Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription

Don Laughlin was a mentor to me. He and his wife Lois lived just a few miles from Scattergood Friends School and Farm, a Quaker co-ed, boarding High School just East of West Branch, Iowa. Following is part of his obituary.

Donald Eugene Laughlin, 93, died August 19, 2016 following a recent hip fracture and subsequent stroke during surgery. Don was born in New Providence, IA on Dec. 6, 1922 to Melvin and Edna Laughlin. In 1945 he married Lois Wood of Berkeley, CA, his wife of 63 years.

Both birthright Quakers, Don and Lois started a life together committed to social justice, world peace, and environmental concerns. They were life long members of the West Branch Conservative Friends Meeting. Don earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University. He later returned to school to earn a Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa while supporting his young family by managing the farm at Scattergood Friends School.

Both Don and Lois devoted many years to Scattergood School where, in addition to being the farm manager, Don taught science and math.

Don worked for more than 30 years in the Cardiology Department at the University of Iowa Hospital. While there, he repaired and invented medical instruments to assist doctors in such things as doppler use during heart surgery and monitoring patients’ pacemakers by telephone.

True to his Quaker belief in non-violence, Don was a Conscientious Objector during WWII and later refused to register for the peacetime military draft. As a consequence of his beliefs, Don was prosecuted and imprisoned for 6 months. Years later he was formally pardoned by then President John F. Kennedy. For many years, Don stood with others in a weekly silent vigil in downtown Iowa City to protest the Vietnam War.

This is the link to the obituary with further information:

Don and Lois were familiar to me as I grew up in Iowa Yearly Meeting (Conservative), but my first memories of them were from my days as a student at Scattergood Friends School (1966-70), when Lois was the librarian, and Don was the farm manager. Scattergood is a co-ed Quaker boarding High School near West Branch, Iowa.

I spent the summer of 1969 in Iowa City with a group of students who had received grants from the National Science Foundation.  My project was to work with Don in his medical engineering lab at the University of Iowa Hospitals.  The pulmonary function lab had just purchased one of the first commercially available desktop computers, and I wrote the software to use it to calculate pulmonary function test values, which were being done by hand.  This was before even electronic calculators were widely available.  I remember purchasing a slide rule for calculations that summer. (Yes, I even had a pocket protector).

Next we used a new computer program from IBM, the Electronic Circuit Analysis Program, to design a sensor to be placed on a patient’s chest to detect heart movement, for use in the field in emergency situations.  Each time we wanted to analyze a circuit, I had to carry three boxes full of punched computer cards to the computer center, and then come back for the results several hours later.  He taught me how to solder components under a microscope as part of that project.

I also remember going to the weekly peace vigil with him, standing on the street in front of the old Capitol building. Don was a draft resister, and his example, and that of many Iowa Friends, helped me make my own decision to resist the draft.

Since I spent my adult life in Indianapolis we didn’t see each other that often, but I always looked forward to those opportunities when we could.  We did exchange many email messages.

We both shared a deep interest in environmental science, which unavoidably led to profound concerns about increasingly extensive and severe environmental deterioration.  I was finally able to see his environmentally designed home when I attended the climate conference sponsored by the Yearly Meeting and FCNL at Scattergood in 2013.  We stayed up late into the night working on his project related to using LEDs for lighting.

He was very interested in my involvement with the Kheprw Institute (KI) community in Indianapolis, whose work is mentoring Black youth, and which has a strong environmental focus, with aquaponics, rain barrel production, etc.  We explored the possibility of the KI community producing the solar hot water heating system he had developed, but didn’t get that accomplished in time.  He offered to allow them to keep all of the revenue that would have been generated, another example of his generous heart. His death leaves a large hole in mine.

We were in the middle of our last collaboration when he broke his hip. He had been collecting the stories of (mainly) Quakers who had been conscientious objectors and draft resisters, including one about one of his ancestors, Seth Laughlin, during the Civil War. I was helping put them into form for publication. We both felt these were important stories that shouldn’t be lost. I’m very grateful that Marcia Shaffer was willing and able to work with us to get me some stories Don hadn’t yet sent before his stroke occurred.

You can download the collection of those stories that Don called Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription in various formats below.

This link will display the stories as a Flip Book.

PDF version.!Avb9bFhezZpPitJga_mpQTJdWRiOnQ?e=Cb8jeH Once the PDF opens online, you can use the menu at the top of the screen to download it.

epub version!Avb9bFhezZpPitJj_c7_ZQiNXYm3wQ?e=hYzNH6

Kindle version.!Avb9bFhezZpPitJht8ydjqpzlv85fw?e=CXJEP7 This link will allow you to download the MOBI file, which you can then open with the Kindle app.

This entry was posted in civil disobedience, Kheprw Institute, peace, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Young Quaker Men Facing War and Conscription

  1. randy kisling says:


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