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Remembering my dad through the Veterans History Project

Marjorie Peters, FAPR, RMR, CRR

By Marjorie Peters

I think it all starts with my father. My dad, Art Peters, was born in 1923 in a farm in rural Pennsylvania. His parents were a school teacher and a mechanic on the Bessemer railroad, but they also had a working vegetable farm and, of course, animals for food. His grandparents had dairy.

I grew up hearing stories about living through the Great Depression and that his family knew how incredibly lucky they were that they were not starving. Every day they gave food to hungry people from their vegetable farm stand and what they could from their own food stores. My dad’s family was not rich by any means, but my father came away with a core belief that he held through his entire life about sharing. I’m OK, but what about you, too?  I want you to be OK, too.

Of course, WWII happened, and my dad and two of his brothers enlisted; my dad, the youngest, going into the Army, and eventually to the European Theater, beginning in North Africa, through the Rhineland, liberating a concentration camp, to the Battle of the Bulge and then Nuremburg.  Dad told only very, very few “war stories,” but he did tell of his fellow Army and platoon brothers taking care of each other in the trenches: of the German farm people, one family brave enough to even allow his group to sleep in their barn. Very dangerous. That family even made a cabbage soup from what little they had and fed the American soldiers. He said it was the best thing they ever ate. Oh, if they had been caught!             

You can now imagine; this is where my special love of the NCRF Veterans History Project comes from.  I never had the opportunity to record dad’s war history. Some things were just too painful for him to remember.  But I have been involved in VHP projects. Please know that when you write a VHP, you are doing a tremendous service for that veteran and his family.  The acknowledgement that you bring by recording and producing their stories for the Library of Congress not only preserves forever vital, firsthand accounts of history for the world, you are honoring that veteran’s service. While for veterans like dad, sometimes the remembering was too much, history and the world should always remember.   The very best way to thank a vet is to honor their story.

Even after his beloved wife, our mother, passed away while we were young, again, my dad’s core holding of taking care of your fellow man remained. Yes, even then in addition to all eight of us!  Surely, he worked so hard, but never forgot about caring for humanity:  My dad believed in the American Dream; that hard work and fairness are what this country is about. And also, very much also, to help your friends, neighbors, and people you don’t even know. If you can offer yourself to create an opportunity, that is what this country is about. Dad had an American Dream. Let’s support each other’s American Dream, too.

Dad built a very successful home building company in Erie, Pa., where today Realtors still sell his homes as “A Peters and Connors House.” He himself, on nights and weekends (as if his business and eight kids didn’t keep him busy enough) built the library at our grade school and the seminary.  

Dad was always pretty quiet about it, but we would see someone in his office with him having a good, quiet talk, and later we’d learn about a new project. It was never a hand out – always a hand up. Dignify your fellow human. I’m OK, how about you, too?

I first became an NCRF Angel in 2006 not long after my dad passed away. At first, I thought it was “too big for me” to do.  But somewhere I heard my dad’s voice. “Let’s go, girl. Let’s get to work.”  I think I had a big, powerful angel at my back, right?   

Once I made the commitment to be an NCRF Angel, I have never looked back. Like dad, always ahead. Won’t you come, too?

I do not have a college degree, but I do have a valuable trade in court reporting that has offered me opportunities that this little girl from rural East Springfield, Pa., never imagined could happen. So, the National Court Reporters Foundation is not just about me, it’s about you, too. The Foundation offers scholarships and learning opportunities – the New Career Launcher is going to be so exciting – that I would ask you to join us by becoming an Angel? Our trade offers a career for someone that will bring freedom of choice and a chance at a better life.  

So, with our best Rosie the Riveter spirits, let’s get to work – let’s give a hand up, colleagues, to our students, new professionals and veterans!

Marjorie Peters, FAPR, RMR, CRR, is a freelancer and CART Captioner, Court in Alexandria, Va.