Judy Vasos Historical DetectiveGrowing up in the middle of nowhere – a small town in Iowa, one of the things I often did to entertain myself as a young girl was to look through boxes of photos my mother kept in the bottom shelf of our buffet. I’d sit on the floor for hours looking carefully at them and pestering my parents to confirm who was who. When I learned to write, I wrote the names in halting rather clumsy script on the photos. Donnie, Patsy, Linda, Aunt Cissy, Uncle Bob. Eventually I’d get them all identified. It seemed a very important thing to do.

Later I graduated to the off limits top bureau drawer in my parent’s bedroom. I had to stand on their bed next to the bureau and fling my arm in to the drawer to fish out whatever I wasn’t supposed to see. Once I pulled out a 5 by 7 photo. None of our other photos were enlarged so the size alone was a clue it was special. It was a photo of a baby boy in a casket. No one I’d known had ever died so I figured it must be something like a large holy card with an angel in the casket. That is until my Dad came in and told me the photo was of my older brother, David Francis who had died of pneumonia when he was only 6 months old. No one had ever mentioned David though I’d accompanied my parents every Memorial Day to the cemetery to lay flowers on some baby’s grave.

This was the biggest secret story I’d ever uncovered in my short life and I was thrilled, shocked and very, very interested. It set me on the path of my life’s work as an Historical Detective. I became enthralled with stories, stories my mother told about our large extended family, stories I saw on the screen at the Carroll Theatre, stories I read in library books and finally in the 1950’s with the introduction of television and programs like Playhouse 90 stories performed on the screen in our very own living room.

I attended a small Catholic girl’s college in Kansas and my love for stories drew me to English and Sociology classes and to the big stories taking place in the world. The civil rights movement was in full swing and the War on Poverty just beginning so I was fully immersed in social justice issues and jolted by the killings of Martin Luther King and John and Bobby Kennedy. The world was changing and full of uproar and I felt a part of it all. When I graduated I did social work for many years and then went to graduate school in Social Work at San Diego State University hoping for more stories and life experience.

Lucky for me I had teachers who suggested recording my growing knowledge about life and human behavior in a journal and another who taught the connection between social work and literature.

I never stopped keeping a journal or reading. My journals were filled with observations of people and activities I noticed in San Francisco where I lived and places I traveled in the United States, Europe and Mexico.

Eventually I wrote and created books of stories to share with my family. My family anointed me the family historian and I accepted with great joy knowing this was my calling, Historical Detective is now, with the completion of my book, My Dear Good Rosi: Letters From Nazi-Occupied Holland, 1940-1943, my official moniker.

I want to share my stories and invite you to read my book. And I want to encourage anyone who has a desire to tell their own story, their family’s story — any story — to tell it. Life is short and expressing your story in whatever way you choose is enormously important. I hope some of the resources on my website will help you tell the story that lives within you.