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Taps - Ed Kohn

by Warren Hegg - April 16, 2009

Another one of Stories of Service's Founding Fathers passes away

Ed in the South Pacific
Contrary to popular belief, the most difficult part of the Stories of Service is not mastering Adobe Premiere or spending long hours refining scripts and working up storyboards.

It is saying a final "goodbye" to another one of our World War II veterans who has passed on, especially those like Ed Kohn who were the such an important part of our story from its earliest days...

Ed  died peacefully on at his home in Sunnyvale on Monday. 

Ed was one of the first to participate in the Stories of Service program when we started up in the Sunnyvale Town Center Mall back in the spring of 1998, and produced his story for the first collection that was presented to the National Museum of American History in 1999. 

Back then, Stories of Service was called the World War II Memories project.  That first group of stories produced over the summer of '98 included the late great Jack Thatcher, Bud Schauer, Charlie Pugh, Stan Harris, Don Irving, and Layton Warn, who, with Ed's passing, is now the Last Man Standing. 

Ed was a very warm hearted and compassionate man, with a cherubic smile and a great sense of humor, which you can sense in his story and the short glimpse of him that appears in the 1998 CNN clip memorializing that initial workshop.

>> Watch CNN Video

As he told to CNN at the time, Ed was pretty skeptical at the beginning of the process.  After hearing what his fellow vets had experienced during the war, he felt he really didn't have anything special to say and was reluctant to participate, offering to "help the other guys, they're the real heroes..."

But little by little as he reflected on his early childhood growing up in a small town in Minnesota and finding himself in the thick of things as a member of the crew of a PT Boat in the South Pacific, he began to realize that he had a unique story that he should pass on to his family.

"Memoir of a PT Sailor" became one of our classics, and has been shown countless times at public orientations and training workshops over the past 10 years, something that I think was a source of great pride to Ed.

>> Watch "Memoir of a PT Sailor"

 Ed at a Stories of Service event
Once he saw how the program impacted not only the veterans, but their families, friends and the public, and how transformational the experience was for the youth who worked with the vets, Ed became one of our staunchest supporters, evangelizing the program whenever and wherever he could, and sending in donations each year to help support a young person's trip to Washington, D.C. to carry his photo in the Nation's Memorial Day Parade.

However, most important to Ed was that his family would be able to have his story to share and He dedicated his movie to his ten grandchildren, some of who were with him when he sailed off on his final voyage earlier this week.

Ed's last visit to a Stories of Service activity was the little picnic our Silicon Valley team hosted to bid Layton Warn and his wife Marcie a fond adieu as they moved from Sunnyvale to Hutchinson, Kansas.   He was his usual sweet self, pleased that the program was still going strong, and proud that he had been "present at the creation," and asking, as he always did, "Is anyone watching my movie?"

Yes, Ed, thanks to the power for digital technology, the world is watching your movie.  It will always be there for people to enjoy and to honor your memory.

As your fellow Stories of Service comrade, John Gawionowski liked to say: 

"We old soldiers never die, we just go digital!"   

Surely, this goes for old sailors as well. 

This May, Ed's picture will join those of the fellow Storytellers Jack, Bud, Charlie, Tommy, Stan, and Rudy in the front line as our young people carry the pictures of our heroes at the front of the Nation's Memorial Day Parade down Constitution Avenue in front of a cheering crowd of 300,000.

So Bon Voyage, Ed and thank you for your service to your country and to your community, and for sharing your story.

Related Stories (Videos)

Memoirs of a PT Boat Sailor

Ed Kohn remembers his 15 months as a PT boat crewman in the South Pacific

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