May 24, 2008
Duluth veterans share new home in Colorado
By Chuck Frederick
They once lived in Duluth, and they once fought
for their country. How they all ended up in the same small retirement
community in Colorado Springs can be chalked up to the twisting
and unexpected turns of life.
There are four of them now. Old men. Not long
ago there were six. They’ll each mark this weekend’s
Memorial Day holiday in their own way. With their own ghosts. But
also with a bond they never expected: shared roots in Duluth.
“I think it's absolutely serendipitous that
we’re all here in the same place,” said one of the men,
Kenneth Field, 90, a native of Duluth's east end, and now retired
from the U.S. Army.
“Anybody with any brains leaves [Duluth],
you know,” Field said, a chuckle reaching my tele-phone receiver
from 845 miles away. “We enjoy seeing each other at breakfast
and at other times. We do share old stories. It’s curious
[how] we’re all here.”
“Here” is Liberty Heights, a well-manicured
assembly of 160 townhouses and apartments over-looking the U.S.
Air Force Academy. In addition to Field, former Duluthians at Liberty
Heights include Col. Ted Broman, 89, originally of West Duluth,
and retired now from the U.S. Air Force; Col. Arthur J. McClean,
a 1938 Duluth Central graduate, also retired from the Air Force;
and Obie Miller, who lived on Norton Street, just off Woodland Avenue,
in the 1950s.
A Navy pilot from Cloquet, Jerome Oswald, called
Liberty Heights home up until about two months ago when he died
unexpectedly, Miller said. He was in his mid-80s. Another veteran,
Ed Simmons, left Liberty Heights this spring to return to Duluth,
Miller, a widower, spent 32 years in the military
and served in Italy, southern France and elsewhere during World
War II. In Duluth, where he was introduced to curling, he worked
for the Air Force watching radar for Russian aerial attacks over
the top of the globe.
This weekend, two large boards at Liberty Heights
are adorned with the military pictures of hundreds of residents.
But Miller, 90, won’t have his picture there. When in Duluth,
he and a daughter went to Mont du Lac skiing one day, leaving another
daughter at home. They returned to find their house engulfed in
flames. Only later did they learn the girl was safe, that she had
fled to a neighbor’s. But all his old military photos were
lost in the blaze with most of the rest of his family’s belongings.
“I’ve had some tough times, but I’ve
had some good times,” Miller said.
Broman grew up near Lake Superior Zoo. His dad
ran the White Inn, a hamburger place on West First Street. After
graduating from Duluth Denfeld in 1937, he went to the University
of Minnesota for two years. He spent his summers as a lifeguard
at city-run beaches on Park Point and in River-side and New Duluth.
He was drafted in May 1941 and was a combat pilot
in North Africa and Italy during World War II. He flew for American
Airlines two years before the military called him back. Pilots were
needed for the Berlin Airlift, which delivered much-needed food
and supplies to the city of West Berlin, and for the Korean War.
Broman retired for the first time after 25 years
in the military. He retired a second time after 15 years as an engineer
for Ford Motor Company.
He married a girl from Morgan Park, Carmen Lundblad.
They stayed married 30 years and raised four children before she
died in 1971. Two years later, Broman remarried, to Jean Beaman.
They moved to Colorado Springs after Jean suffered a stroke. She
had a daughter living in the area.
Broman’s thoughts will be with another former
Duluth lifeguard this weekend, a time set aside to remember those
who made the ultimate sacrifice in war. “Frank was training
in the Air Force and died in a crash,” Broman remembered quietly.
“We were good friends. But there are lots of friends, lots
of comrades to remember and to pay tribute to. I know a lot of my
high school buddies who lost their lives in that war. Many from
And from all over. For Field — who grew
up just east of the Northland Country Club, and whose father managed
a department store at Second Avenue West and Superior Street —
Memorial Day always brings memories of an Army buddy named Jim Flynn.
“He was a football player at Fordham,”
said Field. “When he got hit, wouldn’t you know it,
he got hit in the legs. So the big athlete was no longer a big athlete.
He had to walk with canes the rest of his life.”
Field played football himself at East Junior High
School and then ran track and sang in the boys’ quartet at
Central High, where he graduated in 1936. He graduated from the
University of Minnesota four years after that and went to work in
the efficiency department for Sears and Roebuck in Minneapolis.
“And then the military called me,”
he said. “It was such a nice invitation I had to accept.”
He was an artilleryman in North Africa and North
Italy. He endured 39 months of combat.
He and his wife, Betty Harris, his friend since
their childhood spent in Duluth, moved to Colorado Springs in 1976
because her sister was living there. When Betty died about 15 years
ago, Field planted a tree in her memory in Colorado Springs’
Like the other Duluth veterans living their golden
years not far from the snowcapped Rockies, Field has no doubt what
he’ll be doing this holiday weekend.
“I’ll listen to as much of the speechmaking
as I want and then I’ll slowly drift away and go on down to
the tree,” he said.