Flowers for a Lincoln buried in Spain
Jeremy O. Simer sends a touching note:
A couple of months ago, my friend Lonnie Nelson called from Seattle to ask me to help her arrange for someone in Gandesa (Tarragona) to lay flowers there in memory of her uncle Kenneth Frederick Nelson, who died in combat there in 1938, at the age of 22. I gladly agreed and tracked down the phone number of Floristeria el Trèvol, where a woman named Teresa took my unusual order: a dozen red carnations, to be distributed at three sites. These were to be Nelson’s gravestone in the municipal cemetery, the monument to the Republic’s airplane pilots in the park, and a third location Teresa wasn’t as clear about – a monument in town Lonnie said was dedicated to all of the the Republic’s defenders. No matter, Teresa said, she would be glad to figure it out and deliver the flowers on the Day of the Dead. In a heartbeat, my sister Kate in Barcelona agreed to deposit the cost of the flowers in el Trèvol’s Caixa account.
Teresa made good on her promise, and then some. As she wrote soon after:
“On November 2, as we agreed, we went to the municipal cemetery and it was easy to find the plaque with the name of Frederick Nelson, and we left the bouquet there with emotion and gratitude for his struggle for freedom, then we left the second bunch at the memorial to the pilots in the city park, and the third we took to the Serra de Pàndols, where at the top there is a monument to all the Republicans who fought in the Battle of the Ebro, in particular in the ‘baby bottle draft,’ the youngest soldiers called to fight. I don’t know if you have noticed that I am writing ‘we’ in the plural, since my sister and my niece went with me, I told them the story of your phone call and they were very interested, and as you can imagine we feel closer to the Republican cause. You can tell your friend that every year will take flowers to the municipal cemetery in memory of Frederick Nelson. We will always remember them.”
A few days ago, Teresa’s 15-year-old niece, Ariadna, wrote to say she plans to write a paper in school about the Americans who volunteered to defend the Republic, and asking if Lonnie and I could lend a hand. I think you’ll understand why reading each of these emails brought tears to my eyes. (Attached is a photo of Teresa, Ariadna, and her mother.)
Later this week, Shelley and I will travel to San Francisco to spend Christmas with family. After the feasting, gift-giving, and listening to “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” read by Dylan Thomas, we plan to visit the Abraham Lincoln Brigade memorial near the Embarcadero. We haven’t been, and are looking forward to honoring those volunteers’ bravery and sacrifice, including one ALB vet I fondly remember, Abe Oscheroff; and celebrating this new friendship borne of historical memory and international solidarity.