May 13, 2008 My Memorial Day

My father, Robert (Bob) Lewis Rentz, died in early January of 2007.  A World War II veteran, his life was disrupted by service in the South Pacific.  Actually, “disrupted” is too strong a word, because I think he enjoyed his experience in the Signal Corps based on all those dinner table war stories when I was young.  He returned home in 1945, and resumed normal life in the Detroit area, soon marrying, raising a family, and having a long career as a draftsman and engineer at General Motors.  A normal, wonderful life, filled with vacations, friends, family outings, and all the other parts of post-war America.

My Dad’s uncle wasn’t so fortunate.  Although technically he was an uncle, Philip (Dude) Taliaferro was almost the same age as my father and was raised essentially as his brother in the same household by my Dad’s mother.  In early 1945, near the end of the war, Dude’s plane went down in the jungles of New Guinea or in the vast Pacific Ocean and was never found.  So he never got to experience the rest of life through the booming ’50s and 60’s and subsequent turbulent decades.  My mother knew Dude too (she grew up next door to her eventual husband (Bob Rentz) and Dude).  She described him as a handsome young man who had that quality of looking into a girl’s eyes and making her feel like she was the only person in the world.

When my parents were thinking about where they wanted to be buried, they agreed that Fort Custer National Cemetery, near Battle Creek, Michigan, would be a fine place.  My mother also looked into having a memorial for Philip Taliaferro placed in the missing-in-action section of the Fort Custer Cemetery, because she felt that his name might otherwise be forgotten.  Independently, and at nearly the same time, the army contacted my mother, and through her, found Dude’s closest living relatives and obtained DNA samples from them in case the missing plane should ever be found.

So, my Dad and Dude ended up with memorials in the same cemetery, which you can see in the accompanying pictures.  They are among graves of (mostly) men who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Mideast wars.  This was my first time back to Fort Custer since the year-earlier ceremony when Dad’s ashes were placed in the sacred ground, and it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place.  Tears flowed freely in memory of my wonderful Dad and in memory of all the others who gave so much..

Photography is my passion, and even on this sad day of memories I wanted to take some technically proficient pictures of the gravestones and the setting.  I hope you get a sense of the reverence I feel for all these old soldiers and their sacrifices.

This is part of a weblog documenting my travels and photography. I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at

Click on the photographs below to see a larger version with captions.