Transcript of the last letter Percy Surprise wrote home before his death:
Sept. 3, 1918
Dear Mother -- We got here a week ago but have not had time to write yet. I am at a Y.M.C.A. writing now. They have music and picture shows here. We get twelve days drill and 60 days in an auto school here and then I think we will go across. The officers here are different here than those that we had at Richmond. We have to have lots of help and if we don't it is K.P. duty for a week and that is some work. If them pictures are any good send me some of them. I lost Kenneth's address so send me that & tell pa to get the Ruley boys address and send that too. It has rained about every day we have been here and this is some muddy camp too. It is a red clay. You can't keep it out [of] the barracks unless you sweep every five minutes. There is a lot of limited service men here and some of them are going to New Jersey and Washington the last of this week. We drill from seven o'clock in the morning to eleven thirty then from one o'clock to five thrity at night and we have to keep a moving too. There is only about forty of us together, the rest of them scattered all arouind the camp. We sure do get some eats here. Well I will quit for this time. If you have got any extra money send me some as I don't know when we will get payed.
Your son P.H.S.
Bat Battery A
36 Battalion T.A.R>D.
The following information comes from the Surprise family CD-Rom created by Janet Umlauf:
Percy Howard SURPRISE was born on 23 May 1896 in Lowell. He died on 9 Oct 1918 in Knoxville, TN. Died of influenza in the Army during WW I. Percy Howard Surprise, US Army private, was the son of Ernest and Lola Surprise and was grandson of Peter Surprise, Lake County pioneer of 1833. Percy, who was born in 1896, attended the Eagle Creek one-room schoolhouse and helped his parents on the farm until his enlistment in the Army on July 1, 1918, at Crown Point. He was sent to Camp Taylor, Ky., and assigned to Battery B, 36th Field Artillery. He passed away during a serious influenza epidemic on Oct. 9, 1918, and was buried in Lowell.
The following Lake County Star article, from Oct. 18, 1918, was found in the Lowell Public Library local history file (LH--Vital Statistics, vol. 5, page 1):
The sad news was received last Thursday night, that Percy Surprise, a Lowell boy, had died of Spanish influenza at Camp Taylor. Open air funeral services were held Sunday afternoon at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Surprise. His brother, Kenneth Surprise, who is stationed at El Paso, Texas, came home to attend the funeral.
from The Lowell Tribune, Oct. 24, 1918:
Percy Surprise, Pneumonia, Camp Taylor, Ky., October 9.
A photocopy of the following article from an unknown source can be found in the Local History Files at the Lowell Public Library (LH--Vital Statistics, vol. 2, page 34):
Once again is Lowell called upon to mourn her soldier dead. This time two of our brave boys answered the call.
PERCY H. SURPRISE
Percy H. Surprise, son of Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Surprise, died at Camp Taylor, Ky., after an illness of several days with influenza terminating in pneumonia.
After enlisting he went to Richmond where he listed as an auto mechanic in Battery E, 36th Battalion F.A. Later he was transferred to Camp Taylor Ky., where he was finishing his training. His mother and sister, Mildred, were at his bedside when the end came.
Percy Howard, eldest son of Ernest and Lola N.* Surprise, was born in the home from which the services were held, May 23, 1896. He was raised to young manhood on the farm and always helped his parents to carry on their vocation of farming. Percy was known by a great many people, all of whom were always high in their praise of the model youth that he was.
About a year ago, soon after the war was declared, he enlisted in the service of his country, but after reaching Indianapolis was rejected. He then came home and on July 1st of this year enlisted again. He was sent to Richmond, Ind., where he attended the motor detachment school until a short time ago when he was transferred to Camp Taylor, Ky. Percy was taken sick with the epidemic, which is now prevalent in this country and developed pneumonia, from which he passed away Wednesday morning. The remains were brought to Lowell Friday morning, accompanied by his parents and sister, and Private Arthur Muzzal, with whom Percy enlisted in July, who was the military escort.
He leaves to mourn him, his parents, seven brothers, two sisters, two grandmothers, grandfather, and many other relatives and host of friends.
Funeral services were held at the home Sunday 2 p.m. and although it is necessary to hold private ____________________ large number of his realtives and friends gathered to pay their last respects to one of our nation's defenders. Rev. C.A. Brown preached the funeral sermon. Mrs. E. N. Hayhurst, the Misses Ernestine Belshaw and Ruby Hayhurst sang several songs. Undertaker Wm. Sheets had charge of the funeral. Interment in the Lowell cemetery. The following acted as pall bearers: Charles Frederick, Edward Modelin, Irvin Huebsch, Ed Carstens, Cyril Childers, and . . .[NOTE: the article is cut off here.]
*NOTE -- Lola Surprise's middle initial was actually "M," according to her granddaughter, Jan Umlauf, who writes "Lola's name was Lola Montez Ragon, so it would be Lola M. Ragon Surprise and not Lola N."