Harry & Padre

SKU H9027
Harry & Padre

Harry & Padre follows the lifelong friendship between a Catholic Army Chaplain and a President. Harry Truman and Father Curtis Tiernan forged a close bond in the WWl battlefields of France. After the war, their lives took divergent paths, but their deep affection never wavered. Thirty years of photos and personal letters between the two men tell the heartwarming story of an unlikely friendship.

Introduction by the author, Elizabeth "Lili" Curtis Bliss Shank:

My middle name is Curtis. After two girls, my parents were hoping for a boy and had a family name chosen and ready to go. When yet another girl arrived, the thought was "Why throw out a good name?" They simply moved it to the middle.

Growing up, I was vaguely aware of a handful of other Curtises floating around in the family. I know there were at least five before me. Mostly middle names and often women, but the name seemed to repeat. Why the significance.

A clue hung prominently in the upstairs hallway of my childhood home. A photo of Harry Truman and my great-uncle Father L. Curtis Tiernan at Potsdam. I passed that photo several times a day but knew little about the man in priest's garb standing with the president. The two were clearly enjoying each other.

In 2007, I began working as a personal historian. I was helping clients preserve their family stories yet not getting around to my own. On a whim, I emailed the Truman Library. Did they have anything on this uncle who was a friend of Truman? To my surprise and delight, a thick manila envelope arrived in the mail. Thirty years of personal correspondence between Uncle Curtis and Harry Truman. I was fascinated. I gleaned the two men shared a close, enduring friendship. I saw that Father Tiernan played an important role in World War II.

I didn't want these letters to remain in a file cabinet. Our family should know the story. The project began. Over two years, my research led me from Fort Riley to Rome, with many hours spent in the Truman Library research room. Luckily, my grandmother--Curtis's youngest sister, Agnes Tiernan Bliss--kept newspaper clippings and photos which had passed down to my father, another Curtis.

For this book, I've chosen letters that help tell the story. Many other letters exist. It's well worth a trip to the Truman Library to see them, along with Father Tiernan's Army artifacts--his combat helmet, his medals, his WWI identification card. I am not a historian. But with the help from many who are, I believe we got his story right. In an interview a few months before he died, Curtis Tiernan was asked if he ever kept a scrapbook. He laughed and remarked, "No, I've been on the go, traveling light and never thought anyone would be interested." I was interested. The uncle who baptized me, yet whom I never knew. Uncle Curtis died when I was 19 months old. Thanks to this project. I know him now.

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