Aunt Minnie, American Gold Star Mother

American Gold Star Mothers (AGSM) organized  shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers that lost sons or daughters in the war. The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. This Service Flag had a star for each family member in the military with living servicemen represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives represented by a gold star. Although the  AGSM started as an organization of women who had lost sons or daughters in WWI,  today membership in the Gold Star Mothers is open to any American woman who has lost a son or daughter in service to the United States. On the last Sunday in September, Gold Star Mother’s Day is observed in the U.S. in their honor. 

My Mother’s Aunt Minnie was a Gold Star Mother.  Her obituary explains: “during the World War, two of her sons, Drew and Leonard saw active service in the war zone. One of them, Leonard, died while in the service of his country and was buried in France.  In 1929 Mrs. Whittemore was one of the Gold Star mothers who made a pilgrimage to France; and the chief joy of her declining years was telling of that trip and showing the mementos which she brought back with her.”

On a recent visit with my cousin Gene we browsed through some old family photographs and came across one of Aunt Minnie in France, at her son’s gravesite.  On this memorial day in 2009, I honor Leonard Whittemore and all others who have died in the service of our country, and I also honor Aunt Minnie and all the other Gold Star Mothers who have lost a child in war.

aunt minnie

Minnie E. (Boss) Whittemore, France, 1929

Someone has written on the picture:

“Aunt Minnie at son Leonard’s grave in Belgium, World War One”


aunt minnie 2

Aunt Minnie’s explanation on the back of the picture of her at Leonard’s grave.

Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls, Washington, May 25, 2009, All rights reserved.

SOURCES:  Wikipedia article on Gold Star Mothers,  Obituary for Minnie E. Whittemore.


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8 Responses to Aunt Minnie, American Gold Star Mother

  1. slamdunk says:

    Nice story–thanks for posting. We owe these soldiers and their families so much.

  2. Traci says:

    I am so glad to hear of the stories that came back from those pilgrimages. Sadly no story came back with my great great grandmother because she died during her pilgrimage in Verdun, France. She was the first. And I can find no record of her other than newspaper articles published of her death, and a few on her return to the United States. No medal, no personal effects, no mention on any official list that I can find. I hope to one day have her story too. Until then, I will search these stories to find the party she went with. Thank you for the story!

  3. susaned1 says:

    Dear Traci, Thanks for stopping by and reading Great Aunt Minnie’s story. Hopefully you can find your Great-Great-Grandmother’s as well… these are special people. Sue

  4. Traci says:

    Hi Sue! You are very welcome and I am still working on it. I’ve found out a bit more than what I knew before. I found that she was with Party O in 1930. One report states she actually fell ill while at her son’s grave. A book is being worked on right now on these pilgrimages. I’ve also found three photographs – two from the newspapers and one from my grandpa’s home that a distant cousin gave me. But they are not of good quality. I’m searching for any other Party O decendants that could provide a story or schedule to help me know what she did and when. I want to see the GSM’s who died, be remembered also. It seems they were forgotten. I’ll keep hoping!

  5. Ted says:

    I have a similar picture of my great-grandmother at her son’s grave in France… she was a Gold Star mother as well.

  6. susaned1 says:

    Nice to hear from you Ted, those women must have been very resilient to go through what they did. Good that the government paid their way to visit the son’s graves. I understand Aunt Minnie talked about that trip as one of the highlights of her life. Sue E.

  7. Lernout Patrick says:

    Sue, there is only one World War One Cemetery in Belgium and this is the Flanders Field Cemetery. I live at one mile from it and this picture is not taken there. The Flanders field cemetery is much smaller. Only for crosses in a row. I am writing a book about the cemetery, so your article took my attention. . I can also find no Leonard Whittemore on the website of the American Battle Monuments Commision: Could he buried under another name ? Patrick.

  8. susaned1 says:

    I’ll have a look at my records and get back to you later today. Thanks for the question.
    Sue Edminster

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