This is an ongoing project, so expect to see updates to the FAQ over time.
Q: What happened after you returned Leon’s letters to him?
A: I had a number of “dates” with Leon in 2003-2004 to talk about the various people and events he mentioned in them. It was very important to him that I be able to put them in proper context. Unfortunately, I lost touch with him when he moved into assisted living a few years later. He died in 2007 at the age of 91. According to his son, he was “in full possession of his mental faculties all the way close to the very end.”
Q: Where are you finding the information to flesh these letters out?
A: Notes from my conversations with Leon form the foundation, obviously, but I’m picking up bits of information from all sorts of places, from genealogy websites to digital archives. Delving into Leon’s military service is turning out to be more complicated than expected — a fire that swept through the Army’s archives in St. Louis in 1973 destroyed most records dated 1912 to 1960, Leon’s most likely among them — but I’m still hoping that once I get his service number, I’ll be able to find at least some background information that can help flesh out his time in uniform.
I’m also in the process of transcribing a photocopy of Elly’s diary from 1940, which overlaps with some of the letters and offers her perspective on the couple’s courtship.
Q: Who is [Rudy, Fred, Wm, Lee, Bea, Erz, etc.]
A: The cast of characters in order of appearance, as I’ve been able to piece it together so far:
• Bernie - Elly’s older brother, Bernard
• Teres - Teresa, Bernie’s wife
• Rudy - Elly’s older sister, Ruth, sometimes also called Rue or Ru
• Sid - Elly’s younger brother
• William - Elly’s youngest brother, sometimes also called Billy or “Wm”
• Fred - Leon’s older brother, for 10 years a viola player with the Cleveland Orchestra
• Rachel - Fred’s girlfriend and later wife, a pianist
• Momzy - Leon’s mother
• Bea - Leon’s younger sister
• Erz - Bea’s husband, one of Leon’s close friends
• Mollke - Molly, a close friend of Elly’s
• Gilda - Leon’s much younger half-sister
• Phil - a friend of Leon’s and Elly’s in Cleveland
• Rick - a friend of Leon’s and Elly’s in Cleveland
• Lee - Leon Friedman, Leon’s first roommate in DC
• Rosie - Lee F.’s girlfriend back in Akron
• Syl and Bernie - the Wishneks, a couple Leon became friends with in DC
• Eve - a friend of Elly’s in Cleveland
Q: Did Leon know you intended to publish his letters?
A: Yes, and he gave me written permission to do so. I think he would have loved this project; he was kind of a ham, and he was fascinated by blogs. (I remember his being very excited about Daily Kos in the run-up to the 2004 elections.)
Q: How does the Rosenberg family feel about this project?
A: I’m in touch with both of his kids fairly regularly by phone and email, and I think I can safely say that they’re enjoying it almost as much as I am! They’ve each shared wonderful stories about their parents’ later marriage and their life as a family, and they’ve given me access to other family photos and papers. In fact, his son recently unearthed several additional letters from Leon’s time in the military, and I’m looking forward to reading them and fitting them into the timeline.