By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Sandy Larsen, Bowlus, was cleaning out some old stuff in her basement. She came across the suitcase where her husband, Denny, keeps articles from his time in Vietnam.
“What do you want to keep from all this and what can I throw?” she asked him.
Larsen said he wanted to go through the stuff first. That’s when he found the letter.
Larsen graduated from Upsala High School in 1963 and entered the armed services almost immediately. He was stationed in Georgia for two years, training for what he later found out was Vietnam.
“My entire division went to Nam in 1965,” he said. “I signed up for a two-year stint, so I was only there for nine months.”
During those nine months, a woman in Fort Worth, Texas, named Dorothy Keoughan, was sending goodies and letters to the soldiers. It was for no other reason than she was young, newly-married and didn’t have a lot of money to do anything else.
A 1966 article in the Fort Worth Press News talked about Keoughan as being “Ma” to the GIs.
Some of the soldiers wrote her back. Larsen was one of them.
“Those goodies she sent were welcomed,” said Larsen. “C-rations were not much and there was not a lot of extra weight on any of us. The packaged goodies were shared with everyone.”
When Larsen wrote his last letter to Keoughan, he said he was going home soon. She wrote back, saying he really should stop in Fort Worth on his way to Minnesota.
“She was insistent, but because of limited funds, previous plans and the urge to get home, I declined,” Larsen said.
Larsen met and married Sandy Welcome in 1968.
Inside the suitcase that Sandy found in the basement were letters, pictures, news articles and that last letter from Keoughan.
“We were planning a trip to Texas, so decided to contact Dorothy and see if we could meet,” said Larsen.
The information operator Larsen talked to was helpful even though there were many Keoughans in the phonebook, but no Dorothy. He gave Larsen one name and number, which turned out to be a relative of the Keoughans in question.
When Larsen got Keoughan on the line, he said his name and asked her if she knew him. She said “No.” When he read the letter to her, then she remembered writing it.
When the Larsens arrived in Fort Worth, they got together with Keoughan and her husband, Marty, for dinner.
“They were an enjoyable couple,” said Sandy. “I was worried about what we were going to talk about, but they were very outgoing.”
Keoughan said that during the time she was writing the soldiers, she felt bad for all of them since the people back home were protesting the war.
The two families plan to keep in touch.