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home : columns : columns August 22, 2017

9/4/2013 1:44:00 PM
Back to school
Another school year is underway in Minnesota. For some, that day arrived two weeks ago, for others it didn't happen until Tuesday morning.
In the midst of wrapping up coverage of the Cottonwood County Fair, we weren't able to get any "back to school" photos for that week's issue. But Tuesday morning I took a short drive to Jeffers to check out the first day of school at Red Rock Central Elementary.
The school is home to preschool through fourth-grade students, the prime age for getting a flavor of the excitement of the first day of school. I don't really know of any other age where school tends to be more appealing.
There are the fourth-graders - the "veterans" of the Jeffers building - who have no doubt discovered every nook and cranny in their four years inside the school's walls. They have just a hint of an air of smugness about them because they are now the "oldest" students in the building.
Third-graders simply enjoy being there and eager to catch up with friends on what's happened over the summer.
First- and second-graders are just happy to be back in school, excited to meet their new teachers, find their lockers and put their belongings in their desk. They remember what it was like the year before and are eager to check out their new books and new class schedule.
And then there are the kindergartners, to whom everything is new. Some are downright scared to be starting school. In fact, there might be some tears those first few days, but they adjust and, little by little, they understand what school is all about.
They also learn what "all-day, everyday" kindergarten is all about. I know from my own grandson's first weeks of kindergarten that getting him to bed at night is now much easier because he's not use to a full day of school.
Yes, there is no mistaking the excitement that comes with the first day of school.
Dog tags returned
Barbara Turpin of Worthington is an avid reader of the Citizen and called to our attention a story that appeared in several state newspapers last month involving a local connection.
Last month, Constance Cowan, 87, of Duluth, a first cousin of Dr. C.O. Castledine of Windom, had dog tags belonging to her brother returned to her - nearly 70 years later.
According to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Constance's brother, James Cowan, was captured in 1942 while serving in Corregidor during World War II.
James lived with his father on a farm near Windom in the 1930s when he was a young boy. Constance, meanwhile, went to live with relatives when she was 4 years old. They were separated following the death of their mother during childbirth.
According to the article, James later worked on a farm in Iowa before enlisting in the U.S. Army in January 1941 at the age of 21.
Two years after his capture in Corregidor, the article said he was boarded on an unmarked Japanese POW ship and placed in the ship's hold. Not knowing that the ship was carrying American POWs, American air forces attacked the ship and 200 POWs were killed. Cowan was reported as "lost at sea," the article said.
A tour guide on the island of Armando Hildawa had Cowan's dog tags, saying that they were given to him as a thank you gift. The article said it is believed that the dog tags may have washed ashore after the area's rainy season. The guide later gave it to an American tourist, Brandon Ainsworth, who said he would return it to the deceased's family.
After searching through family records, Ainsworth found Cowan's sister, Constance, in Duluth, the only surviving member of James' immediate family, and sent the tags to her.
Cowan's name is listed among the more than 17,000 soldiers and 36,000 names in the military cemetery in Manila, Phillipines.

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