The Valdosta Daily Times
A good book is one that you can get lost in. One that takes you places.
But sometimes it's the book itself that goes places, that gets lost.
On December 17, 1942, the same day that the United Nations released its 'Statement on Murder of European Jews' condemning the Nazi's systematic murder of European Jews, Frederick R. Hemmeter was given a book. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Hemmeter had enlisted with the Army earlier in the year, on July 21.
His church, Third Lutheran Church, presented Hemmeter with a copy of “Strength for Service to God and Country,” a series of 365 devotionals written by various Protestant ministers of the day.
Bound for the warrant officers branch of the Army, Hemmeter served in the Army for years before returning home six months after the end of World War II. He spent the rest of his days in Baltimore, but his book did not.
At some point it got away from him and found its way to Charles McDowell, a retired Army Chaplain and Pastor of the Barney United Methodist Church.
McDowell had ordered the book, along with others, through Ebay, to give to veterans at his church's Veterans Day service.
He gave it to Jerome Folsom, a WWII veteran, on Veteran's Day in November of 2012.
Folsom came to McDowell the following September with a request: could he find and return the book to its original owner, the person it was inscribed to?
“The inscription was on the inside and for some reason, I didn't realize that page was there until two or three months ago,” said Folsom.
Folsom carried his own book into WWII, a copy of the New Testament his mother gave him that he carried in his left shirt pocket throughout the war.
“I know that my children cherish some of those things that I had in the service. We're talking about 70-plus years ago. You'd like for somebody to enjoy it, to appreciate it.”
McDowell told Folsom he'd do his best, but quickly ran into problems.
“My first problem was the last name,” said McDowell. “The name was scribbled in the book and I could not make out the correct spelling.”
He talked with his wife, a retired nurse with years of experience deciphering the loose scrawl of doctors, but she couldn't make it out either.
Undeterred, McDowell turned to the Internet, finding that the scribbled last name was most likely Hemmeter. He found a Frederick Hemmeter, his military record, when he was born, 1916, and when he died, 1999.
But he couldn't find Hemmeter's family or the Third Lutheran Church.
So, he took a leap of faith, turning to the online White Pages and writing a letter at random to a Hemmeter in Baltimore: Evelyn E. Hemmeter.
“The name jumped out at me for no reason.”
Evelyn, it turned out, had no knowledge of Frederick's family, but she had a friend, Ellen Moats, a genealogy expert who offered to help search.
A week later, she had found Frederick's two living daughters and forwarded the letter on to one of the daughters, Rosalind Hemmeter Witowski.
Then the weeks passed and passed with no response.
McDowell had almost lost hope when he received a call on Veteran's Day from Rosalind, who was excited to hear about the book. She gave McDowell her address and McDowell dropped the book in the mail a week later.
“I am so excited to hear from you about the book that was given to my father as he entered the service,” Rosalind wrote in an email to McDowell. “My grandfather died when my Dad was still in high school. He then had the responsibility to take care of his mother and sister. I'm sure that leaving them at home was a worry and I think he found comfort in his church.”