Trunk of treasure reveals a family’s past, and practice for the future

Stanley and Marietta Detweiler

Stanley and Marietta Detweiler, WWII

UW-Green Bay History major Megan Arent will graduate Saturday (Dec. 16, 2017) but not before a trip way back in time. She worked with Art Professor Sarah Detweiler on a project to catalog more than 500 letters written by Detweiler’s grandparents dating back to the start and continuing through World War II. Stanley Detweiler survived the war — including the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle at Bastogne — but never talked about it to his children and grandchildren, and never mentioned a trunk full of memories.

Arent, a senior from Greenville, Wis. served this semester as a research assistant, unearthing the treasure left to Detweiler when her father passed away unexpectedly. Their trunk of treasure includes era medals, coins, uniforms, etc., never seen before by Sarah’s family, and never spoken about by her grandparents, Stanley and Marietta Detweiler.

“As Sarah’s research assistant it was my job to find Stanley’s location when he wrote each of the letters, and what his division was doing at the time,” explained Arent. “This project has been so fun to work on and I have enjoyed it very much! I’ve learned so much during this experience, not only about Stanley Detweiler, but also about the history of the division he fought in during WWII. It’s difficult to pinpoint my favorite part of the project, but I think what I enjoyed the most was the moment of finding a specific piece of information I had been searching for. It’s kind of like putting together a puzzle you lost some of the pieces to. Some of the pieces are hard to find, but it’s really rewarding when you do find them. I have also really enjoyed helping Sarah discover more about her grandfather’s history. She is amazing to work with and I am grateful for this experience.”

This is the second of a professional-practice experience for Arent, who also worked in the Collections Department of the Neville Public Museum. She said the education gained as a History major is probably the most helpful experience of all.

“In my major I learned the best ways to find the information I am looking for, and what sources are the most reliable.”

The end project — a book and a digital experience — will include drawings by Detweiler that will make visible the voices in the letters. It will include original maps and illustrations that accompanied the letters.

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