More Than Anything in the World


Early 1942

Frank J. Mueller, Sr. joined the U.S. Army on Thanksgiving Day, 1941.  He was stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, which is located near Highland Park, Highwood and Lake Forest, Illinois.   Frank met Marion Altenburg on February 13, 1942, the day before Valentine’s Day.  He proposed marriage to her exactly one year into his military service, on Thanksgiving Day, 1942, under the stairs of the home of his aunt, Ann (Walsh) Sullivan.  [Ann (Walsh) Sullivan, my father, and I all shared a common birthday of April 21st – oh, the parties we had every year on our birthday celebrating three generations!] 

Frank and Marion were married on December 19, 1942.  Only a handful of letters exist dated in early 1942.  Based on data contained in subsequent letters, we can infer that Marion and Frank were together, in their own apartment (their dream!) for most of 1942, thus not requiring written communication.    In early 1943, Frank was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, and Marion did not, apparently, accompany him on that journey.  She gave up the apartment some time during that year, and moved into her parents’ home on Lawndale Avenue in Evanston, Illinois. 

We know that, in the early summer of 1943, Frank was in Chicago on furlough and  was hospitalized for an emergency splenectomy, the result of hemolytic jaundice caused by a hereditary blood disorder that causes anemia and hemolysis (red blood cell destruction).  The discovery of the chronic hemolysis, it was hoped, would be enough to gain Frank an honorable medical discharge from the Army.  The ongoing theme of his 1943 letters focuses on the hope of a discharge, that, in the end, did not materialize.  Frank went on to serve throughout the end of WWII and even a few months hence, before returning home safely to the arms of his Baby Doll.  Ironically, as much as he claimed to dislike the Army so intensely, he ended up working for the U.S. Army, as a civilian, throughout his entire career and retired after more than 30 years of service.

The letter selections here were written in March and April of 1942, before my parents were married.  Note that the envelopes are addressed to “Marion Altenburg”, and Frank addressed her as “Marion”, or by her family nickname “Mook” (“Mookie”) in his salutations!  At that time, Marion was living in nurses’ quarters near the hospital where she worked as a Registered Nurse. 


Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 2010