The Haunting Absence of John Francis Sloan

By Mark Sloan, M.D. '75

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I keep a photograph of my grandmother, Nell Sloan, and her sons John Francis and Nicholas on my writing table. It’s a harvest scene taken in a wheat field near the family farm just north of Hoopeston, Illinois. The picture is undated, but from the fact of the harvest and the ages of the boys—John Francis is no more than 3 and Nicholas still wears a baby’s dress—the photo was likely taken in September of 1918. My father is also in the picture, though his presence is not at all obvious. My grandmother was several months pregnant with him on that hot afternoon, now 87 harvests gone.…

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