February Genealogy Meeting with the North Suburban Genealogical Society

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The North Suburban Genealogical Society invites the public to attend its Saturday, February 8th meeting at the Northbrook History Museum (1776 Walters Avenue, Northbrook, IL).   Guests are welcome and are invited to bring a friend and enjoy refreshments.

The meeting will feature  Tina Beaird

Military Genealogy

Tina will explain the significance behind using original records for tracing your ancestor’s military service. Records from the American Revolution to WWII will be discussed as well as some sources for modern records. Learn what types of documents are available within federal, state and local archives.

The meeting begins at 1:00 PM and is free and open to the public.  Refreshments are served.  The meeting room is handicap accessible.

© 2014, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL


DuPage County (IL) Genealogical Society January Meeting

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Join the DuPage County (IL) Genealogical Society for their general meeting on January 15, 2014 to hear Jennifer Holik present Stories of the Lost.
Location: Wheaton Public Library
We will explore the records available to tell the stories of those who lost something due to the war, never returned from war or returned, but didn’t fully return. Each of them have a story that needs to be told.
© 2013, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

Stories Sought for World War II Book

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I received the following email regarding a new World War II project. Please contact the author at the email below.

I am currently working, with another author, on a book to share the experiences of people who were children or teens during the Second World War.

Our book, for middle school and high school readers, strives to cover people from as many of the participating nations as possible since it is the human not chronological war story that is most significant here.  It takes the story out of battlefield and into the home and heart. It is unique in its presentation of stories that have, for the most part, never been published and its international focus lends a view of the war for and from children. Period photographs will be collected for the illustrations.  Maps and timelines will also be part of the stories.

I am hoping to contact some of the people who have participated in your museum’s family history projects.  Can you connect me with any individuals willing to share their stories with us? You can certainly give them our contact information or ask permission for us to contact them directly.

The authors are Denise Perry Donavin and Jean M. Conklin Denise is a journalist  (a former Daily herald columnist), librarian and author, who has most recently edited the two memoir collections for the Lest We Forget veterans’ organization of Southwest Michigan. Jean, a retired reading teacher, also contributed to the Lest We Forget titles as a transcriber and copy editor and is currently writing children’s books with a historical focus.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Denise Perry Donavin


Military Monday, Veterans Day 2013

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This was originally posted at Generations 11 Nov 2013. Reprinted with permission.

Joseph Holik, WWII. Photo courtesy Jennifer Holik.

Today is Veterans Day and we honor those who served our country. How will you honor those who fought? Who do you honor? How will I be honoring the day? I’m giving my Finishing the Story lecture at Casa Italia today and will share the stories of Michael Kokoska, WWI; Frankie Winkler, WWII; and Robert Brouk Flying Tiger and WWII Army Air Corps Captain.

Who are some of the veterans I honor today?

Michael Kokoska, Frankie Winkler, Robert Brouk, Ginny Davis, Fred Davis, Harvey Davis, James Privoznik, Emil Ratay, Joseph Holik, Joseph Ratay, Frank Kokoska, “Captain Jack” John Frank Zajicek, Thomas Holik, Richard Holik, Robert Holik, Joseph Holik Jr., William Kokaska, Edward Kokaska, Ralph Windler.

How else am I honoring my veterans? In January I will release two new books. Stories of the Lost and The Tiger’s

Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia. Photo courtesy Italian American Veterans Museum

Italian American Veterans Museum at Casa Italia. Photo courtesy Italian American Veterans Museum

Widow telling the stories of Michael Kokoska, Frankie Winkler, Robert Brouk, and James Privoznik, who died in service. The second book will talk about the life of Robert Brouk’s widow after their short marriage and his death. Both will be released in January 2014 and soon after I will release new lectures and workshops and be available for Book Talks at libraries and societies and more presentations. Stay tuned for more details. You will not want to miss this dual book launch.

Do you need some additional information on Veterans Day or how to preserve our Veteran stories? Check out these links.

Library of Congress Veterans History Project

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs History of Veterans Day

Scroll down the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs page to see Teacher resources.

© 2013, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

Military Monday – Finishing the Story on Veterans Day

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The Casa Italia Genealogy Department will present Finishing the Story as part of our monthly genealogy programming.

Tracing the life of a deceased military soldier (Soldier Dead) can be challenging. Through three World War I and World War II case studies, learn about records and resources available to help you write the stories of your Soldier Dead. You will hear Michael’s World War I story and learn what his parents experienced after his death. Listen to Frankie’s story of fighting in France after D-Day. And hear the heartbreaking tale of Flying Tiger Robert Brouk whose life was cut short……but this story has a happy ending.

The meeting will be held in our Veterans Museum at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, November 11. The program is free and open to the public. We hope to see you then!

© 2013, Casa Italia, Stone Park, IL

Military Monday – Vietnam Moving Wall

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For immediate release

Aug. 9, 2013


Contact: Herschel Luckinbill, Chairman, The Moving Wall Committee, luckinbill1603@sbcglobal.net,



Amy Roth, Media Representative, The Moving Wall Committee, afroth@aurora.lib.il.us,


Contributions, Volunteers Needed for Visit of the Vietnam Moving Wall Nov. 7-11

AURORA, IL – Veterans, their families and patriotic individuals can participate in bringing the Vietnam Memorial Moving Wall and other travelling military memorials to Aurora this fall by making a financial contribution and volunteering.

The cost of bringing The Moving Wall to Aurora is $60,000. Fox Valley Veterans Breakfast Club and Vietnam veteran Herschel Luckinbill heads the team that has received support from Fifth Third Bank, Dieterle Memorial Home of Montgomery, Aurora Fastprint, Inc., Weldstar Co., Wegman Construction and Comfort Suites. The group is approximately half way to its funding goal.

Luckinbill is estimating that more than 300,000 people, including area school children, will come to Aurora during the four days The Moving Wall is on display. The effort is still in need of additional volunteers and contributions. “There will be plenty to do,” Luckinbill said. “There will be a task for every person who would like to help.” To volunteer or make a contribution visit http://www.vietnammovingwallaurora.org/.

The Moving Wall, a 3/5-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., will rise in the practice soccer fields of West Aurora High School and be on display Nov. 7 through 11. Also on display will be the Illinois Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial and a model of the World War II memorial.

In addition, a Healing Field of more than 2,000 American Flags dedicated to all military veterans, which will be at West High from Nov. 3-13.

Here is a timeline for Moving Wall/Healing Field Events:

•             Nov. 3 – The Healing Field of 2013 American Flags goes on display at West High

•             Nov. 7, morning – Moving Wall arrives at West High escorted by The Patriot Guard Riders.

•             Nov. 7, 1 p.m. – Public viewing of the Moving Wall begins

•             Nov. 8, 10:30 a.m. – Opening ceremony at the Moving Wall

•             Nov. 8, 6 p.m. – A public Veteran’s assembly in the West High auditorium featuring keynote speakers Gen. Max Baratz (WA ’52) and Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Lee Davis

•             Nov. 8, 7:15 p.m. – A flag retirement ceremony at the Wall.

•             Nov. 9, 2 p.m. – Recognition of Gold Star Families who lost loved ones in war

•             Nov. 9, 6 p.m. to midnight – A night out for veterans at Ballydoyle’s to benefit Honor Flight Chicago, a group that flies WWII veterans to Washington, D.C. to view the World War II memorial

•             Nov. 10, 10 a.m. – A nondenominational healing service at the Wall

•             Nov. 11, 2 p.m. – A wreath laying ceremony for all branches of the military

•             Nov. 11, dusk – A candlelight vigil at the closing ceremony for the Wall

•             Nov. 13 – Flag pickup day at the Healing Field.

The Wall is engraved with the names of 58,282 Americans who perished in the Vietnam Conflict or are still unaccounted for (Prisoners of War and Missing in Action). Visitors to the Moving Wall also will be able to visit the nearby Healing Field and walk among the flags with family and friends to experience the Spirit of America as they never have before. Made possible by Old Second National Bank and the A+ Foundation for West Aurora, the Healing Field will be free of charge and open to the public daily.

Individuals can sponsor one of the 3-by-5-foot Healing Field flags for a donation of $30 and receive the flag at the end of the event as a premium. An honoring tag will be included for an additional donation of $5. After the event, a flag can be mailed to an address for an additional donation of $10. There are also small business and corporate packages available. To obtain a flag or learn more, visit http://www.aplusfoundation.org/healingfield.asp or email healingfield@sd129.org.

 “We want this to be the biggest event this Wall and Aurora has ever seen, and we want it to honor all veterans,” said Luckinbill. “As a Vietnam veteran, having the Wall come to Aurora means everything to me. I served on the first American ship that received direct gunfire in the Vietnam War. I lost a shipmate who slept right above me. I know what war’s about.”

Saving Italy Book

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Last night I attended a program at the Pritzker Military Library. The program was called “Saving Italy” based on the title of Robert Edsel’s newest book, about the U.S. Army Monuments Men and Women who served during World War II to preserve, repair, locate and retrieve stolen works of art by the Nazis. Edsel spoke for over an hour about his book, what happened in Italy during World War II, his foundation and the honoring of these important men and women.

Edsel founded the Monuments Men Foundation several years ago to help honor those men and women who served and gave their lives to protect cultural heritage all over Europe and North Africa. Another mission of the foundation is to help locate items taken from Europe during the war to help facilitate the return to their rightful owners. He said thousands of works of art, musical scores, church bells, and other items are still missing.  Even today the foundation is helping to locate and return items.

The presentation was very interesting and I cannot wait to read his new book which I bought last night.

The evening was not over when Edsel’s presentation was finished. A World War II veteran and his family were in attendance. This veteran had served in Italy, around Naples specifically at one point in the war. His unit came across over a hundred crates of books taken from the University of Naples. As was common in war, soldiers of all countries, picked up items and took them home. This soldier took home several old books. Last night these were handed over to the custody of Robert Edsel and his Monuments Men Foundation after having confirmation that these books did indeed belong to the University of Naples. The foundation has researchers in the U.S. and Europe who work together to confirm that pieces located or turned into the foundation are authentic and figure out where they belong.It was very exciting to see these old books dating back to the 1300s sitting on a table at the Pritzker. The genealogist and historian in me wished I could have looked through them. I love old books and documents.

Il Console Generale Adriano Monti was in attendance and gave as brief speech after the daughter of the veteran gave a short speech about these items.

If you are in the Chicago area and have an interest in military history, check out the Pritzker Library’s programs and collection. If you are a member, they do participate in inter-library loan all over the country. Their staff is exceptional in both helpfulness and knowledge. It has become one of my favorite places to go in the city. It also doesn’t hurt it sits at the corner of Monroe and Michigan Avenue overlooking the Art Institute and Millennium Park and all the beautiful flowers, trees, and water that is visible from that vantage point.