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Letter: A belated ‘thank you’ card to the VFW

A few months ago I was in the hospital and a nurse asked about the scars that cover the upper portion of my body, my arms and my neck, so I told her that when I was 3, I was over at a friend’s house and we were lighting candles for the christmas tree. I was holding the candles and my friend was lighting them and putting them on the oven door before hanging them on the tree. Then my dress caught on fire. I remember jumping up and down at the top of the staircase while my friend’s mother came running, pulling her apron off to try and smother the flames. I had been burnt severely over most of my body. My hair had been burnt off and my face and neck were terribly burned.

During this time, my dad belonged to the VFW, he had been in the Army stationed in France during World War I. In 1931 he was a husband and father of 6, unemployed and living in Corning, Minnesota. After the fire, dad came to Austin to speak with the VFW and ask them for help in getting his daughter into the hospital for treatment for severe burns. While I was in the hospital, I had to lay on my back with a pillow under my neck and my head thrown back and my arms tied to the bed’s headboard. I don’t remember how long I was there.

I don’t remember Christmastime that year either, but my older sisters told me many times what a wonderful Christmas eve we had. We started the evening eating watered down soup, dad put more fire in the wood-burning heatrola and told stories while mom took us each in turn behind the stove, where it was warmest to take a bath. Then all of a sudden the door opened and in walked Paul and Irene Lattin from the VFW they had brought a basket of food and presents for everyone. including pajamas for all the kids. For me, they brought a brand new baby doll, the most beautiful baby doll I had ever seen. She’s 89 years old now, and stays in a basket in my room.

Now I am 92 years old. I have Parkinson’s Disease and a difficult time taking care of myself, but I am staying at home with my daughter. Thanks to the VFW, Dr. CC Allen and St. Olaf Hospital in Austin, I am able to move my head and raise my arms. I decided to write this letter and say thank you to the VFW for helping a little girl so many years ago.

Ina Mae Parr

Austin, MN