breaking news

Molly Ringwald recounts sexual harassment, assault by 'the other Harvey Weinsteins'

Veteran project connects grandson with deceased grandfather


Tom Ratliff was searching the internet to learn more about his deceased grandfather when he discovered an oral history of his military service — all thanks to the Mary L. Cook Public Library’s participation in a national project more than a decade ago.

“I was trying to find his military records online. I stumbled across the Veterans History Project (VHP) maybe a year ago and saw there was a cassette tape of the interview at the Library of Congress. They required an advanced notice, and I would have had to travel to Washington, D.C.,” Ratliff said. “Recently, I looked up the project again and saw he was interviewed by members of the Mary L. Cook Public Library. I went to their site and right there on the page was a YouTube video of the interview.”

For 45 minutes, Richard L. Levering details his military experiences as part of the Library of Congress’ VHP, which seeks to collect and preserve oral histories of veterans to share with future generations.

“None of my family — mom, brother, aunts, uncles or cousins — knew he participated. I think my grandma knew but had never seen the video. There were a few moments in the interview that we all teared up when we watched it individually,” said Ratliff, who lives near Greenfield, Ind., where Levering settled after retiring from the military. “He spoke about how he would do it all over again, because he loved America and loved the Service. He also spoke about how it’s all of our duty to safeguard liberty and keep America free. That was a really good description of who he was, a good snapshot of his character and what made him tick.”

Born May 15, 1926, in Wilmington, Ohio, Levering served in the U.S. Army during World War II and in the Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam eras. He taught high school English and American literature until retiring from his second career in 2003. He died Jan. 22, 2004 from a brain tumor.

“I spent a lot of time with him when I was growing up. My wife and kids never got to meet him, so having that 45 minutes of him telling his story is huge,” Ratliff said. “He just loved America. He was intelligent, articulate and just that classic ‘Greatest Generation’ kind of guy. He was a great Granddad, a great role model for me. He definitely instilled those old-time values in me that seem to be missing in parts of our society today.”

Beginning in 2001, librarian Kathy Colvin spearheaded the local effort to collect more than 200 veteran histories.

“The VHP especially wanted to record stories of service people from WWII, estimated to die at a rate of 400 per day. If we did not capture these first-hand accounts while we had the opportunity, their stories would be gone forever, lost to future generations. There is nothing quite like hearing a story from the person who lived it,” she said.

A Mary L. Cook team went to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to conduct interviews of veterans, including Levering’s.

“For me personally, each story gave me a deeper understanding of the word, ‘service.’ From listening to the participants recite their daily routines to their in-the-moment perceptions of the realities of war, it painted a picture for me of what is asked of men and women in these situations. Both the contrasts and similarities of their stories are remarkable,” said Colvin, the mother of an Army major.

Little did she know the impact those interviews would have 15 years later.

“It brought tears to our eyes when Mr. Levering’s grandson contacted us after accidentally finding his grandfather’s interview online and hearing him express how much it meant to him,” Colvin said. “The Mary L. Cook Public Library is proud and humbled to have taken part in this endeavor.”

Contact this contributing writer at lisa.knodel@gmail.com.

Contact this contributing writer at lisa.knodel@gmail.com.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

How did DAYTON’S river skyline end up on the label of a MASSACHUSETTS beer?
How did DAYTON’S river skyline end up on the label of a MASSACHUSETTS beer?

We were curious. How in the WORLD did the Dayton Riverscape fountains, the Great Miami River and the Dayton skyline end up on the label of a beer brewed in Ipswich, Massachusetts? So we asked — and we got the whole story. The brewery is located at 4716 Wilmington Pike in Kettering. Here’s the full explanation from Bryan Doran, director...
You’ll kick yourself if you miss out on Masquerage 2017 this weekend 
You’ll kick yourself if you miss out on Masquerage 2017 this weekend 

It is almost time to get lost. Organizers are gearing up for Masquerage 2017, the biennial bash thrown by Equitas Health (formerly AIDS Resource Center Ohio).   “It is all about raising awareness and funds for our mission,” Wanda Willis, an Equitas spokeswoman said of the event.  Alexis Michelle, the stage name...
Can you master this Dayton mega hiking challenge?
Can you master this Dayton mega hiking challenge?

Camaraderie, calorie burning and even creativity – the Every Trail MetroPark Challenge Series can provide it all. “Hiking is a great way to clear your head, reset, refocus and find inspiration,” avid hiker Michelle Coleman said. It was, in fact, while Michelle and her husband Brian were on a hike a few years ago that the concept of...
You have to see this gorgeous, glowing display at Aullwood
You have to see this gorgeous, glowing display at Aullwood

Glowing art installations at night? This event is giving us ALL the heart-eyes. Enjoy a glowing wonderland of luminescent art installations and fiery entertainment at GLOW: Nature at Night, a reinvention of Enchanted Forest.  The event will be held from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 21-22 at Aullwood Farm, 9101 Frederick Pike, Dayton.   There...
Here’s how you can make a difference in your parks on the nation’s largest day of service
Here’s how you can make a difference in your parks on the nation’s largest day of service

If you love the Five Rivers MetroParks, here’s the perfect opportunity to give back. The Dayton-based parks organization is participating in this year’s national Make a Difference Day from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 28. If you want to be involved, you need to register online by Tuesday, Oct. 24.  Community members of all ages...
More Stories