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The Name in the Stone @ The New American Digest [BUMPED UP: scroll down for new posts]

On Living with the Loss of a Son in Wartime. Written and first published on Memorial Day, 2003

My name, “Gerard Van der Leun,” is an unusual one. So unusual, I’ve never met anyone else with the same name. I know about one other man with my name, but we’ve never met. I’ve seen his name in an unusual place. This is the story of how that happened.

It was an August Sunday in New York City in 1975. I’d decided to bicycle from my apartment on East 86th and York to Battery Park at the southern tip of the island. I had nothing else to do and, since I hadn’t been to the park since moving to the city in 1974, it seemed like a destination that would be interesting. Just how interesting, I had no way of knowing when I left.

August Sundays in New York can be the best times for the city. The psychotherapists are all on vacation — as are their clients and most of the other professional classes. The city seems almost deserted, the traffic light and, as you move down into Wall Street and the surrounding areas, it becomes virtually non-existent. On a bicycle, you own the streets that form the bottom of the narrow canyons of buildings where, even at mid-day, it is still cool with shade. Then you emerge from the streets into the bright open space at Battery Park.

Tourists are lining up for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. A few people are coming and going from the Staten Island Ferry terminal. There are some scattered clots of people on the lawns of Battery Park. Everything is lazy and unhurried.

I’d coasted most of the way down to the Battery that day since, even though it appears to be flat, there is a very slight north-to-south slope in Manhattan. I arrived only a bit hungry and thirsty and got one of the dubious Sabaretts hot dogs and a chilled coke from the only vendor working the park.

We were in the midst of what now can be seen as “The Long Peace.”

The twin towers loomed over everything, thought of, if they were thought of at all, as an irritation in that they blocked off so much of the sky. It was 1975 and, Vietnam notwithstanding, America was just about at the midway point between two world wars. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. The only war we knew of was the Second World War and the background hum of the Cold War. It was a summer Sunday and we were in the midst of what now can be seen as “The Long Peace.” . . . .

Continued now at The Name in the Stone

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bear Claw Chris Lapp December 8, 2022, 9:26 AM

    Years ago this is one of the first of your stories I came across. It will be on my bucket list to visit battery park until the day I die or get it done. May God Bless all your family Gerard.

  • MikeyB December 8, 2022, 3:55 PM

    Beautiful story Gerard, beautiful heritage. My grandmother was lucky, all four of her sons served in WWII, and all four came home uninjured. However, they all quit high school to enlist, so spent their post war years catching up with their education. It was a struggle to work, be a husband and father, and go to school in the evenings. Those were tough times, and nobody complained, because everybody was in the same situation. By the time I arrived in 1951, they had moved on up from a cold water walk-up to a trailer in the suburbs.

  • Casey Klahn January 28, 2023, 4:09 PM

    And now Gerard van der Leun has parted us, in 2023, and his name is also written in the meat of our hearts, I think, forever. Flesh, and stone. Honor to him and to his kin.

    But since it falls unto my lot
    That I should rise and you should not

    I’ll raise a parting glass with all of you, to Gerard.

    • Mary Ann January 28, 2023, 5:05 PM

      To Gerard!

    • Terry January 28, 2023, 6:40 PM

      Very well written Casey. I am very pleased someone can write what should be written about our past dear friend. I am at a wall, I cannot write anything that expresses my sentiments as clearly as I would wish.

      Our Gerard now truly walks with God-

    • LadyBikki January 29, 2023, 7:44 AM

      I’ll raise a glass of Blanton’s ( and gladly share )
      To Gerard !

      • CarlosMartillo February 10, 2023, 9:41 AM

        Two days ago I found out that Gerard had left us. He was a treasure. I wasn’t expecting this so it has hit very hard. He left us too soon.

        You rest in peace my brother. I raise my glass to you. It was an honor.

    • Foo January 29, 2023, 2:53 PM

      To Gerard!

      • Chris Garcia January 31, 2023, 1:21 AM

        Salute….Go with God Gerard

  • Geo January 28, 2023, 6:50 PM

    I grew up just north of where this monument is located. I lived in Yorkville on the east side.

    On occasion I would ride my bike down along the FDR drive down to the tip of Manhattan where this monument is located. I visited it on a couple of occasions. Those were the days it wasn’t at the risk of your life.

    This was just one of the many great stories that Gerard shared with us.

    The first story that drew me to American Digest and made me a big fan was Gerard’s accounts on the tragic day of 9-11 and what he witnessed that day.

    So many great memories, such a great writer. He’ll be missed by many.

  • David January 28, 2023, 9:37 PM

    I think I recall reading this when Gerard first published on American Digest.
    Tonight, I looked it up in the archives and read it to my wife, who has never read American Digest. Reading it out loud, there are a couple places where my voice got thick.

    I live pretty far from Manhatten, but I was there in 2016, and made a point of going down to the Battery, and I did see the “name in the stone”. Gerard Vanderluen, the uncle of our Gerard.
    It did mean something to me, like touching something that you think you only imagined, but was actually real.
    And now, all going away, like tears in the rain. There seems a time comes in the lives of most of us, when we start losing more than we are gaining. This seems like one of those singular moments.

  • TN Tuxedo January 29, 2023, 5:09 AM

    For anyone wishing to visit the memorial in Battery Park, it’s called the East Coast Memorial.

  • waitingForTheStorm January 29, 2023, 5:34 AM

    This was the first long form article I read on Gerard’s blog. I don’t know how many years ago I started reading it; but, I have read it and cried every year since I encountered it. It is a stirring tale of discovery, loss, the folly of youth, hubris, and acceptance. A panoply of stories that mirror our journey of maturity and it nicely covers what I believe is the human condition.

    I will miss Gerard’s posts for their quality and for the diversity of ideas he presents. This was the article that brought me back to this blog as the second read of my day, every day, for a very long time. Fare well.

  • ghostsniper January 29, 2023, 8:58 AM

    Now that time is possibly short for the lifespan of AD I’ll mention again that you can download the entire site for perusing the articles and commentary at your leisure.
    You can use the free program named Cyotek Webcopy to do so, available here:

    I did this last week but be advised the site is enormous.
    It took me about 35 hours of continuous downloading and about 5.04 GB of hard drive space.
    It downloads into a folder on your C drive titled: americandigest.org
    Under that folder are 11,777 subfolders containing 67,114 files.
    The “working” files in those subfolders are *.htm and will open in your chosen browser showing that specific web page like the day it was born.
    The folders are not chronographically located but rather alphabetically.
    The first “working” folder is named: 1-formula-one-driver-lewis-hamilton-is-an-idiot
    The “working” file in that folder is named: index.htm
    If you click on that file it will open in your browser and appear as it does at this location:

  • ghostsniper January 29, 2023, 9:01 AM

    Alternately, if you have the adobe pdf print driver installed on your machine you can find the articles of interest in the right side index and use ctrl+P to print the article to a pdf file on your HD.
    That way, however, may not preserve any embedded links to other things.

    • jwm January 29, 2023, 10:15 AM

      It occurs to me that the American Digest files, especially with all the comments from over the years would make a fantastic history text for this age and time. I would love to see the whole thing in hard bound, full color volumes. It would, no doubt, make an impressive stack of coffee table books.
      A side note: Oddly enough this last week I picked up The Chronicles of Narnia for the first time. And it has been a great comfort. The stories are easy reading, and the divide between good and evil is not muddled up with ambiguities. And that is exactly what I need, and want right now. I don’t have the juice to wade into anything heavy.
      Thanks, Ghostsniper, for the info. (ps- left you a note on the blog.)


      • julie January 29, 2023, 2:34 PM

        Re. Narnia, when you finish those, you might appreciate his Space Trilogy as well. It starts off fairly light, but the third book, in light of current days, is at once prophetic, chilling, and ultimately comforting. When I was young the first two were an easy read, but the third was completely opaque. More recently, I tried it again and found it all too clear.

        Agree with the coffee table book idea, although to do it proper justice you’d end up with something on the scale of a big set of encyclopedias.

        • Casey January 30, 2023, 8:25 AM

          I was going to recommend the same trilogy, Julie. Time and time again That Hideous Strength comes to me when I read the news. The tyranny we suffer now is a manifestation from Hell, and C.S. Lewis well knew it.

          Happy reading, John.

    • David January 29, 2023, 10:33 AM

      Ghostsniper, thank you for that. And…I know that it has been a bit of rocky road, regarding your relationship with Gerard. But at last, you two did actually become friends. And you posted (at least once, to my recollection) your own article on here. I can’t think of another time that Gerard had one of his commenters post here (but I could very well be wrong). And I know that losing Gerard has hit you hard.

      Thank you and God be with you too. Take care.

  • Big Country Expat January 29, 2023, 7:17 PM

    I wish I had gotten to know him.
    His name, as stated need not be ‘graven in stone’ as it is surely burned into the memories of everyone who read and cherished his writings. The highest honor to a writer is to be remembered and the best memorial to him is to remember his works and look on them with fondness, and pass them on throughout the years, so his memory and wisdom is not lost to time…

    To quote another Great Writer, Vonnegut, from “The Children’s Crusade” (better known as “Slaughterhouse 5”) as good an epitaph as any was the one written for Billy Pilgrim:

    “Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt”
    Requiem in Pace Sir.

  • FREDERICK BAUMANN January 30, 2023, 12:26 PM

    To Gerard … back home once more with the dear family he loved, and cherished, and never forgot!

    • Terry January 30, 2023, 5:23 PM

      That’s the view I see Frederick.

      Gerard is back with the family. And what a wonderful family they are!

  • LadyBikki January 31, 2023, 8:05 AM

    I sent a card with *get well, I give a shit* sentiments with a personal check for $200 that I’m certain did not make it to Gerard before he passed.
    I’d like that money to be donated, if possible, to his church or the pet rescue Olive came from ( anyone know what happened to her ? ) or wherever whomever has access to his finances decides is best.
    I’ve tried emailing Neo twice with no joy…I’ve never been a regular commenter on AD and I lurked long before I got up the nerve to chime in so I’m basically an unknown.
    Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated.

    • Sirk January 31, 2023, 8:54 AM

      Ditto, I’ve got a check for 150.00, to GV floating aswell. Sent it at Christmas. Chico apt address. It’s only money, think I’ll let it float, see what develops.

      Ghost, I had initially thought I’d use your route to a down load. In retrospect I’m going to leave it as it is. The fond memories the important stuffs in my minds eye. For me moving forwards where we’ve got to be.

      If you’re not paying attention, “ I know you are”, our swell president his neoconservative pukes are doing a mighty fine job of creating WWIII. In many ways I think our friend got out just in time. Our world has become ugly, regarding the big pic.

      Keeping it local zero changes here in Southern OREGON, when it flips, it will flip fast.

      Before I depart,
      1, Does Olive have a good home? She’s welcome here.
      2, Neo, can you share where GV will be buried? I’d like to drop by from time to time and pay my respects.


      • LadyBikki January 31, 2023, 9:05 AM

        Thanks. I’ll do the same.
        I don’t think Olive would be happy here…northern Maine and several furbabies that would take exception.
        She was important to Gerard…I want her to have a new human !

        • Dirk January 31, 2023, 5:48 PM

          Not sure whom is managing Olive at this point, we are north of Chico five hours, animal friendly home, currently have our Grand Cat, and our Grand Dog. Cat and dog are indoor pets, basically have the run of the casa.

          If no takers regarding Olive, we will be happy to step up. Olive and I have met, she didn’t shred me or rip my eyes out so I’m thinking we get along.


  • Anne January 31, 2023, 9:32 AM

    Is there some way we can start another blog to help keep this community alive? Some sort of roundtable where people who were here can come and post their thoughts, art, words, music at some sort of community roundtable? I know there are several people here who could create such a blog, I would be able to send some money. Maybe we could rotate host duties? It would be a double tragedy to loose all of the voices here and the support of a daily or maybe weekly meet-up.

    • jwm January 31, 2023, 10:43 AM

      I’ve been thinking the same thing, Anne. I keep dropping by to see who has posted. Like Casey, I’m not going to name names, and that isn’t out of laziness. Every time I start thinking of the folks I’d like to keep in touch with, the list just keeps growing. If I tossed a list of names from the top of my head I’d surely forget someone I didn’t want to leave out. We’re never going to replace American Digest. Even so, I’d like to see a place where
      It isn’t difficult to set up a simple blog on Blogger, or Wordpress. Perhaps a site with one main page of links. Many of us have small, personal interest sites. It would be nice to have a network.


  • LadyBikki January 31, 2023, 11:50 AM

    For over a decade I’ve been with MOTUS and that’s how I found AD. Gerard was an early mentor for her and encouraged her when it was a new blog.
    Some of you may know she has been battling brain cancer ( yes, she had the “little prick” ) for over a year. The treatments, while effective, have left her nearly blind and her posts have been mostly open threads for quite awhile. We, her faithful readers, pray and hope for the best.
    The exception was her tribute to Gerard, put together and posted by her husband this past week.
    All that is background for where I’m going with this…pbird, an infrequent but long time commenter here has her own blog. It’s very different from both AD and MOTUS but it’s a fun place to hangout. It’s a good alternative to what’s been happening.
    And she welcomes guest submissions for the daily posts.
    Here is the link.

    • LadyBikki January 31, 2023, 12:40 PM

      Let me hasten to add there is nothing that can ever replace American Digest.
      It is in a league of its own.

      • Joe Krill January 31, 2023, 6:06 PM

        Anne. Ditto
        LadyBikki. Ditto
        JWM. Ditto

        I think Mr. Austin has a blog. He mentioned it once.

        • LadyBikki February 1, 2023, 3:33 AM

          If permissible, please share that link.

          • Mike Seyle February 1, 2023, 6:42 AM

            Mike Austin used to link his blog to his name when posting here. His blog is at: https://mikeaustin.org/

    • SK February 1, 2023, 9:56 AM

      Thank you for this.

  • Steve January 31, 2023, 8:37 PM

    A couple university English or culture classes could be created comprising analyses of Gerard’s writings/poetry. He clearly was extremely moved by the episode at his grandparents’ home and his eventual discovery of his uncle’s name on the monument. Choosing this as his final post may have been an attempt to, once again, raise his uncle’s namesake and memory both to acknowledge his sacrifice and the tragedy of his loss to his family and right a wrong from his youth. But I could add several more layers of analysis, as could most of us.
    Apart from this being my favorite of his writing, I expressed to Gerard several years ago that I though Caught in Traffic was about the best thing he had ever written.
    He never wanted to be in the situation of the old man. Gerard entered hospice with the intent of remaining comfortable, and not delaying the inevitable, with the hope ( assurance) of Christ front and center. I pray I remain fearless and faithful enough to do the same some day.

  • Jack February 1, 2023, 6:41 AM

    I haven’t been on the AD site for a couple of weeks and I had no idea. Fair winds and following seas and thank you Gerard for all you have given me. I’m going to miss you and everyone here.

  • theduchessofkitty February 2, 2023, 10:00 PM

    He has now met his namesake uncle, I bet. May they both Rest in Peace.

  • balilocks February 3, 2023, 4:34 AM

    This essay has remained in my mind all these years.

  • Dirk February 3, 2023, 4:41 PM

    I see the new managements picking and choosing what’s posted, I get enough of that crap via our govt. strange actually, GV fought hard for our freedom of speech, he’s gone a week, and the new managements already playing games.

    Best to you.

    • Mike Seyle February 3, 2023, 5:03 PM

      If posts are shitcanned as Dirk implies, then I trust Dirk. And if posts are in fact blown away, it destroys Gerard’s community. Guess we’ll dissolve anyway. Mike Austin (https://mikeaustin.org/) is heading south into the jungles of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua. Dangerous territory; I’ve been through there, but on secondary roads, not through on foot. So we disintegrate as a group. We probably should, and walk off into our own jungles.

    • John Venlet February 4, 2023, 6:22 AM

      Dirk, I don’t quite understand your criticism. I consider the comments posted in these threads since the death of Gerard an organic attempt to retain the cohesion and touchstones we’ve all shared here over the years. Even as scattered around the country/world though we all may be, I think we all kind of wish that we could all gather together at one central location, and AD was that location for us in the past. The death of our host is a blow to this cohesion, no doubt, but soldier on we must.

      • Anne February 4, 2023, 9:00 AM

        I think it is becoming clear that we will have to create our own sight with a link to AD. Perhaps, we could have a small group of people with good computer/internet skills share the daily tasks?

      • Anne February 4, 2023, 9:22 AM

        Good Morning:

        I have tried to email you from the info on your blog site, but it is not working for me. You can ask Ghost to provide my email, or direct me to a place on your blog site that I can use. I don’t do facebook, twitter, etc. just plain old fashioned email!

        • John Venlet February 4, 2023, 9:58 AM

          Anne, an email should arrive in your inbox very soon. Nothing wrong with being old fashioned, and I am rather old school myself.

  • Roger Dat February 3, 2023, 8:04 PM

    Any funeral, services, memorial or the like scheduled for Gerard?