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I began life as a “throw away” child in an orphanage one cold, winter
night, the 12th of February, 1944. It was in the stockyard town of
South St. Paul, Minnesota. My “given” name was Leonard Allen Boe (aka.
Leonard Allen Stenstrom). There are only unanswered questions to fill
in the missing pieces of my life or background, my parents or family.
In the spring, a young couple from Minneapolis (Roy and Alice Brown)
came, sought me out, chose me, purchased me for the price of $55.50,
changed my name to Robert Reed Brown, made me their child, and took me
home to live with them! I was a “chosen child” they told me . . . and I
am very thankful for them and for that! But, down inside I was still an
unwanted child, thrown away by his mother. No matter what you said, how
you acted, or what you did, I was still an unwanted child with a lot of
questions going unanswered. Who were my real parents? Who were my
brothers and sisters? Who was I? Why didn’t my mother want me? How
could she give me up? Where did I fit in? Where did I belong? From the
very earliest age I knew something was missing but I just didn’t know
what it was.
My foster parents raised me in a nominal Christian home. They had me
baptized. We went to church every Sunday. I sang in the choir, was an
altar boy, played the trumpet for special services, was confirmed,
joined the church, and took communion. I was a religious boy, but
something was still missing, and I was still searching.
I started smoking at age seven and drinking at thirteen. I began racing
cars and motorcycles, fighting, and chasing all the wrong kinds of
girls, only to find that none of these things could fill the emptiness
that I felt inside.
I attended the University of Minnesota and studied philosophy and
psychology, but found no answers there — only more questions, and more
people who were themselves looking for answers.
In October 1964, I was married and went on active duty with the U.S.
Navy. For the first time in my life I had a family that was my own.
JoAnne, my highschool sweetheart, and I had three beautiful girls. I
was a success in my work, and traveled the world. I was realizing a
lifelong dream, but the emptiness was still with me. Year by year, my
attempts to fill that emptiness by continually grasping for things that
the world offered, was taking a toll on my life in every area that was
important to me.
By January 1975, I had lost my wife and family, my home and friends,
and was living in the Bachelor Chiefs Barracks at a naval station in
Pennsylvania. There was a strange fellowship of empty equals within
that barracks! There seemed no end to the alcohol, partying, and girls
that drifted in and out of the rooms at all hours, day and night. The
only two “quite respectable” rooms were those of the local NIS agent,
and the one across the hall from mine (which turned out to be a place
where abortions were performed). This was a real collection of
disillusioned, lost souls if ever there was one, and it all served to
accentuate the realization of my own emptiness.