mom and Dad and I had been out of town, not very far from our center [Loma Linda], that we were on a vacation. And when we were on that vacation, there was an American couple. They were oil people. And we were just chatting away and I just said, “Oh, I’d love to work for somebody who had money.” Now I wanted money, you know, and I just thought it would be great to live with somebody who had money.

So they just took my name down. I mean, they just somehow kept our names. And then they called. She went to a hairdresser that met this other lady and, long story short, they were the Bakers and they lived in Houston. He was a former Rams football player. Her family was the Swansons.

[Eric]: Oilers.

[Virginia]: Oilers, sorry. Wasn’t it the Oilers? What?

[Marcia]: [can’t hear] for drilling with us.

[Kathy]: Houston Oilers.

[Virginia]: No. Oh, it was his friend that played for the Rams. That’s right.

green-giantAnd her family was the Swansons. You know, Swanson Frozen Foods and Green Giant? And her family had all this money. Anyway, I ended up being a nanny for them for three summers after that.

But it was her letter in the purse that had our address on it that got the purse back to me.

Anyway, so I went—and it was just that the lady that we met in Villavicencio, which we called Villao, went to the same hairdresser as Carla Baker. They talked. Carla Baker—they’re good Baptist people—said they were looking for someone to help with the kids during the summers, so they got in contact with me.

Aunt Kathryn went to visit them to check them out. She did. There you go! She went and checked them out because she lived in Houston at the time and she went and checked them out to make sure that they were an OK family for me to go stay with. Yeah, so cool.

Anyway, so then when I graduated, Eric and Mary Lynn met me in her little Karmann Ghila. I had never really driven a car and they made me drive it. It was pouring down rain and it scared me to death because I could not see. I had never really driven. I mean, there was one Jeep on the center that we could all use or whatever. Dad had taken us out once or twice in that thing. But anyway, so I was driving her little Karmann Ghila.

I worked for them for three summers after that. They convinced me I was going to go to Dallas Baptist College. They convinced me I to go to Baylor, so I went to one year at Baylor University in Waco.

Then from there, because Bruce and Gail lived in Safford, I wanted to go to, I went there to go to Bible, no, to a camp, to a church camp, and then decided to return my second year to go to Bible college there. Then I went to that Bible college. It’s not accredited. It was just with a church. I went to a couple years there.

That’s where I met my husband. He was first friends with my sister and then she went off to nursing school. Then Bill and I. I mean, they weren’t romantically involved. They were friends, but—

[Bill]: That you know of.

[Virginia]: Then I met him and we were engaged and we were going to get married one date and then—it seems to run in our family—but, however, he was the one that stopped because he didn’t feel like I had gotten over Doug’s death yet. There was. . . .

[Kathy]: So you just waited and got married later.

[Virginia]: Yeah. Mom and Dad had already gotten their tickets and everything.

[Kathy]: Yeah, I was coming up from [can’t hear], of course, too.

[Virginia]: They ended up coming up twice, just because. So then we were married in ’85.

[Dawn]: What were the dates?

[Virginia]: We were married November 9th of ’85. And then our first daughter [Ashley] was born in July 29th of ’87. Then Doug was born 13 months later, or 13 ½ months later, September 9th of ’88, Douglas. He is named after my brother. Then Savannah was born two years later. She was born October 22d of ‘90.

story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Bill Gorman (Virginia’s husband), Eric and Kathy (Lee’s kids), Dawn (Steve’s daughter) and Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

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  • What is the name of the place where Kathy was coming from in Colombia for Virginia’s wedding? It sounded like “Something anica” to me.

Doug Wants to Chase Somebody

[Virginia]: Every year, the seniors would go on a senior trip. There were all four of us seniors. There was only four of us. Two of us decided we would go to—there was a New Tribes base that was in a town a ways away. And they did let us go, but the other two seniors’ parents wouldn’t let them go because they were too afraid to let them go, which, as a parent now, I wouldn’t let my kids go. I would be like, “You’re staying with me!” At the time, being me, I stood up in the—we had meetings at the base so they could update them as to the what was going on and everything. And I stood up there and I said, “Guys you’re missionaries! You’re supposed to trust the Lord!” And that was my, I was kind of, I was mad because the other two kids couldn’t go. Their parents wouldn’t let them go with us.

[Heidi]: Those people wouldn’t trust the Lord.

[Virginia]: I know. I was like, “Come on!”

[Kathy]: [laughter; can’t hear]

[Virginia]: But anyway, then Chet got killed and of course that was very traumatic.

[Heidi]: Did that end the hiding?

[Virginia]: Yeah, then Dad was back.

[Heidi]: How did they figure that was the end of the crisis?

[Virginia]: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t remember all of those details.

[Kathy]: I just reread the book. It’s called. . . .

[Virginia]: Oh, yeah. I knew Chet. I took care of his kids during conference.

[Kathy]: Called to Die. It’s very good if you want to read about the whole experience.

[Marcia]: Who wrote the book?

[Kathy]: Steve Estes.

[Virginia]: And someone said, who was it I was talking to? Oh, Jim Suderman. He said he kind of took, . . . or was it Jim? Anyway, he said they kind of embellished a little bit on that, in that book.

[Kathy]: It tells the story very well.

[Virginia]: Yup. Anyway, so then I graduated, and then Doug paid for you and Bruce and you were already down there for my graduation, right? Weren’t you in Colombia for my graduation?

[Gail]: [can’t hear] I don’t think he paid for my trip to go down there.

[Virginia]: No, I paid for your trip to go down for Doug’s graduation.

[Kathy]: No, I went down for your graduation.

[Virginia]: I think you were already—weren’t you already there because Allan was there?

[Kathy]: [can’t hear] Bryant College. Allan and I came—that was the summer we got. . . .

[Virginia]: Oh, Doug paid for everybody. I think, that could. . . . Oh, you didn’t?

[Kathy]: No, because we flew. Actually, Chet Bitterman’s sister’s, oh, no, Brenda Bitterman’s brother flew the plane down with the New Testaments. We flew with him from Dayton, Tennessee to Loma Linda in a little plane.

[Eric]: Where was I all this time?

[Virginia]: I don’t know.

[Kathy]: You were probably, I think you were in Peru.

[Virginia]: This was ’81.

[Eric]: Oh, we were still, we may have been, if this was ’81, we were still in the States. We had just gotten married.

[Virginia]: I don’t know, but I know that he paid for you [Gail] and he paid for Bruce and Brenda to come down. And they had Brett. Was it Brett?

[Bruce]: It was Brandon.

[Virginia]: Brandon. So, anyway, so they came down and the reason I brought that up was because then when I traveled to Bogota before I left, then—Doug had always said, you know, Bogota was notorious for pocket, you know, people that pick pockets and people stealing purses and whatnot. He used to say—you know, tough guy, as you all know—“I just wanna put money in my pocket. You know, I just wanna have the chance just to chase after somebody and grab somebody.”

[Kathy]: Egg somebody on.

[Virginia]: Egg somebody on.

Anyway, I had gotten this purse for my graduation gift. And we were in the taxi. We were in a taxi and I guess he and mom and I were in the back. Dad was up front with the driver. Well, I was sitting on the left hand side and I just happened to look up and there was a guy standing there. And I’m thinking, “I wonder if I should lock my door?”

Next thing I know, somebody’s knocking on the opposite side of the taxi. The guy that I had been looking at opened my door and pulled my, took my purse off my lap and started running.

Well, Doug had his chance. He and dad got out and they pursued those two guys and they. . . .

[Kathy]: Didn’t they go in opposite directions?

[Virginia]: Opposite directions, so Dad was going one way and Doug was going another way. Doug was so mad that he did not catch that guy. He was so furious with himself that he didn’t catch him, but Dad caught the other guy, the guy that did not have the purse. And they did take him to court, but—it’s just really weird—so the purse was taken, but somebody found it. They guy had gone through it. Didn’t find the money because I had the money in a pocket and he didn’t see it.

Because it had a letter—and this is another story I’ll go into—I had a letter from a couple in Houston, who I ended up going to work for. They had my address. Anyway, somebody called the group house and said, “We found this purse.” It was kind of cool. I still have that purse ‘til this day because of the journey it went on.

[Kathy]: So they took what they wanted, what they could get in haste because Doug was chasing them. Then they, in case they got caught, they just dumped the purse and kept going. So Doug didn’t catch them, but then the purse was returned.

[Eric]: So had Doug not been chasing them, they would have had more time to go through the purse. He would have found the money.

[Kathy]: Oh, yeah.

[Virginia]: Yup. I think he found the pesos, but he didn’t find the American money. There was American money that was still in there when I got it.

story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Bruce, Eric, Kathy and Gail (Lee’s kids), Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

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  • Who else has pick-pocketing stories that you can tell us?
  • Can you tell other tough-guy Doug stories?

Virginia’s Senior Year Wasn’t a Great Year

[Virginia]: I had my eighth grade year and then through high school, but of course, I got accustomed to the kids. Now I would say I am closer to those kids than I am to the Peru kids because it was in the high school years. So graduated in ’81. I went. . . .

kathy-gail-virginia-will-lee-doug-ca-1981

Kathy, Gail, Virginia Will, Lee, Doug; Texas, ca. 1981

Oh, and then my senior year was the year that Chet Bitterman, one of the missionaries, got kidnapped. They were after the director, who was my—Dad [Will Kindberg] was the director. During that time that Chet had been kidnapped and before he was killed, my mom and dad were in hiding. They had to keep moving and I was left by myself out at the base with one of the single ladies. But I didn’t know where my parents were and that was a very, very traumatic time for me.

[Heidi]: What? Really?

[Stephanie?]: Really?

[Virginia]: Yeah.

[Dawn]: So wait a minute. [Can’t hear], why didn’t they take you?

[Eric]: [Can’t hear] at all.

[Virginia]: Because they were after my dad, not me.

[Mary Lynn]: What do you mean, they were in hiding?

[Virginia]: They had to move from place to place to place so that the guerillas—so they were after the director and because they had to keep him hidden, so that they [M-19 guerillas] couldn’t find him. He was the goal. He was the target. They took Chet because Dad was not in Bogota. They were after Dad, so in order for him not to be, you know, them not come back and try to get Dad, Mom and Dad had to move.

[Gail]: But he was on the base the whole time?

[Virginia]: No.

[Gail]: Where was he?

[Virginia]: I think he was in Bogota.

[Lots of Voices]: He was one of the negotiators?

[Eric]: Right.

[Virginia]: He may have been, but he was not—nobody knew where. I mean, he was in an undisclosed location and he had to move around.

[Kathy]: They had to keep the base secure.

[Heidi]: So you knew that he was in hiding?

[Virginia]: Yes. Oh, yeah-yeah-yes. I didn’t know where he was, but I knew he was. . . .

[Heidi]: How long did that go on?

[Virginia]: It was only a few months. Oh, I cannot, I can’t remember.

[Kathy]: Well that whole ordeal, I think, was two months.

[Eric]: Chet Bitterman had been captured. He was held for a long time. It was probably a year.

[Virginia]: No. No, no, no. No, it wasn’t because it was during my high school months. And it was during that time that Dad and Mom had to move.

You guys [Steve’s family] were talking about soldiers. During my high school years, we always had soldiers around our house because when my dad was director. That was kind of weird because I had curtains that were almost like these curtains. You know, being a teenage girl, and these guys are right outside my window. You know, it was a shock, I mean, you know, when they’re not shot guns, but machine guns. So we had, we had a lot. And we had curfews during the whole time we were there. We had to be in by 10:00. There were shots, you know, occasionally we’d hear shots in the middle of the night and wonder what’s going on.

Anyway, so that was my senior year and so that wasn’t a great year.

story told by Virginia (Lee’s daughter) with interjections by Eric, Kathy and Gail (Lee’s kids), Mary Lynn (Eric’s wife0, and Heidi, Dawn and Stephanie (Steve’s kids) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter) 

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • You mention your Dad/Will writing memoires. Did he publish those? Are those available? Is it possible to add them to this collection?
  • The Steve Duncan kids didn’t receive trauma counseling. Did Wycliffe/SIL provide any kind of trauma counseling for you or your folks? Was that a known necessity at that time?

The Bogota Bomb

[Virginia]: I was the end of my seventh grade year, the end of your [Kathy’s] junior year, and Doug was in between. So that was real tough for us because having been born and raised in Peru to leave and go to a new country was really hard. They were like family to us because we didn’t know all our family, our biological family, you know, extended family. So that was very tough, was to be uprooted and move to another country.

[Heidi]: Can I just interrupt and ask, was that because you parents [can’t hear] in Peru and they tried to [can’t hear]?

[Virginia]: They were going to be shutting down, the government was. They had a—I don’t know; you could probably explain better—they had a lease with the government or something.

[Eric]: There was a lot of conflict at that time. People in the universities and so on were criticizing SIL as being—what were they saying, that we were mining uranium?

[Virginia]: Oh, gosh. Weird.

[Eric]: There was a lot of opposition by Catholics, who were against the Evangelical police, and people in the university, who were leftist leaning. At that point, the government started to close down our operations. Right around that time, then, they did a reversal, but Dad and Mom had already made plans to leave.

[Virginia]: They had already assigned them to Colombia.

[Heidi]: So were there a lot of kids you’d grown up with that were leaving, too?

[Kathy]: Some were, but we were. . . .

[Virginia]: Dad [Will Kindberg] had just finished the completion of the New Testament.

[Eric]: Right.

[Virginia]: And I think he’d done some of the Old Testament, at least portions of the Old Testament. It was pretty much done at that time, so I think that’s why they had already assigned him to move.

[Kathy]: And they needed new translation people or something in Colombia.

[Virginia]: Yeah, so then since he’d already been assigned, even though then the government decided that Wycliffe could stay, we just continued onto the plans over there.

[Kathy]: Dragging our heals in the grass.

[Virginia]: Yeah, it was really a hard time to move. We docked in Barranquilla or Cartagena, I don’t know? Do you remember?

[Kathy]: We went to Cartagena.

[Virginia]: Was it Cartagena? And then we, I guess, flew to Bogota. And there had been a lot of guerrilla activity against Americans or foreigners in Bogota. So there had been bombs that had been placed in different foreign places. I don’t know if it was businesses or just residences.

[Kathy]: It was like bank and university and places that foreigners went to.

[Heidi]: Frequented.

[Virginia]: Anyway, my dad had been talking about this, these occurrences, with one of the other missionaries who had picked us up at the docks.

[Kathy]: No, it was the airport.

[Virginia]: The airport. The airport. Anyway, when we get to—we had like a group-house in the capital because when would come from where we were out in the middle of nowhere, they would fly to Bogota. There was, like, a group-house where we would stay. And we got there and my dad had gotten out first, or one of the first people to get out of the car. There was a box sitting there by the door.

[Eric]: Cardboard box.

[Virginia]: Cardboard. I don’t . . . oh, I was talking to somebody. I wasn’t sure.

[Kathy]: It was a little—it looked like a transistor radio. It was only very, you know, it was just a little package with a little thing sticking out of it that clued him when it started to spark, he realized it was a bomb.

[Virginia]: So. . . .

[Heidi]: Did you guys drive off or what did you do?

[Kathy]: No. We didn’t. It was like ten seconds about.

[Virginia]: Well, Dad just jokingly said—he picks it up and says, “What is this, a bomb?” And then it started to spark, so he put it back down.

I was in the back of a VW Bug, in the little well, in the very back because I was the smallest. I saw it and somehow I got out in time. It was only a matter of seconds that it went off.

[Kathy]: It still . . . the man who was in it just started yelling, “It’s a bomb! It’s a bomb! Run!”

[Virginia]: So Kathy, I think you were with me. We ran across the street, which was a narrow street. Doug ran down the street. It knocked him over. It caused all the glass from all the buildings for blocks to shatter. And it fell on our heads and I had glass in my head for a long time. I remember feeling my head.

[Eric]: You actually got behind the car across the street. And mom was behind the car and got knocked down, too, I think.

[Kathy]: She was in the middle of the street and it knocked her over.

[Eric]: And the shrapnel, go ahead, you finish the shrapnel.

[Virginia]: The shrapnel—there was a kick-plate at the bottom of the door, which was metal, and pieces of that metal went into the group-house. And there was, like, a bodega, where they, people kept their winter coats and stuff, and it went through the door. One piece even went, went through the door, went through the wall of that bodega, went through clothing, and stuck into a 2×4. I mean, so the glass was pretty, pretty, um. . . .

[Kathy]: It was meant to kill anybody in that house and it would have if anybody was in the lower level, but it was midnight and nobody was down in that lower level.

[Virginia]: And there was one lady who had just had a caesarian section or a DNC of something. She’d just had surgery. Just at the right time, she was in her bed, she rolled over and the glass fell. That was Lush.

[Kathy]: Oh, Edna Lush.

[Virginia]: Edna Lush. Anyway. . . .

[Marcia]: And your parents never wrote anything about this, did they?

[Kathy]: Oh, yeah, Dad.

[Marcia]: I don’t ever remember hearing this story.

[Virginia]: Oh, yeah.

[Kathy]: The story gets better and better every time.

[Steve]: I understood the tone of it.

[Mary Lynn]: I’ve heard it differently, too, multiple times.

[Virginia]: So that was my introduction to Colombia, was that. It affected me for a long time. I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t be around fireworks for many years. My husband will attest, I had nightmares many years after we were married, which would have been—I was twelve and ten, probably twenty years later, I was still having nightmares, so it affected me in a really big way. My question was—and my dad wrote, he did some memoires—and my big questions was, “You know, if they hate us so much, why are we here?” You know, not understanding, you know. Anyway, I was only twelve, so I didn’t understand much.

[Kathy]: It was scary after that because, too, because they kept threatening, and we had to stay in Bogota to do paper work. Remember that?

[Virginia]: No, I don’t remember that.

[Kathy]: They kept having other threats and then they had suspicious people driving by in cars.

[Virginia]: Oh, I do remember. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. So that was kind of scary.

NB: A State Department document on WikiLeaks dates this bomb to the week prior to the report of Friday, August 6, 1976. As to the context for this and other bombings in Bogota that week, it reads:  

MORE TERRORIST BOMBS EXPLODED IN BOGOTA WITH U.S. PRIVATE FACILITIES AMONG THE TARGETS. FOLLOWING THE FAILURE OF THE NATIONAL SALARY COUNCIL TO AGREE TO NEW MINIMUM WAGES THE GOVERNMENT UNILATERALLY MOVED TO IMPOSE HIGHER LEVELS. THE LATEST PRICE INDEX INCREASE INDICATES THAT THE GOC’S INFLATION TARGET OF 15 PERCENT FOR 1976 IS NOW AN IMPOSSIBLITY. THE POLITICAL SEASON HAS BEGUN WITH FORMER FINANCE MINISTER AGUDELO ADDED TO THE LIST OF POSSIBLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES. PRESIDENT LOPEZ TOOK ADVANTAGE OF A JOURNALISM AWARDS CEREMONY TO DEFEND THE NEW PRESS LAW. MAJOR GENERAL VALDERRAMA TOOK OVER AS DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL POLICE.

story told by Virginia and Kathy (Lee’s daughters) with interjections by Eric (Lee’s son), Marcia (Steve’s wife), Heidi (Steve’s daughter) and Steve to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Virginia wins the last brownie. But Virginia and Kathy, can I ask for a few more details. Were the threats specific? Did they just want Americans to leave? Were they trying to scare the US or the Colombian government into giving them something? Was it mere terrorism? Did you go to the hospital that night? Did the mission provide counseling then or later? What kind of comfort did your parents take/offer you? Did they seem scared? Did they consider leaving?
  • You talked about lasting nightmares and your visceral reaction to fireworks. (I don’t do well with fireworks, either.) Looking back, are there other things—positive or negative—that you take away from these threatening and dangerous situations?
  • You spoke of not understanding because you were twelve. What do you think you would have understood if you were older?
  • Marcia didn’t remember hearing this story in 1976, but others do. What did you think, Gail and Bruce and Eric? Steve?

Kathy and Virginia’s Dad Lets Them Dance

[Virginia]: I was born in September of ’63. So I was born in Peru as well and lived in Peru until I was at the end of my seventh grade year. Then we took a ship, an Italian ship liner, from Peru up over the western part, up north, through the Panama Canal into Colombia. That was kind of interesting, wasn’t it Kathy?

first-class-ballroom-ss-raffaello

[Kathy]: Yes.

[Virginia]: We had never danced before and we got on the ship and they had a dance every night. And so Kathy. . . .

[Kathy]: These guys kept hanging around because Virginia’s so good looking. They were like, “There’s gonna be a dance. Can you guys dance with us?” And we’re like, “No, our dad won’t let us. No, our dad won’t let us!” And they kept asking and asking and finally we were near dad [Will Kindberg] and they asked again and he said, “Yes, you can.”

[Virginia]: So that was kind of interesting: our first, first exposure to dancing. And, of course, didn’t know how to.

[Kathy]: Crossing the equator was a big, a big event while they were having this dance party.

[Virginia]: Yeah.

[Marcia]: What was the name of the ship? Do you remember?

[Virginia]: It was Italian, but I don’t. . . .

[Kathy]: It’s an Italian liner, but it was the last time it was going to run.

[Marcia]: You don’t remember the name of the ship?

[Kathy]: But I don’t remember the name of it.

[Marcia]: Because we crossed the ocean on two. . . .

[Victoria]: Raffaello?

[Steve]: Raffaello.

[Marcia]: We crossed the ocean on the Raffaello and also the Cristoforo Colombo.

[Steve]: It’s the Titanico.

[Virginia]: Yeah.

[joking and laughing; can’t hear]

[Gail]: That was in, that was in ’76. . . .

[Kathy]: You flew out.

[Gail]: I’d already left. Yeah.

[Kathy]: And you had already left. We were moving to Colombia and that was the cheapest way to move us and all of our stuff. Oh, and then we had the bomb as soon as we got this boat to dock.

NB: The Raffaello was indeed withdrawn in April of 1975 and sold to the Shah of Iran in 1976. In 1983, it was torpedoed during the Iraq-Iran War. 

story told by Kathy and Virginia (Lee’s daughters) with interjections by Gail (Lee’s daughter) and Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 11, 2014; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • What else happened on that ship? How long did the trip take? Did Doug travel with you? Tell us about dancing for the first time.
  • If Gail had already flown out, where did she go? Where was she?
  • What do you recall of your parents during that sail?
  • Who else has crossing the ocean in ships stories you want to tell us?

Steve Falters on Dermatology, Kids Contract Chicken Pox

Steve Wearing Laurel Wreath at Medical School Graduation, 1974, courtesy of Marcia Duncan

Steve Wearing Laurel Wreath at Medical School Graduation, 1974, Harley Smith and Marcia Duncan also pictured, courtesy of Marcia Duncan

All his exams were oral and his graduation was also a combination of a—he had to represent his dissertation to a panel of medical doctors. And you could invite all your friends to come. Uncle Harley came over from France for his graduation.

So he sits at a table with this horseshoe of professors and he has to answer questions on his dissertation. Then they pronounced him with his medical degree. Then friends of ours brought a big laurel wreath, Italian friends, and put it around him. We probably have some pictures with us.

[Heidi]: Then they kicked him out of medical school.

Steve Being Booted Out of Medical School, 1974

Steve Being Booted Out of Medical School, 1974

Yes, that’s right. They had a tradition of all your friends line up in two rows and you run down between them and they kick you out of medical school.

Dawn, actually, was about three then, three and a half, and Heidi had just been born. Heidi was supposed to be born after he finished his final exams, but Heidi came a few days early. Heidi was born at something like, what, two o’clock in the morning? Then he had, that morning, he had—was it a pharmacology exam?

[Steve]: Dermatology.

A dermatology exam. So he walks into his examination and the professor asked him, “What happened to you?” because he’d been up most of the night. He said, “I just had a baby!”

Heidi was—basically we had to wait a month before we could fly home, in terms of her age.

We went home via France to visit Harley and Betty one more time.

[Dawn]: We got to stay there extra long.

We got to stay there extra long because one morning we woke up and Dawn had a pock on her face. Lo and behold, she had broken out with chicken pox, so we had to wait until she was no longer contagious before we could get on the flight.

[Stephanie]: Way to go, Dawn.

[TJ]: You all know that you’re eligible for shingles later on?

[Dawn]: I know it. My mother-in-law. . . .

[Stephanie]: Looking forward to it.

[TJ]: Patti had shingles and before it she had chicken pox. When she did, they kept me away from them. I didn’t have chicken pox.

[Victoria]: Maybe you did.

[Virginia?]: I never have had any.

Heidi, at a month old, eventually had one little pock on her face, so I don’t know if that means she had chicken pox or not. Kimberly and Stephanie got it in [Ben Lippen] high school.

[Stephanie]: Our junior year. We both came down with the chicken pox.

[Virginia?]: Ohhhhh. At the same time, huh?

[Stephanie]: Well, we had house-parents and their kids had chicken pox. I babysat for them. I think that’s how it all went down. It’s a little confusing because there were a bunch of people who came down at the same time with it. I was babysitting for them. Also a friend of mine. It was going around the school. It was the only thing I ever came down with in high school. I never even had a cold all through the years we were there. But it came through this particular set of house parents and their children. A bunch of us got it at the same time, but it was right before our final exams our junior year. I just remember that because I was in agony trying to study and we got it bad.

story told by Marcia (Steve’s wife) to the family reunion gathering on January 10, 2014 with interjections from Steve, Dawn, Heidi, and Stephanie (Steve’s daughters), Virginia Gorman (Lee’s daughter), TJ Ramey (Kathryn’s son), and Victoria his wife; transcribed by Dawn Duncan Harrell (Steve’s daughter)

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below. (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.)

  • Any other Smith and Steve Duncan family stories from the “extra long” stay in France?
  • Anyone else have chicken pox or other childhood/epidemic diseases stories?
  • Any other stories from the trip home?
  • Mom and Dad/Marcia and Steve, can you send digital copies of the laurel wreath and kicking out photos for this story? Thanks.