A Fitting Tribute to the Late Kenneth Paulson, Wounded Veteran

Kenneth Paulson of Hutchinson, Minn. returned from World War II missing his right hand and with shrapnel still in his legs. But he got right to work, raising his family and running his farm.  Two months ago, a new flag and flagpole at Ecumen Oaks and Pines in Huchinson was dedicated in his honor, two years after his death.  The story that follows is reprinted from the Hutchinson Leader.

Kenneth Paulson, soldier

Honoring heroes

By KAY JOHNSON johnson@hutchinsonleader.com 

Family, friends and members of the Hutchinson Memorial Rifle Squad gathered Tuesday afternoon [Sept. 10, 2013] to dedicate a new flag and flagpole in honor of the late World War II veteran Kenneth Paulson. All veterans were recognized during the ceremony at Ecumen Oaks and Pines in Hutchinson.

“It was wonderful. Everything was wonderful. I can’t believe how well it went,” said Patricia Paulson, Kenneth’s wife. “I think Kenny would have been very proud. I know I am.”

“This is not only a fitting tribute to Kenneth from his family, but a wonderful gift to our entire Ecumen Oaks and Pines community,” said Kristal Ehrke, marketing manager. “It is a beautiful, patriotic symbol and we are so proud to fly the flag, which is visible to all who drive by and our residents living in both our buildings.”

“He was a proud vet,” said son Robert Paulson Sr.

Paulson served in the United States Army from Feb. 9, 1942 to Nov. 28, 1945.

Stationed in the South Pacific, he was part of the force that fought to take Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines, from the Japanese toward the end of the war in 1945.

About three months shy of Victory over Japan Day, Paulson was shot in the leg and went on to lose his right hand on May 11. He became a double Purple Heart recipient due to the wounds he received in combat.

“I was so glad he could talk about it,” she said.

Many vets suffer in silence keeping their war experiences to themselves.

“I remember my dad picking shrapnel out of his legs when I was 4 or 5,” Robert said.

Following his military service, Paulson returned to Minnesota. He and his future bride met at Bulldock’s Corner in Hutchinson. Patricia was there to see a girlfriend who worked there, when she looked over and saw this good-looking young man having a beer.

“It was love at first sight,” she said. “To me it was. He came to see me whenever he could. He was quite a guy. We did everything together.”

The couple married in 1948, making their living farming near Lake Marion.

Some might think losing a hand would put Paulson at a disadvantage, but Robert said not.

“I learned mechanics from my dad,” he said. “He could do anything. He was amazing. We did all our own repair work on the farm.”

Paulson’s hook came in handy because he could use it as a tool. Pat told the story of a salesman who stopped by the farm one day and was left open-mouthed when he saw Paulson shingling a roof and starting nails with his hook.

Robert remembers attending the first tractor pull at the McLeod County Fair. He was 14.

“Dad and I got picked to stand on the skid,” he said.

Robert eventually followed his dad into military service, choosing the Navy over the Army.

“My dad told me to go into the Navy. They had better food,” he said. “It made me.”

In 1977, the Paulsons headed to Florida where they lived until 2006.

“He loved it,” she said. “He could be outside. He was always busy.”

The couple returned to live in Hutchinson in 2006, when health problems and a desire to be closer to family brought them home.

“I’d forgotten what a beautiful town Hutchinson was,” she said.

Kenneth and Patricia shared 63 1/2 years of marriage, five children — Robert, Dianne, Barbara, Mark and Michael — nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.

Tuesday’s ceremony included a short story written by great-granddaughter Halee Kraft, and a solo of the national anthem by great-granddaughter Ashley Paulson. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was performed by the Ecumen Oaks and Pines Bell Choir.

Kenneth Paulson died on Sept. 10, 2010. Tuesday’s flag dedication marked the two-year observance of his death.

“First I was going to plant a tree, but it could die,” Patricia said. “This will always be there.”