Uncle Russ, the Poet

Kees

Lisa Emmett recently contacted me about my Uncle Russ. She read my post about him – “In Memoriam – Russell Erwin Kees (1927-2016)” – and wondered if my uncle was the author of a poem she had.

Apparently, her mother died last year and as she was going through her mother’s things, she found a poem in a jewelry box by Russell E. Kees. As we compared notes, we learned that both her mother, the former Rosella VanderKlok, and my Uncle Russ were born in 1927, so they were contemporaries. Additionally, Rosella grew up and lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan, until the 1950s. My uncle lived in Grand Rapids from about 1937 to about 1944. So they were in the same place at the same time. So, there is no doubt in my mind that the poem, “To Rosa” is a poem from my uncle to a young woman, written sometime from when they were teens, probably 16 or 17 years old.

Photo of Russell Kees in army uniform
Russell Kees c. 1952

Rosella VanderKlok

TO ROSIE

“Rosa” by Russell E. Kees

I’ll admit I’m rather slow,
When it comes to words of grace,
So I’ll tell it to you in a poem,
Rather than face to face.

I realize we’ve barely met,
Except for a week or two,
But I think that the time is coming close,
To speak of my love for you.

No don’t get red and blush and fret,
‘Cause it happens every day,
Boy meets girl, and falls in love,
That’s why I feel this way.

I may joke like I did last night,
About things we were going to do,
But deep inside, I keep the hope,
That someday they might come true.

I was happy to see you wear my ring,
And although I have no right,
To lie here in bed and think of you,
As mine for a single night.

I’ve tried for an hour to write a poem,
Explaining just how I feel,
But after I’ve read it, (and I’m glad that I said it)
I feel like a lowdown feel.

So here is the poem I said I would write,
God help me for being blunt,
But truth is stranger than fiction, you know,
And the true is, this poem’s NO stunt.

May God give me the courage to look you in the eye again
after you’ve read this!!!!!!

THE WORST THING I’VE EVER WRITTEN
(But the Truest)

                           by Russell E. Kees

Russell and Rosa must have had a very special relationship for Rosa to have kept the poem for nearly 75 years. The poem also provides insight into Russell, whose youth experiences have always been a mystery to me.  My thanks to Lisa for sharing this glimpse into their teenage lives.

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