November 18, 2021


This is a photo of Sarah Sitzlar with her youngest daughter.  Like my sister Tootsie, she was a young war widow.  Her husband Bill died in the USS Indianapolis disaster near the end of World War II.  Like Tootsie’s husband Joe, he was a Fireman first class on the ship and probably died instantly when the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. There were several other men from McMinn County who died in this naval tragedy.  They were in their twenties—Bill Sitzlar was 26—and left young wives and children, parents and siblings to grieve and figure out how to move forward.

These women became close friends during the first few years after the war.  Sarah had four children, Tootsie three. They could get together at each other’s homes, share meals, let their kids play together, and sit up late talking about how they were going to survive. 

I went to school with the Sitzlar and Rowden kids and often joined in the group when they all got together. Often I’d wind up sitting with the moms and listening to their conversations about being single parents, about their loneliness, and about always being on duty with their kids.  Sharing their loss and worries seemed to give them all new strength.  And they also had fun together, taking their families on short trips or outings.

After a few years, they made other friends, got jobs or went to college, and Sarah remarried.  But their shared history knit them together for life.  They were young and strong—and survivors.

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