Denfeld News

May 24, 2008
Duluth News Tribune

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 added.

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 Duluth did.”

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’ Memorial Park.

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.

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