By Linda Emley
In Clinton, there’s a Victorian house that was built in 1868 by Gustave Haysler. Today it looks very much like it did in 1868 thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Ted Thomas.
That’s the same Ted Thomas who helped build the new and improved torpedo firing pins in World War II and also worked many long hours to restore this beautiful house.
When he talks about the house purchased in 1988, you can tell it was more than just a place he once lived, it was a home that he loves very much. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1995 and is one of the premier things to see and do in Clinton.
Ted is a man who can build anything. This past summer, this 91-year-old built a new pole barn on his farm and did much of the work himself. He’s also restored many of the 200 wood cook stoves that he has owned over the years.
This guy with a sixth-grade education is a good example that there are many things in life that you don’t learn from a text book. Every time Ted walks in the museum front door, I hear another great story, so we go with a couple more “Tales from Ted.”
Ted grew up 30 miles from Muskogee, Okla. He said he never thought he would see the day that Muskogee would be the home of the USS Batfish submarine.
If you visit Muskogee War Memorial Park, you will see a submarine sitting in the middle of the park. It’s just sitting there on green grass and looks like a duck out of water. This submarine is very near and dear to Ted’s heart because there are around 50 pieces on it that Ted made. If you ever get to Muskogee, be sure and pay a visit to Ted’s sub.
The last time Ted was at the museum, he asked me if I knew where the USS Oklahoma battleship was today. I knew it had to be a trick question because it sank in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
In 1943, however, the USS Oklahoma was raised from the sea and sold as scrap metal. A few years later, in 1947, it was shipped to San Diego but sank 530 miles west of Hawaii in the middle of the ocean. This is just another example of a piece of history that only Ted would know.
Now we’ll move on to my other friend, Brooke Ahart, who was an MP in Iraq for eight months and 22 days. She left for Iraq on May 10, 2009, which was her first Mother’s Day with with her then-10-month-old daughter, Lilly. It was hard for Brooke and Lilly to be apart, but thanks to a special program, they stayed connected.
DVDs were made of Brooke reading some children’s story books and Lilly would watch her mother read her a book every night as she held the same book. Lilly watched her mother read such kids’ favorites as “Wheels on the Bus,” “Curious George,” “Danny the Dinosaur,” “Are You My Mother” and “Where is Spot?” and never forgot her mother.
Brooke said that Lilly loves to get the videos out and watch them over and over again. This is how lifetime memories are made. Lilly has a little brother now, so she can share these books with him and he will grow up knowing his mother’s story too.
Brooke shared some really interesting stories about her time in Iraq. She said on her second day there, she saw a local man walking down the street wearing a MU t-shirt. It’s little things like this that make you really homesick.
We both had a good laugh when she told me about two Iraqis she met that had interesting names. One was named “Chuck Norris” and the other one was named “Butt Head.” I wonder if Mr. Head’s father ever heard the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.”
Brooke also shared some really touching stories about her duty in Iraq. While there, her unit took care of a family of dogs and they got to send nine of them back to the states when they returned. I’m sure the bond between man and his best friend helped many soldiers feel closer to home while serving our country.
While in Iraq, Brooke knew an interpreter named Andrew. He and his wife did not have any children because Andrew’s wife was a anemic and had several miscarriages due to her medical condition. Brooke had her husband mail her some prenatal vitamins because they were not available in Iraq. Andrew and his wife now have a 2-year-old daughter, thanks to Lilly’s parents, Jared and Brooke Ahart.
Last month, Brooke was interviewed by KMZU radio about her tour of duty in Iraq. It was good to hear that a young women like Brooke was recognized as being a part of our Veteran’s history.
Good job, Brooke and Ted. You make us all proud.
Have a story for Linda? You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or see her at Ray County Museum.