Holcombe of Newark writes inspirational poem and song during World War II

The three sons of Milton and Fleeta Holcombe; Russell, Lester and Forrest, who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, stayed in touch with their families back home.

In the fall of 1944, Lester who was stationed in India, sent a package to Newark with gifts for his parents. For his mother, he attached a piece of embroidery made of metallic thread on velvet and silver jewelry of flowers and cobweb patterns. Her father’s gift was less peaceful. Lester sent him a Gurkha knife like the one carried by the natives in Italy.

A Newark Advocate reporter described the blade in an August 24, 1944, article; “The knife is a scary thing. Notches in the blade secure it in a horn-like sheath of thick black leather. Two minor sheaths sit on top of the larger one and each holds a much smaller but straight dagger-like blade in thick wooden handles. The three knives are well worn and show signs of use. The story of the knife sent to Ohio is a story that has to wait for Lester to come home. The outfit gives a sense of unease and it’s safe to guess that Holcombe’s peaceful living room is the stark contrast to anything the Gurkha knife has been used to.

The Holcombe boys were not the only ones to support the war effort, however. Ms Holcombe was known to write poetry in her spare time which was used on radio and published in newspapers. She had written a poem for one of her sons which she had titled “The four-leaf clover” which had been broadcast on the radio. It was so popular that she received over 200 letters asking for copies. Recently, she had submitted a song she had written and composed for publication called “I wear my heart on my sleeve for you.” The song was written about the service men and was said to have had a “singing melody”.

Ms Holcombe confessed that she originally composed the music and lyrics on butcher paper from the grocery store and it took her a year to complete. It was dedicated to his three sons and their wives. The title page was to carry the image of his boys. Success Music Company of Aurora, Illinois was chosen to be the publisher of the work and it was available locally at the Dowling Music Store in the Arcade, the McMichael Music Store at 17 West Church St. and at the music department of the SS Kresge. stores on North Third Street.

Soon, the patriotic and personal song was playing on the radio to the delight of those who heard it.

Doug Stout is the Veterans Project Coordinator for the Licking County Library. You can contact him at 740-349-5571 or dstout@lickingcountylibrary.org. His book “Never Forgotten: The Stories of Licking County Veterans” is available for purchase at the library or online at bookbaby.com.

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