Saturday, December 31, 2011


22 March, 1978

Elda P. Nielson
                Sometime during the month of June, 1943, shortly after the surrender of the German troops in the country of Tunisia, North Africa, I received a letter telling me that my mother had passed away.  That was the first word that I had received regarding this matter.  Today is now 30 June, 1979 and I am trying to record some of my feelings on that day.  I was so far away from the actual event that it didn't have the effect on me, as I'm sure it did on my brother, Oran, my sister, La Rhea and my father, James C. Nielson.  I was stunned with the news, and it seemed almost unrealistic.  I remember that for some reason I called my platoon together, which consisted of fifty men.  And informed them of my mother's passing.  My mother passed away 21 April, 1943, and it was at least two months before I received the word.  Although they sent word through the Red Cross and the other agencies to notify me.  I hadn't received the telegram even after a two month period of time.  

                Tunisia, North Africa is a very arid part of the land, it is rather flat with a few small mountains.   It has quite a hot temperature which would get up over 100 in the day.  But because it was mostly desert the nights were cool.  I remember then that I sat down and wrote a letter to my family.  Of course I told them that I was all right.  The interesting thing about these letters was that about all we could say was that we were somewhere in North Africa and that we were well.  We couldn't give the accounts of the day or any kind of news or information.  Not long ago I found a trunk that had my letters and read some of them.  I was surprised how uninformative and dull they were.  I remember also that every letter that was sent out from the front lines was read by an officer and censored.  It was my job to censor letters.  Since I had to censor my own letters, and because of the honor code it was impossible for me to justify that I should write anything other than what I was instructed to write. 

Mary & James Peterson
           affected her heart and it stopped functioning.  There were some other real problems involved.  My father called for my Uncle Bert Whiting who was the husband of his sister, Sadie Whiting, to come and administer to mother.  My father related later to me that in preparing the ordinance to administer to mother that the blessing was not for my mother at all but for my father, that he would be able to face the situation.  But he apparently received considerable comfort from this.  It was such a shock to him because she died so suddenly.  It happened that day shortly after the operation.  They performed an autopsy, and the results came back that she was full of cancer.  I received a letter from Doctor Glen B. Orton who was the attending physician.  It was a very nice letter that I've appreciated all my life.  He explained what had happened and about the kind of cancer that she had.  It was the type that would continue to spread throughout her entire body.  And it wouldn't have been long, had she lived, that she would have been bed-ridden.  And knowing my mother, and knowing what she had experienced as a child with her father;  I know that she was much happier to pass on than to live another six or eight months and suffer the agonies that would have faced her. 
     My father's letter gave me some details of my mother's passing.  Apparently my mother had been aware of a cyst under her arm and one on her breast for sometime.  She had decided that she would go to the hospital and have the cysts removed.  I don't know whether she had the fear of cancer or what, but my father told me later that as she got in the car to go to the Payson Hospital, she broke down and cried.  She said she would never see her home again.  It was a simple operation and apparently it was all the doctors had expected.  They gave her a local anesthetic, and she had had local anesthetic before when she had her teeth pulled and that sort of thing.  But for some reason the anesthetic

Elda  LeRoy Peterson
                Going back farther, to give the background on her father, after two children were born into the family, he was poisoned while he was out sheering sheep somewhere in south eastern Utah.  He was poisoned by the water, they said, and eventually it resulted in severe stomach problems, and also tuberculosis of the bone in his leg.  He had the leg amputated three times and he suffered considerable pain.  Doctor Taylor from Provo operated the last time, and cut the bone off square and didn't round it at all.  As a result he couldn't wear his artificial limb because the bone would poke right through the skin.  My mother saw all this suffering and in addition he got some kind of infection and he had to be castrated at an early age after my uncle Roy was born, and so he lost his virility.  Mother recounts, that one day their ward fasted and prayed, and he was administered to, for some kind of disorder.  He was healed immediately, and because of this he had a strong testimony of healing.  She saw him suffer a great deal, and he died at the age of 52, living approximately 25 years having these incapacity's.  Mother said to me on many occasions, that when she died, she wanted to go quickly, she didn't want to go through the suffering that her father did. 

                In summary, I felt that her passing, in as much as she had to die, that it was a blessing that she could die under these conditions rather than survive and go through the kind of problems she would have faced.  I presume that it was some sort of leukemia that she had, at least Dr. Orton said it was in her blood stream. 

                As a result of this untimely death my father suffered considerably, and he didn't seem to recover from it for a long time.  My brother, Oran who was only 15 years old at the time, probably was affected more adversely than any other member of the family.  He was especially close to his mother, and he seemed completely lost.  He started smoking at this time and wouldn't eat properly at all, about the only thing he did eat was soda pop.  Because of father's sorrows they lost all
communication.  When Oran became 18 he entered the service.  This was after I had come home in 1944.  I believe it was in 1945 when he entered the Navy.  Even to this day, now that Oran is about 52 years old, he hasn't fully recovered from the shock of her passing.  He never seemed to grow up and face the reality of the world, or fully resume responsibility.  He still acts more like a teenager than a man of 52.  I'm sure this wasn't entirely the cause, but I think her death effected him very much.  So, the death of my mother did cause some harsh repercussions.  My brother, Earl was in the South Pacific at the time of her death.  So, he and I were both away when it happened.  He didn't seem to be effected anymore than I was.  I remember when I left Italy after having been in the hospital, I received a picture from my father.  At that time he was 55 years old and he looked like a man of 65.  And I just couldn't face up to coming home.  And so, he got on a bus and came to visit me at the hospital Rome, Georgia.  After
Mary Halvorsen Peterson
LeRoy    Elda  James Peterson
 I saw him I felt much better.  This was in 1944 that I was in Rome, Georgia, and I had been wounded 29 January, of that same year.  It was in the later part of April or the first of March that I arrived at the  hospital in Rome.  And it was between that time and July that my father came to see me.  And then on 1 July I was transferred to Bushnell General Hospital in Brigham City, Utah.  There I was closer to home.  Once I got home it was fine and I was able to adapt to the situation and accept it as it was. 

                I might add that my mother was christened, Elda Peterson.  Her father was James C. Peterson and her mother was Mary Helvorson.  Through the years I have thought a lot about my mother.  I wondered about her condition and I have even had dreams about her that kept coming back again and again.  I would dream that she was alone and my father couldn't find her.  When I was in my late 50's the dreams stopped.  I think the reason the dreams stopped was because my father quit smoking and started to take an interest in the church.  By the time he died at 87 years I had ordained him a High Priest and he had done a lot of temple work.  He had

really changed his way of life considerably, because before he had been a non-conforming Mormon.  I believe because of the change in his life, that he made himself worthy to enter the Celestial Kingdom and there met mother.  So, the dreams stopped.  One day I told my father about this, not in detail but just a short explanation.   I told him that I knew things would be alright. 

                My mother was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Springville with my father at her side.  They have a single headstone with both their names on it.  They were originally married in the Salt Lake Temple 12 January, 1916. 

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