Stick with me here folks. The story I am going to tell you may give you the goosebumps. It may be too saccharine for others. Regardless, it is true. My 87 year old mother died today–the same day set aside to celebrate the U.S. flag–peacefully. She had a long, good life and, like anyone who lives a long time, overcame some daunting challenges. For example, as a young girl aged 10 to 13, my mom saw her Dad and two older sisters die from tuberculosis. She was raised by a single mother–a tough, funny lady who lived to see 101 years.
So what does this have to do with Flag Day. My mom was a Lyons and her fourth great uncle was a fellow named Charles Thomson. Charles hailed from Ireland and arrived in Delaware in 1739. He was only ten years old. He was accompanied by his father and two older brothers, which included seventeen year old brother, William, my mother’s fourth great grandfather.
With the coast of Delaware in sight, tragedy struck the Thomsons. Call it the ironic luck of the Irish. Their dear old dad–not that old actually, only 44–died. Cause unknown. So the Thomson boys arrived in America as orphans and were split up. William, the older brother, headed for Virginia to pursue his ambition of owning a farm. He succeeded in that venture and lived to the ripe old age of 93 (he is buried in Augusta, Virginia).
Charles was separated from his brothers and placed with the family of a local blacksmith. And here the story takes a twist that Hollywood might find implausible.
Charles was admitted to Francis Alison’s school in New London, Pennsylvania. Within a few years, he became friends with Benjamin Franklin, who became his benefactor. Charles was a ravenous student with an insatiable thirst to learn. He spoke French and Greek and became a tutor at the Philadelphia Academy (now known as the University of Pennsylvania). https://declaration.fas.harvard.edu/blog/november-thomson
Charles then established himself as a Philadelphia merchant and intellectual leader with good political connections. His business interests pulled him into the Revolutionary movement during the 1760s, and by 1774, when John Adams arrived for the First Continental Congress, Thomson was known as the Sam Adams of Philadelphia.
He was the first and only Secretary of the Continental Congress. His name is on the first printing of the Declaration of Independence. The manuscript Journals of the Continental Congress are in his hand. He created the final, approved design for the Great Seal of the United States, still in use today.
And here is where flag day comes into the story:
[The] symbolism of the colors red, white, and blue is drawn from heraldry and was not originally intended to apply to the flag. Charles Thomson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, discussing the proposed U.S. seal, gave symbolic meanings for the colors in the seal, drawn from heraldry, with white signifying purity and innocence; red, hardiness and valor; and blue signifying vigilance, perseverance, and justice. Over time, that explanation came to be associated with the flag.
I do not know if Mom chose to die today. She had said her good-byes to children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great, great grandchildren. But I take inspiration from the fact that she passed on the day dedicated to celebrating the flag of the United States of America, whose meaning was defined by her great uncle. It is quintessential irony. A dark day made light when I reflect on family history. I think Uncle Charle had it right. America should stand for purity and innocence; hardiness and valor; and most importantly of all, perseverance and justice. I thank the international readers for indulging me on making this point. I still believe in what American is supposed to be and pray that this Republic find its way back to its revolutionary roots. A country genuinely committed to purity, valor and justice would be a blessing to the world.
NOTE–Charles Thomson’s vision of purity had nothing to do with racism. Purity of thought and action. In other words, a nation that lives by high morals.
Nick J says
Condolences from NZ. Im one of those unusual 65 year olds with two alive parents, father 95 and a DDay vet.
Picking up on your comment re Uncle Charlie. We in the rest of the West get so disappointed with the USA, and its because the US has strayed so far from his ideals. Like my own country US democracy plays second fiddle to corporate and government interests. I can only hope that the fall out to the loss of the proxy war in Ukraine and the damage from the sanctions will cause the electorate throughout the West to drive reform and institutional renewal based on your Uncle Charlies ideals.
PS I too had a great Uncle Charlie, merchant seaman, got sunk 3 times over two World Wars and survived.
Larry Johnson says
Thanks Nick. Got to be something special about the Charlies of the world. We need more. God bless your family.
Condolences on the passing of your Mom, Larry.
Larry Johnson says
Thank you. Mom and I had full closure. She was walking around with a 95% blocked carotid artery. She knew she could go any minute. I said all the things that needed to be said when she was still awake and moving about. Too often people wait too late to express their love and talk frankly about death. It is part of the life experience.
Eric Newhill says
From one son of a DAR to another, I understand and appreciate the American values and virtues of which you speak and celebrate and offer condolences on the passing of your mother and a representative of a fading great culture.
Larry Johnson says
We have a responsibility to our ancestors. We have a Republic if we can keep it.
Fascinating story. Glad you had closure with your Mom but that final goodbye is hard. Condolences.
Condolences on your loss, celebrate the life.
Sorry for your loss Larry, many intercessory prayers for your Mother and prayers of understanding comfort for you and your family.
I lost my Mom when she was 88. I’m blessed to have my Father who is spry and mentally sharp at 92.
Count your blessings and “this too shall pass.” Take some time we support that. You’ve been producing prolific content of late and everyone appreciates your hard work.
Now is the time for you to be okay with “Being still.”
My heartfelt condolences Larry.
Having lost my mother a year ago, I know how deep the cut of losing one‘s mother goes.
In silence from Switzerland
Larry Johnson says
We had the blessing of knowing her time was short and being able to get closure while she could still talk about it. I honor her by living an honorable life.
SoCal John says
Excellent, great to hear that you could and did reach closure with your Mom while she was still able to talk. She is proud of you, and offers her love, comfort, and support to you now from the spirit world, Larry.
Larry, first my condolences.
I have been reading your blog regularly for the past few months. This is the first time I am posting my comments. We are contemporaries in age and though of different backgrounds we share much in common, as I have come to know you from reading you. You remind me of why I fell in love with America when I first discovered Walt Whitman as barely a teenager in far away distant Calcutta in Bengal, India, where I was born. Whitman opened the window into America for me and from then the rest has been a love affair with and for America that I am afraid to see being lost, as America has gone from being the inspirational republic for people around the world to what it is evolving into, another corrupt empire, and about which the founding fathers had warned against.
I pray that there are legions of Americans like yourself, patriots and freedom lovers, who will prevail over the Deep Staters, the neocons, the woke progressives and their ilk that are bent upon dismantling your great republic.
Larry Johnson says
Thank you for shring that.
In the movie, ” The Good Sheperd” about the founding of the CIA, the character played by Matt Damon said to mob character played by Joe Pesci: “We own this country, the rest of you are just visitors.”
This is very true and encapsulates the functions and the mission of the USA- controlled by a small group i.e. CIA, hell-bent on imposing hegemony on the world.
All empires-Roman, Greece, Egyptian, English, Portugese, French, Belgian, Ottoman, Persia- died and never came back except for the Chinese. Death of an empire is usually ugly and full of destruction. Not much hope for any goods remaining from the death of the US empire.
Your family history is magnificent, an American from the start of it all! Your mom raised a magnificent son, God bless her for doing so. May her memory forever be a blessing!
Larry Johnson says
Out of tragedy something wonderful was created.
My heartfelt condolences to you and your family on your m0ther’s passing.
Michael Murry says
My heartfelt condolences on the passing of your mother, Larry. My widowed working-class mother (Great Depression and WWII generation) “got away” (as the Irish say) two decades ago now and the grief remains as raw as ever, and always will. Nonetheless, I did manage to put some words together eventually that helped me put the emptiness in perspective. So, for those of us everywhere who have lost our beloved mothers:
Rest in Peace, departed mothers. You’ve earned your eternal reward.
Larry Johnson says
Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
My sincere condolences for your loss.
While this is pyric, death is the end of pain. Moreover, she will not have to watch the collapse of the West as we must. Since you are a true patriot, she must have been one too.
My only advice is not to think it “horrible”. Not good, for sure. Painful, for sure. But normal, we all have to go through it except for those who die young, which is even more painful for the parents.
Warm Regards, Larry
I am very sorry to hear of your loss, and my condolences. Your mum seems to have led a long and full life, but that is little compensation for the hole she will leave in your family.
As Gandalf says in LOTR: “These dark days will pass. We must do the best with the time allotted to us.”
all the best, Julian
The story you told was very phenomenal , condolescene LJ for your loss ..
LJ, have you traced the Lyons?
Larry Johnson says
Yes, I have.
My deepest condolences. May the Lord receive the soul of his mother in her Divine mercy.
larry, every warrior hopes for a good death, she got one, honor her honor that!
Whatba touching and heartwarming tribute to a great lady.
My prayers are with you and your family.
Sorry to hear about your dear mother.
Lo, There do I see my Father
Lo, There do I see my Mother and
My Brothers and my Sisters
Lo, There do I see the line of my people back to the beginning
Lo, They do call to me
They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla
Where thine enemies have been vanquished
Where the brave shall live Forever
Nor shall we mourn but rejoice for those that have died the glorious death.
My sincere condolences from Türkiye. As a man who lost his parents (mother 11 years, father 14 years ago), I share your pain.
Condolences Larry. Mums are precious and as they say here, our mothers go through deaths door to have us and after that, they still put us first.. You have an incredible family story, thank you for sharing.
Femi Alaye says
My condolences, Mr Johnson.
I can feel your loss as my mother died seventeen years ago, and I still miss her TERRIBLY.
Mothers are SPECIAL as my Yoruba people attest by this saying: Orisha bi iya ko si / There’s no god like a mother.
I also feel your pain as regard the mess into which country, the USA, has plunged. This is one country which had the potential to make the world a peaceful and prosperous place for all its inhabitants, alas, it has been hijacked by self-seeking pure charlatans.
Unfortunately, we all must pay the price for America’s reckless and uber stupid follies.
Bear River says
my condolences, sir.
My condolences. Wonderful story.
sorry for your loss, my sincere condolances. A person like you, rarely happens just out of the blue, and now it makes perfect sense understanding how you have become what your are.
It is an inspiring story you shared with us. Thank You!
My condolence to you and your family Larry. And thank you very much for sharing your wonderful and amazing story.
I am saddened by the death of your mother. May she rest in peace.
There is a reasonable chance that Charles Thomson knew two of my multi great grandfathers; one was a long serving member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly who worked often with Benjamin Franklin. The other commanded a Continental militia regiment in nearby Chester County. Like Charles they both did well in the Philadewhose area.
Your two recent pieces on Ukraine were of particular interest to me. Both fit very nicely with information I got from other sources some time ago.
Glen Beck during the first impeachment did a show outlining in detail the NGOs in Ukraine, their leadership, interconnection, and funding. I came away thinking that DoS directly and indirectly funds these outfits (including Soros) and that huge sums flow back to US pols and NGOs. Beck may be erratic, but his research staff is first rate, so I don’t doubt his reporting.
Over at Conservative Treehouse there is also overview reporting on the visible money flows into UKR and how it comes back into the political system in DC. Add CIA black budget to that.
Clearly a host of NGOs, DC lobbies and DC running dogs (like Vidman) whose rice bowls, very threatened by UKR impending loss, are fighting to keep the funds flowing. There are a lot of rice bowls, so your report on the Azov involvement isn’t a surprise.
Both DC and UKR are deeply corrupt, A pair of matched horses!
Hence the deafening agitprop from “the mighty Wurlitzer.
Further to above, after reflection.
Your second piece describes the resources which could make UKR an industrial powerhouse (I’d add a clever and hard working population to that).
I see these resources as safe from US grasping hands for the moment. The phalanx of DC pols, NGOs and running dogs are there for loot, and that alone. They haven’t the talent, vision or skills needed to return UKR industry to operation, much less develop it. I doubt there in one among the thousands who could fix a 1967 Ford much less bring a plant on line or develop a logistics chain. Be sure that most don’t even know anybody with engineering skills.
Andrie M writes abt some the uselessness of the typical Ivy League liberal arts grad. They are credentialed, not educated.
UKR industry will be restored, bringing good work to the residents. The long term planning and capital will be Russian!
RIP Mrs. Johnson. You left a legacy for which we are grateful.
Bill Wade says
Larry, I’m so sorry, may God bless your mother and all her family. My prayers are with you.
My condolences to you and your family.
Appreciate the background story about your family tree since it rang a bell about one of my own ancestors, a public notary in Amsterdam who was involved in legal matters when the Swedes established a ‘New Sweden’ colony in 1638. When I did a quick search to refresh my memory, I unearthed new documents about that particular branch of the family.
Fan of your blog!
Kerry Simmons here, I just wanted to say I was sorry to hear about your mom. We know it is inevitable, but it is still hurts the heart. I have the most vivid memories of your mom. Her smile and way her eyes twinkled when she gave a funny answer or response. we lost Dad in March, he was ready to go, but i will miss him every day, he was just so sweet and kind and loved beautiful things and people. My memories are so filled with things he said or did, he never seems very far away. Sending my prayers and love to you and your family.
Sidenote: Great story about her life and your whole blog is pretty amazing.
Congratulations on your illustrious family history Larry, and while I can only offer condolences for your mother’s passing, considering her kinship with the Sons of Liberty, I’m glad she was able to exit on Flag Day. I must say, 87 seems less and less a “ripe old age” to me as these years fly by…
I am contacting you from Algeria to offer my condolences for your mother loss. Loosing your mum stays with you forever, you live with it without really getting over it.
Your mum legacy represents what we, from far away, like and admire about American history and the American people. A History stained by injustice and violence, unfortunately that’s what it takes to build a country, but also of brave and patriotic men and women who built a nation with their bare hands. Keep fighting for yourself and for the rest of humanity.
M. Strenk says
Condolences from a close relative (not a direct descendant) of one of the men who raised the second flag on Iwo Jima.
Thank you for your website. The sane among us need more such sites, virtual and physical, to gather.
D.E. Murray says
Deepest condolences, Larry.
Benjamin Franklin was the most intelligent of the Founding Fathers, and they were a brilliant lot. Obviously, he saw the spark of greatness in your ancestor.
I know well how the “present forces us into the past,” as Faulkner said. Every day, I think of my maternal grandfather, who was a soldier in the Army of Tsar Alexander III, and then Nicholas II. I’m sure you understand why. It is amazing how people who died long before we were born affect us.
Leider Lincoln says
From Brazil I will raise my prayers so that the soul of your beloved mother may be received by God the Father, our Lord and Savior.
My sincere condolences for your loss. My prayers will be with you and your family.
My condolences on your loss.
Excuse me for my bad english, I’m from Brazil.
I’m very sorry for your Mother. I did not know her. But I know the mini of her son.
I do respect your mind in a very high-level. I think your Mother has a good role on the way you thinkink.
I hope she RIP. Sorry.
Larry Johnson says
Thank you for your lovely, thoughtful message. If only this kind of love would become the primary force in the world we would have peace.
Espero que te encuentres bien, Larry, lamento enormemente lo de tu mamá.
Larry Johnson says
"Slavic Christian Society" says
Belatedly, heartfelt condolences for your mother’s passing. God bless her, and all mothers who change our diapers, spend many sleepless nights, teach us how to speak and pray: without ever asking for any payment!
“God bless America, Land that I love, Stand beside her, and guide her Through the night with a light from above.” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_Bless_America.