Need to Nomad Blog

Musings from a curious nomad … 

“Thankful Generations" - WWII Project - Part 8

Chester Aloysious Kenney WWII 001

My grandfather, Chester Aloysious Kenney, was an Engineer in the Corps of Engineers in WWII.  There he is, in the middle of this group photo, looking dapper with his serious sideways glance. He’s the latest subject for my Thankful Generations bead tapestry project.


Here’s my enormous new 32” loom, a recent gift from my wonderful husband. This is my new work station, complete with the usual color palette of beads, rulers, scissors, thread, journal, pencil, and bristle brush, along with the photo of my subject in the top left corner of the loom, and replicated below. 

100 1107

CAK on the Docks

With 17 rows complete, I’ve only laid down 2,142 beads, with 197 rows and 24,822 beads to go!  Doesn’t look like much right now, but I’ll keep you posted as this progresses. 

Did you know that in 1999 the month of May was designated as National Military Appreciation Month? Established by Congress, this gesture was instituted to ensure that the citizenry can publically and formally demonstrate our appreciation for the sacrifices and successes made by our servicemembers - both past and present. What a fitting moment to re-start my “Thankful Generations” tapestry project! Sorry for the hiatus, but selling our house and moving our  household has been no small endeavor, and quite frankly knocked the stuffing out  of my creativity. Stress does that, right?

So here’s to Grampa Kenney, and the amazing Corps of Engineers! 

Veterans Day 2014 - Giving Thanks


My mother-in-law, Doris (Jacobson) Neuren, one of the original WAVE's in WWII

As I continue beading my way through time, I am reminded of WHAT I’m doing constantly, and WHY I’m doing it less frequently, so here’s a recap. 

This first “Thankful Generations” Project commemorates the sacrifices made during World War II by those who served in the military, their families, individual citizens and whole communities around the nation. The artistic venue of beadwork is used to create representational tapestries depicting thematic aspects of America’s actions in World War II. My highest aspiration is that the completed tapestries, along with supporting materials, will be assembled as a traveling art exhibit featured in selected museums and galleries across the country. I have a long way to go to complete this, and chip away as I find time.  

The goals of the project are:

- To thank all those who have served or are serving in the military on behalf of our nation.

- To provide a new and different way to honor and respect what happened in the Second World War. 

- To raise awareness about the ongoing significance of WWII on today’s society.

- To ensure that younger generations learn about and appreciate the most world-defining event in modern history.

So far, I’ve completed five tapestries, and I want to take the time right now to respect and honor each individual represented in my beading endeavors.


Above is my greatest inspiration, a true American hero, my Uncle Arthur Swanson. He served as a radio man with E Company, 313th Infantry Regiment, 79th Division.


Joseph Vierra Cardoza, a US Navy Corpsman during WWII, recipient of the Purple Heart, and father of our dear friend, Rod Cardoza.


This is based on one of the sweetest WWII photos Ive seen, a wedding portrait of William Harvel (a Seabee) born in Tulsa, OK in 1921, and his beautiful bride, Audrey Mitchell. They are the parents of my brother-in-law, Gary Harvel.


My original tapestry based on an iconic photograph of a Marine in Saipan in 1944. Source: National Archives (127-GR-113-83414)

When will I be done? Not sure, but I’m keeping things moving. Next tapestry is of my grandfather, Chester Aloysious Kenney, who served in the Corps of Engineers.


"Thankful Generations” WWII Project - Part 7


This may be the sweetest WWII photo I have ever seen, a wedding portrait of William Harvel (1921-1998) born in Tulsa, OK and his beautiful bride, Audrey Mitchell.  Yet, my first attempt at creating a bead tapestry with their photograph ended in disappointment.  Intimidated? Definitely.  Feeling pressured for time? Yes.  Self-imposed demands to get as many tapestries done as possible? Guilty.

In my haste to complete this project as quickly as possible, I set aside my normal routine of making subtle but necessary changes as I went, and allowed the pattern to dictate the process.  Big mistake.  Though my first effort wasn’t bad, the second was created with much more attention to detail.


The Harvels … 

My brother-in-law, Gary, who knows this couple as “Mom and Dad”, reflects on his father’s service as a revered Seabee … 

"I know his unit was attached to the First Marine Division for some of their battles in the Pacific. He was wounded by a Japanese hand grenade on the island of Peleliu, but he served on several other islands. I have not had much luck finding records, since it was not uncommon to attach part of a Seabee battalion to a marine unit.....and the people writing the history only talk about the main unit.”

Though we don’t know many details about his actual service, I am thankful for his part in securing our freedoms.  So in honor of William's service, and those of his fellow Seabees, I share “The Song of the Seabees” ala Judy Garland from 1944:

The Song of the Seabees

Words by Sam M. Lewis
Music by Peter de Rose

We're the Seabees of the Navy
We can build and we can fight
We'll pave the way to victory
And guard it day and night
And we promise that we remember
The “Seventh of December”

We're the Seabees of the Navy
Bees of the Seven Seas

The Navy wanted men
That's where we came in
Mister Brown and Mister Jones
the Owens, Cohens, and Flynn
The Navy wanted more
Of uncle Sammy's kin
So we all joined up
And brother we're in to win

“Thankful Generations” WWII Project - Part 6


Here is the completed tapestry of Purple Heart recipient, US Navy Corpsman Joseph Vierra Cardoza. His son, Rod shares more of his fathers' history: 

"One interesting story he related to me was once they were anchored on his ship (an LST) in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea where they were witness to a mid-air collision of two friendly forces airplanes.  The men on the ship could see that parachutes were deployed and my father asked the officer of the deck if he could take a landing craft to the scene.  The officer acquiesced.  Upon arrival, my father said the wounded pilots had just entered the water.  One was picked up readily.  The other had already dipped below the surface and was sinking due to the weight of his gear and the salt water saturation of his silk parachute.  My father grabbed a long grappling hook in an attempt to snag the parachute and missed it by mere inches.  In the clear tropical waters the would-be rescuers watched the wounded pilot, with arm outstretched, sink ever deeper into the abyss.  My father said he had nightmares about this for years to come."

Cardoza 5

Through capturing and sharing such stories, I am reinvigorated in my efforts to complete this project. I still have a long way to go! The impact WWII had on our world, in big and small ways remains in evidence even today.  Rod’s story of his dad continues, "My father had a major impact on my desire to serve in the Navy.  As a little boy in the 1950's I never tired of hearing of his "War Stories" on a Saturday morning laying in he and my mother's bed.

Is there someone in your life with similar stories? Start a dialogue and see where it leads … you may be surprised at what you find out, even from people you may have known your entire life. 

“Thankful Generations” WWII Project - Part 5

Cardoza 2

Meet US Navy Corpsman Joseph Vierra Cardoza, the subject of my latest WWII tapestry. His son, Rod shares his story: "I believe the image you have there is of him during his service as a U.S. Navy Corpsman stationed in Borneo in 1943.  He told me he was part of a "Cub Unit" in support of the wounded as a result of battles during the "Island Hopping Campaign". It was not a safe job for him.  On several occasions he was subject to front line fighting and ended up being the recipient of the Purple Heart medal."


The Purple Heart. The most recognized symbol of military bravery and sacrifice, it is conferred upon military members wounded or killed in action. How many of us can even appreciate what it takes to qualify for such an heroic distinction?


Rod continues, "Upon the bombing of Pearl Harbor in late 1941, my father immediately enlisted in the Navy, much to the chagrin of his mother, whom he said literally fell on the floor crying and pounding her fists when she learned of his decision.  Because of his apparent aptitude for caring, he was assigned duty in the Naval Medical Crops as a Pharmacist's Mate.  After training in Seattle and here in San Diego's newly formed Camp Kidd, he was sent to the South Pacific in mid-1942.  Most of his duty time was spent in Northern Australia and in Borneo.  He did see combat at Peleliu and Okinawa.  Peleliu ended up being the most costly battle of the War for the Americans in terms of casualties.  And my father, as a corpsman, said it was the most horrific experience of his life.

My project continues to highlight the freedoms we enjoy as the “thankful generations who followed  this greatest generation in the world after WWII. At this point, I am 45% complete with the bead weaving  that equates to over 8,200 beads thus far.  Stay tuned as more of the tapestry is revealed and more of Joseph story unfolds. 


Thankful Generations Tapestry #3, Joseph Cardoza, 1943

“Thankful Generations” WWII Project - Part 4


Honor. Sacrifice. Commitment. 

Since May of 2013, my hands, mind and heart have been engaged in a labor of love creating a beaded tapestry dedicated to my Uncle Arthur*.  This tapestry is the second in my “Thankful Generations” WWII series, and requires only the finishing frame to be complete. 

I am humbled by this process and by what this project represents, and am eager to begin work on Tapestry #3. The year 2015 will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, and by then I hope to complete at least six more pieces to include in a traveling exhibit. 

As we round out another year and look forward to 2014, I am thankful for the freedoms I enjoy, and the life that I am privileged to share with my family and friends. We all stand upon the shoulders of the giants of our collective past, and I will continue to honor our heroes in my own unique way.  Happy New Year everyone.

* Follow this link to learn more about my very special Uncle Arthur:

Whisper White with Torch Red Interior

What's not to love about my 2002 Ford T-Bird? She's sleek, pristine, and has  marvelous red pinstriping. Whisper White exterior with Torch Red interior, opera window in the hard top, and a smooth gliding soft top. What's not to love?


My love affair with cars started in high school when I  bought my first car, a 1977 Camaro I nicknamed Sasha. I was taking a Russian class at the time, so the name seemed fitting enough.  Next came the white 1967 Mustang with a maroon hard top and original pony interior. A real head turner. Sadly her repairs in the first year exceeded what I originally paid for her so I sent her out to pasture. 


Following a short relationship with a totally reliable but boring Toyota Celica, I fell head-over-heels for a luscious show room floor 1990 white Alfa Romeo sedan. That year on Halloween I actually dressed up for work wearing a heavily sequined shirt emblazened with the Alfa Romeo insignia, wearing a sign that said "ANTHROPOMORPHIZE … I AM THE CAR, THE CAR IS ME". Go figure. Love makes no sense at all.


I promised myself years ago that I would NEVER fall in love with another car.  Never.  So silly to pour emotions into an automobile, like pumping gas into the tank. No matter how much you pump the gas, it always needs more.


But Whisper White with Torch Red interior. Who can resist? What's not to love? I guess I'll just keep pumping those crazy emotions into this lovely little car. After all, every nomad needs a cool set of wheels!


Appalachian Trail Adventures

White trail markers along the path guide us as we trudge the 3.9 miles to McAfee Knob. Just 30 minutes outside of Salem, Virginia, this magnificent perch at 3,200 feet above sea level is fabled to be the most photographed spot on the entire Appalachian Trail.  Though not a difficult hike, nearly four hours of trudging means a sore body and welcome slumber at days end. 

Thank goodness for our iPhone camera, since the little Samsung digital camera we brought along is now somewhere a few hundred feet below this cliff.  Having just crawled on hands and knees to peer over the side, I can verify that it is a LONG WAY DOWN.  Some forest creature is going to have fun taking pictures of the numerous crazy tourists hanging out along the trail.  Farside cartoon? I think so.


As we stand along this ridge, enjoying the breathtaking scenery and bidding our camera farewell, I am reminded of my only other Appalachian Trail hike some twenty-three years before. My jouney to Mount Katahdin in Maine, also known as the Northern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail, was unlike any other hike before or after. Up the Chimney Pond trail, traversing with caution the infamous Knife Edge, down the Saddle trail to base camp. Beer and rehydrated MRE's (meals-ready-to-eat) never tasted so good to me. 

Why has it taken this hiking nomad so long to get back to the Trail? Life. Family. Busy-ness. Though I'm not complaining, I am dusting off my hiking boots for more Appalachian Trail adventures in the near future.

Watching in awe as nature unfolds


The mind is an amazing tool. As I lay down to sleep last night, I told my brain to wake me up so I could watch the annual Perseid meteor shower.  And so my brain woke me up at precisely 3:33 a.m. Wide awake and ready to gaze. The fact that '3' is my all time favorite number in the whole wide world - make that in the whole wide universe - just made the timing more perfect.


Ask my siblings about fond memories from our childhood, and most likely they will say “I remember Dad getting us up at two in the morning to see a meteor shower”.  Or the rings of Saturn. Or a comet at midnight, or a lunar eclipse at 3 a.m.  Or a road trip to Prince Edward Island to see the full solar eclipse.  Our recollections are vivid, voices full of nostalgia and longing.  Memories abound of abandoned slumber, replaced by amazement as we stand pajama clad in the backyard to watch some astronomical wonder unfold.  I remember these sensations as I curl up on the lawn chair watching meteor after meteor this morning. The very act of stargazing, of looking up at the sky forces our jaws to drop.  I often wonder if this is by design, forcing us to watch in awe when casting our gaze to the magnificent sky?


Dad is a stargazer, an astronomer, a dreamer, an enthusiast of mysteries and things far away.  He is an engineer in everything he does, not just at work, but in the common puzzles of life.  He questions, probes, wonders, but never demands an answer. He waits patiently for whatever discovery evolves from his inquiries.  Am I lucky enough to have inherited this sweet patience? Alas not, but it is this patience for which I strive as I get older and more mellow.


And so, as I look up at the sky this morning watching the much-anticipated annual Perseid meteor shower, I thank my Dad for all the precious gifts he has given me, not the least of which is stargazing and nomadic curiosity. Dad's imagination sparked my curiosity, his enthusiasm encouraged me to grasp what life has to offer and enjoy to the fullest. [Photos of Lunar Eclipse 1975 by Matthew James Kenney]


Just having fun California style


Jellyfishing at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach CA


Queen Mary, Long Beach CA


Alan and friends, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach CA


Beautiful flower, Bonita CA


Beautiful flowers, Bonita CA


Engine Room, Queen Mary, Long Beach CA


On deck, Queen Mary, Long Beach CA (not sure who they are, but the ceremony was lovely)


Woodpecker, Santa Catalina Island, Avalon CA


Beerpeckers, Santa Catalina Island, Avalon CA 


Beautiful flower, how lovely … Santa Catalina Island, Avalon CA


Curious plumage, Cactus Garden, Balboa Park, San Diego CA

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