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The “Tim Box”; A Love Story, A Marine and the Ultimate Sacrifice

The “Tim Box”; A Love Story, A Marine and the Ultimate Sacrifice 1

by Robert Winter

On February 28, 1945,  Pfc. Meredith DeRoy Winter was killed during the battle of Iwo Jima at the age of 26. That was 76 years ago today, yet his light continues to shine, and his memory and name lives on!

A good friend of Meredith’s wrote this hand-written letter to his parents.

 “Tim was killed on his seventh day ashore (Iwo Jima) as a result of Jap mortar fire. The round killed five marines, including Tim. He was killed instantly, and never knew what hit him. It was told that Tim was a wonderful man in combat – calm, cool and collected all the way.”  Lt. John Monroe Jr. USMCR

 On the 5th of September, 1942, Meredith enlisted in Marine Corps commissioning program while attending Iowa State University. In February 1943, Meredith was ordered to active duty.   Meredith Deroy Winter of Dysart Iowa asked Betty Ewing of  Batavia, Illinois to marry him. Both were students at Iowa State University. However, due to the war raging in the Pacific, marriage would have to wait until Meredith returned from service.

This love story would lay dormant for 73 years, hidden away in a box. No doubt at the time of Meredith’s death, the pain of losing their first-born son and fiancé brought unbearable pain and sorrow.

In October of 2018, I received a message on Findagrave.com.

"When my parents passed, there were two WW2 foot lockers full of their memorabilia. I'm guessing the lockers were packed when they moved from St Louis to LA in 1951. My mom had smaller boxes with various collections and there is a "Tim box". We always knew about him and how much they were in love. Our family visited the memorial at Arlington and on our one cross country drive, we detoured to Ames to view the memorial wall at ISU. My mom exchanged Xmas cards with your grandmother for a number of years." Vicky Canning, daughter of Betty Ewing

Meredith, or as I learned Tim as he was called, has always held a special place in my heart. I was an impressionable eight-year-old when I heard the tragic story for the first time, of an uncle I would never meet, who lost his life in WWII. I remember it vividly. I was in the upstairs bedroom looking at old family photos in the family home Meredith, along with my father and five other siblings, all grew up. That home, on Tilford Street in the town of Dysart, Iowa was only 900 square feet. Barely enough space for the seven children and two adults who all lived there. I remember it as a magical place because of the special love my grandmother, Meredith’s mother, showered on us grandkids each time we visited. That was in 1966.  

As I became older, my dad shared with me the story of how his mom, Lenora Ford Winter, received the news. It was a tragic time. An official looking car drove up and delivered the news. Soon after they received the attached letter. 

  

At one time, she had one gold star and four blue stars in her front window. That was how families displayed their patriotism during that time. Grandma Winter had such a strong faith, having deep roots in the Seventh Day Baptist movement. It was that faith that carried her during that time.


From records and letters I have since discovered, her grief was shared through many letters and post cards with Meredith’s fiancé, Betty Ewing. They were there for each other during the painful weeks and months ahead. Soon after receiving the news from the U.S. Marine Corps, my grandfather, Thomas D. Winter, sent the following telegram to Betty Ewing.        

Grandma Winter was such a warm and caring person. Wherever she went, the light inside her radiated to all. So kind and gentle and with such a positive spirit. She would return letters to me when I was a young boy. I loved getting her letters. When she passed away in 1987, I was moved to put together a family reunion at the Community Center in Dysart.

 One of the events of that reunion weekend was to walk over to Grandma’s house on Tilford Street and pick out an item or two that we remembered from our childhood. I was 29 years old then, but I remembered where she kept her photos. They were stored in an upstairs closet that was hard to find.  Actually, as it was built into the wall and floor with a small door only a child could enter.

I found my way right upstairs and into the crawl space only a child could remember or squeeze through. Low and behold, there they were. No one else even remembered this was where Grandma stored her treasures. I pulled boxes of them out and realized I had hit the motherload. They were old but very well preserved, black and white photos of all her children, wives, husbands and their families. I packaged them all up and took them over to the Community Center. There I laid them out on three long rows of tables for everyone to peruse and take home. 

To my surprise, there among the photos was the only document or photo of any kind of Meredith. That same uncle that left an indelible impression on me 21 years earlier.

 

  

That was it and I kept the original. I cherished that single memory over 31 years. It was all I had to remember him by. The only remnant of his life and service to our country I could hold onto. That war hero, my Uncle Pfc. Meredith Deroy Winter, USMC.

Now, all these years later, on October 6th, 2018, came that message to me from Vicky Canning on findagrave.com. To realize that I have serendipitously come into a treasure trove of information on this special man is beyond words. Only God.

Soon, the “Tim Box” full of letters, photographs, documents and memorabilia arrived at my home. That emotional connection I felt toward my uncle all those years ago in 1966 felt like destiny as I began opening the package.

First the photographs.

 Pfc. Meredith (Tim) Deroy Winter Betty Ewing

Here is a photo of Meredith "Tim" Deroy Winter and his beautiful fiancé Betty Ewing of Batavia, Illinois. What a beautiful couple they made. On the back of the photo Betty had written "BJE and Tim Feb 1943"

 

This photo of Meredith and Betty together was taken with the engagement ring Tim gave her. She was 22 years old. 

 The next document I opened was the last known letter from Meredith to his lovely fiancé. Written on February 26, 1945, his 26th birthday. Two days later, Pfc. Meredith Deroy Winter was taken by mortar round. 

 

Finally, came the newspaper clipping Betty had held onto all these years in her “Tim Box”.

 

How wonderful to know that someone he loved so very much kept the memory of him in her heart all those years later and even shared his memory with her family. A true love story.

Over the ensuing months, I corresponded with Vicky Canning. I felt deeply connected to her for sharing this precious gift. This abiding sense of longing I felt toward this uncle I never knew came to life with these photos, letters and documents. My promise to her was to use them to perpetuate his legacy.

Pfc. Meredith Deroy Winter never got to experience the joy of becoming a father; never had the opportunity to pursue his dreams after the war; never got to meet his nieces and nephews or attend any family reunions and missed out on sharing his life with the women he loved.

The sacrifice he and so many others made in pursuit of a free and a sovereign country for those who came after should never be forgotten. He is a man to be honored.

In her first email to me, Vicky noted “we detoured to Ames to view the memorial wall at ISU”. Because I had so little information on Uncle Meredith, I didn’t even know Iowa State University had a Memorial on campus. I soon found the web site of all the graduates of Iowa State that fought and died in war beginning with WWI. After searching on Winter, I found a brief sketch of his life but no photo’s.

I reached out to the Iowa State University and was warmly greeted by  John Lindsay Ph.D. Candidate – History. Upon learning of the photo’s and documents I would soon have in my possession, he told me about an annual celebration of Iowa State students who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

This event is held to honor three to four different honorees each year. Pfc. Meredith Deroy Winter who graduated in 1943 had yet to be honored.

Soon after, interviews with the four living siblings began. Documents and photos were passed along to John in preparation for the memorial. Phone calls, emails, text messages, Facebook and Instagram postings began among the many family members. We were all going to converge on Iowa State Gold Star Hall on November 11,2019.

From the interviews, John prepared a draft that would be presented. Here is the text in its entirety. 

“Imagine for a moment the year is 1940. You are driving west on Highway 30 through Tama County. As you approach a stretch of road south of Dysart, Iowa, you see an athletic young man standing along the side of the road. He is holding a suitcase with his thumb extended, trying to catch a lift. You stop to pick him up and discover he is on his way to Ames. His name is Meredith DeRoy Winter, and he is a chemistry major at Iowa State College who needs to get back to campus. He tells you that his family drove him to the highway from their home in Dysart so he could try to hitch a ride.

 He is the oldest of seven children born to Thomas and Lennora Winter. Once in the vehicle, Meredith may have asked you to call him “Merd,” as his family affectionally did. Or he may have requested that you call him “Tim,” which was the nickname he acquired from his college buddies. Regardless, along the way you discover more about the young man you are chauffeuring.

 You ask Meredith how long he has lived in Dysart. He tells you pretty much his whole life, with the exception of four years when the Winter family moved to New York after their father lost his job as a result of the Great Depression. They tried their luck as dairy farmers before moving back to Dysart after Meredith graduated as valedictorian of his high school class.

The drive to Ames from eastern Iowa is long, so you have time to ask Meredith about his childhood. You discover he loved sports, especially golf, and that he hated losing! He also tells you about the time he built a pole-vaulting station in the front yard. He set the bar set so high that he often hit his head on the ground attempting to clear it and would knock himself unconscious in the process. You find out that his passion for knowledge was instilled in him at a young age from his mom who was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse.

 As you approach campus, Meredith mentions that he works as a janitor, and use to work in a campus cafeteria so he could earn money to pay for college. But his face really lights up when you ask if he is escorting anyone. He glows with joy when tells you about the love of his life: Betty Ewing. He met her at Iowa State, and was so head-over-heels for her, that he asked his sister, Helen, if she could teach him how to dance so he could impress Betty. He tells you that he plans to marry her someday.

 After you drop Meredith off at his destination and drive away, you have no idea that you just spent the last few hours in the company of a war hero. You would not realize that you just gave a ride to a man who died fighting for the very freedoms you enjoy.

 After he proposed to Betty, Meredith did not marry her. Instead, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of 1943. He also turned down a civil service position in Washington D.C. to serve his country during the Second World War. He surely made his mother proud when he received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Iowa State on 18 December 1943.

However, he was not present at the ceremony since he was at already in San Diego training for service. In fact, all of Meredith’s younger brothers served the United States. James joined the Navy in 1939 and survived the attack on Pearl Harbor; Paul served in the Army Air Corps; Robert was a drill sergeant at Lackland Air Force Base; and Don was a USAF weatherman in Japan and Korea. The Winter family proudly displayed four Blue Star flags in their front window, but they also had to add one Gold Star flag for Meredith.

 On 6 November 1943, Private First Class Meredith Winter was ordered to active duty. He arrived in Guam as part of G Company, 2nd Battalion, 21st Marines, 3rd Marine Division. He was tasked with patrolling against Japanese forces while stationed there. Although the United States had Japan on the defensive by the fall of 1944, the Japanese army still held strategic areas that prevented U.S. B-29’s from completing bombing missions over mainland Japan.

Japanese fighters taking off from Iwo Jima island kept intercepting the bombers. The United States knew Iwo Jima had to be captured. On 19 February 1945, after two months of naval bombardment, approximately 70,000 Marines led the invasion of Iwo Jima. On 21 February 1945, the 3rd Marine Division landed on Yellow Beach where Pfc. Winter participated in combat operations.

 On 26 February, Winter penned a letter to Betty. He had just turned twenty-six, and he wanted to let his fiancée know that he was “still in one piece.” He went on, “It’s been really rough the last few days to be truthful. I feel fifty-six instead of twenty-six.” He also had a request for Betty, “Drop the folks a card and tell them where I am and that I’m all right. Will you please?” He closed the letter with “I think I will say good-bye for now.”

 This was the last letter Pfc. Winter would send. Two days later, while involved in heavy fighting, a Japanese mortar killed him and five other Marines. Fighting remained fierce until the island was declared secured on 16 March 1945. The Battle of Iwo Jima was one of the bloodiest in Marine Corps history claiming 7,000 American lives. Meredith’s ultimate sacrifice in the mission to take Iwo Jima helped save the lives of an estimated 24,000 U.S. airmen. The island served as an emergency landing site for over 2,000 B-29 bombers that were crucial to bringing the war in the Pacific to an end.

 Pfc. Meredith Winter was initially buried in the 3rd Marine Division Cemetery on Iwo Jima. On 5 May 1948, Meredith hitched his last ride home. His body was returned to Dysart, Iowa for permanent burial.

Would all those who are here today for Meredith DeRoy Winter please rise and be recognized.

Thank you.”

Here is the link to the YouTube video. Meredith’s presentation begins at time stamp: 33:04  

2019 Gold Star Hall Ceremony - YouTube

 

 

Here are all the items found in the "Tim Box" that lay dormant for 73 years. Locked away in storage, yet discovered and passed along by Vicky Canning, daughter of Betty Ewing. 

 

Family members who attended the November 11, 2019 Gold Star Hall Memorial at Iowa State University. 

 

Meredith's two living siblings. His sister Helen Logan, 100 years young and younger brother Don Winter, 89.  

Photo Wallet

This is the photo wallet Betty Ewing carried with her. It too was discovered in the "Tim Box". No doubt these photos brought both pain and comforted during the long road ahead. 

 

 

Pfc. Meredith Deroy Winter earned;

Purple Heart

Presidential Unit Citation

World War II Victory Medal

Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal 1 BS

 

To learn more about the Gold Star Hall. https://www.mu.iastate.edu/gold-star-hall/

Meredith D Winter (1919-1945) - Find A Grave Memorial

Teaching from the Quran

Teaching from the Quran 0

Hello and praise the LORD.

This month has been with a lot of activities and also with a lot of planning.
As i’ve been doing, am still continuing in soccer in coaching the boys as well as discipling the guys i’d shared about in my earlier reports.

This month i had an opportunity to witness to two guys, one of whom was convicted and gave his life to Christ. I’m still reaching out to the other. I was doing evangelism and met with them downtown in one of the teaplaces. I came to know one of them while drinking tea.

It was evening prayer time and the call for prayer “adhan” had just been made and the guy invited me to go with him for prayer. I told him that i used to be there but now i can pray anywhere and anytime i want. He inquired over the meaning of what i had said and i replied that i pray to God with 100% surelity that He accepts my prayer and i asked him a question, “You are going to pray, are you 100% sure that Allah will accept your prayer?” and he responded that it is only God who knows.

Our conversation began from there and i challenged him from the Quran, before sharing from the Bible because the Quran talks more about Jesus than Mohammed. After sharing all the evidence from the Quran and Bible, he believed in Christ.

I’ve also been keenly focusing this month on the upcoming conference involving Muslim background believers that will be South Africa in the beginning of April. After the conference i’ll be headed to a Somali area for scouting which i feel led by God in that way.

For the conference and scouting (Somali area) i’ll need $3,000 to facilitate my visa, air tickets to and from South Africa via Kenya, and other expenses related to this journey (e.g food, housing, water, etc). Prayerfully consider supporting me on this.

Other prayer request include: pray that God may open the heart and mind of the guy i’m reaching out to at the moment. Also pray that God may open the hearts and eyes of the soccer boys i’m coaching that they may come to the Light of Jesus Christ. Also pray for God’s protection during the scouting trip in Somali area. Pray also that God may bring about growth in the lives of the guys i’m discipling .

If you are willing to give, give at Meigiving.org. My account number is SA3675 or paypal number:
Solomonh122@protonmail.com . If you have any question you can email me through this email
address: Solomonh122@protonmail.com

Yours in Christ,
Hassan

Hassan's Soccer Ministry 0

Hello and praise the LORD.

I thank God for the far He’s brought me and the continuity of the work here.

This month I've been engaged in several activities, especially involving the
soccer ministry and discipling. I am coaching over twenty boys. At some point there had been a couple of low turn ups and I had been discouraged. Nonetheless, we thank God that the boys came out in large numbers especially after hearing there would be a test to determine who would remain in the team. We carried out the test successfully using various parameters and were left with a team of just slightly over twenty.

We have been emphasizing to the boys that the discipline we are inbuilding into them is not just for the field, but for life in general and more so that they may witness Christ in our lives and come to Him. We are intentional and have been praying over the team every week. Together with another coach of the team, we bought the boys shoes to enable them to play well. Pray with me that God may open the hearts of the soccer boys to receive Christ. Pray that God will mould them to be good leaders and God to save them from drug addiction which is rampant here and that they will obey their parents.

By God’s grace, I've continued to walk with half a dozen believers who have come to Christ over the last few months, some just the previous month. Most of these have passed through the waters of baptism this month. I trust the LORD that these believers will grow spiritually and also go and witness to others. Pray with me on the same.

I’m trusting the LORD this April to go to South Africa for a conference involving muslim background believers. I’m trusting the LORD to pass via Kenya on my way there. I’ll also be making a mission trip to the Somali area around that time since God has put in my heart to go and reach out to the people there. Pray that the mission trip may be a success and for God’s protection even during and over the time that we’ll be there. I’m trusting the LORD for Gospel hearted people to support me to cater for my travelling and logistical expenses needed. The expense I need to cater for all these travels is $3,000. Pray with me on this, mobilise your friends and also give as the LORD enables you.

If you like to give you can give at Meigiving.org. My account number is SA3675 or paypal number: Solomonh122@protonmail.com .

If you have any question you can email me through
this email address: Solomonh122@protonmail.com


Yours in Christ,
Hassan

Somalia Evangelism

Somalia Evangelism 0

Hello and praise the LORD.

I’m a Somali believer, serving the LORD here in the (location removed). Here’s a report of what I've been doing.

I’ve been doing evangelism in the city’s downtown streets tea place where many Somali’s gather together. I met with some guys (three), made them friends and after a couple of weeks began sharing with them and through the Holy Spirit some of them came to the faith. I’ve been discipling them for a couple of months. By God’s grace at the launch of the New Year, three who
had come to faith recently were baptised and i have a Bible study with them the three guys I baptised them yesterday and the one I baptised him last year at house in week three day we meet together.

In addition, I've been involved in soccer ministry, serving as a coach for some boys training them on various tactical skills as I trust God to open opportunities for evangelism. Some of those opportunities have been through telling parables derived from the Bible. We trust that the team will be disciplined and more so see the light of Christ in us and come to a personal faith with the
LORD.

As the coaches, (i have a believing Coach whom we’re serving with), we’ve been meeting once a week to pray for the boys and also to strategize on our game as well as service. I trust to see more fruit even as I trust the LORD to bring many to His fold.

I’m requesting my fellow believers who see this newsletter to willingly support me with prayer and also financially through paypal no:

solomonh122@protonmali.com

or meigiving.org SA3675.

In case of any inquiry respond through: solomonh122@protonmail.com

Yours in Christ,
Hassan