Telling Their Story

Standing left to right; Edward Monty and his son Oreon Monty. Sitting left to right; Ida Monty, Joyce (Jicey) Monty, Etta Monty Smith. Picture from the collection of Carl Gonya.

Here is another example of what I call a front porch picture. Pictured is the Edward L Monty family of Beekmantown New York. The picture is taken on their farm. A quick look at the picture shows a family dressed in their finest clothes in a proud pose. Edward Lafayette Monty (1818 – 1904) my wife’s 2nd Great Grandfather is shown standing at a table with a saw in his hand. A horse and wagon are in the background. Flowers in the flower boxes can be seen on the front porch. One of the windows is slightly open to let in fresh air. Ida Bell Monty (1861 – 1879) is next. Since Ida died in 1879, I believe the picture was taken on or before 1879. Joyce (Jicey) Murphy Monty (1817 – 1904) is seated next; she is my wife’s 2nd Great Grandmother. Seated on the end is Etta Monty Smith (1857 – 1942). Standing with his hand on his mother’s shoulder is Oreon Monty (1850 – 1930) who is my wife’s great-grandfather.

Edward was a farmer in the Chazy and Beekmantown area. He married Joyce or Jicey Murphy of Cohoes New York in 1846. The family story is that Joyce made her trip to Beekmantown from Cohoes on horseback with her trunk strapped on. This was no easy journey of over 150 miles over a large sparsely unsettled part of the state. Pictured below is the trunk that Joyce packed her belongings in. They were to be married well over fifty years until death took them just months apart in 1904.

My wife Sandy with her 2nd Great Grandmother Joyce Murphy Monty’s trunk.

Great Grandfather Oreon Monty worked in a sawmill and was also a farmer. He was to work his farm until his death in 1930. Oreon did not marry until he was 41 years old. His bride Emma Craft was fifteen years younger. They formed a marriage that was to last 39 years ending with Oreon’s death. Emma was to live for eight more years. Below is their wedding announcement.

From the Plattsburgh Sentinel; November 6, 1891.

While we may not have pictures of all our great-grandparents, we may have family stories or information that we have found because of our research efforts. It is up to us to tell their story because if we don’t, we can be sure that all or most will be lost within one or two generations. We can make it as simple or complex as we like. I hope the above helps some of you to get started on your family history project. The way I see it is you could have a one-page story about an ancestor or a blank page. Which one do you want to pass down to future generations?

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Whats in a Picture? | Tagged , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Letters are Windows to the Past

Smithsonian Institution. Repository: National Postal Museum

My Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair was trying to make a new start in 1918. She had divorced her first husband Abner Bonnett and had just married William LeClair. The envelope shown below housed a letter from her husband Abner pleading for one more chance as he promised to “change his Ways.” They did get back together long enough to have one more child, their sixth before they finally divorced in 1914.

 

Envelope for letter from Abner to his wife Bessie. Note the simple address used.

In the partially illustrated letter below written October 6, 1918, Bessie seems happy with her new marriage and baby son. In the letter written to her oldest daughter Florence Bonnett Tromblee, who also had a young baby Bessie says in part,

Sunday, Oct. 6th

Dear Florence, baby 

I have just laid baby down, he has been napping _ _ _ _ aches. He is getting fat he will be seven weeks old Wed. I got your letter and was oh so glad to hear you were all well.

Letter written by my Great Grandmother Bessie Barney Bonnett LeClair.

Bessie also in this letter talks about fixing up their new place with wallpaper and painting the ceilings. She also varnished the icebox and a writing desk. I would guess this letter was written on that newly varnished desk. However, a happy life was to elude Bessie as just fifteen days after writing this letter she was to become a casualty of the Influenza epidemic of 1918 at the young age of 36. This may be the last letter Bessie ever wrote; it is certainly one of the last. This letter was one of a collection of letters I received from Julia Tromblee, the daughter-in-law of the letter’s recipient Florence Tromblee. Julia and I never knew of each other and met when we noticed each others family trees on ancestry.com

Letter concerning Samuel Dakin and his newspaper.

The letter shown above was not written by a relative but was written about a relative. The letter is dated 1825 and concerns Samuel Dakin, a cousin of mine. Samuel and his partner William J Bacon purchased the newspapers the “Utica Sentinel” and the “Columbian Gazette” and combined them into one newspaper. In part the letter says;

“… We feel confident that the paper under their direction will be ably & successfully conducted. The public are deeply interested that the respectability of their public journal should be sustained, and we feel gratified at the prospect, that the varied talents of the editors of the present paper will give to it a character which will entitle it to the most liberal encouragement, and in that belief, we earnestly write to it the patronage support of your friends.”

The letter was signed by many of the leading citizens of Utica, New York at the time. The signatures continue onto another sheet of paper. Many buildings and streets are today named after some of the people who put their names to this letter of endorsement. I was able to get copies of this letter and many others from the Dakin family from the archives at Hamilton College where many from that branch of the family attended.

 

World War Two letter from Robert Lyon to his mother Alice Slinn Lyon.

The partial letter above is from an extensive collection of letters written mostly by my wife’s father Robert Lyon to his mother during his military service in World War Two. At the time this letter was written he was still stationed stateside. In part the letter says;

“I was going to hi myself to Denver to-night, but as it came out I’m on the litter detail. You see they select a few of the students every night to stay on the post for the next twenty-four hours, to carry wounded soldiers from the train to the hospital. We all hope they don’t appear, but anyway none of the fellows here have ever experienced such a thing yet.”

Robert was to experience such a thing when he found himself in combat in Italy. His letters give great insight as to what he was going through and of his thoughts at the time.

You do not need letters to give you a peep into the past. I have old school report cards, driver licenses, pay stubs, postcards, certificates of achievements, greeting cards, and many other types of written records. Shown below is a birthday card and envelope from my wife’s grandmother to her great-grandmother. Many of these greeting cards have a short message and for many perhaps the only signature they will have of a relative. Besides looking at these old cards is fun.

Birthday card from Ruby Gonya Monty to her mother Lottie.

The next letter illustrated below is part of a four-page letter. This copy of the letter was sent to me by a person that I met due to a DNA match. The letter was written by Page Cole and concerned the family of his wife, Mary Bushey Cole. Mary’s mother Mary Deloria Vincent Bushey Lajoy was my great aunt the sister of my grandfather Willis Deloria. As you can see from Mary’s many different last names she was married many times. Page was writing to a great-granddaughter of Mary who was trying to make sense of the family relationships. In the letter Page is assuring the great-granddaughter that all of Mary’s children were from her first marriage. The letter reads in part;

“Now Mary was the youngest. Mary was born on the 27th of April and was baptized in St. Peters Church in Plattsburgh on the 19th of May 1900. We have the original certificate of baptism, so the three children had to have the same father.” 

Letter written by Page Cole regarding his wife’s Mary’s mother Mary Deloria and family history

 

From this letter, I learned about Mary Deloria’s first husband, Edward Vincent. I had never heard of him until I read this letter. This was a four-page letter that was full of family history that I knew nothing about. I learned about name changes (not just from marriages) dates of death, and births also ages being lied about and why.

These letters have allowed me to understand better and tell the story of my family. With the exception of the birthday card which came from my wife’s parents papers all the letters shown were from other people and places. Even the collection of war letters from my wife’s father were from other people freely sharing and giving what they had. My wife had no idea that these letters existed until her cousin handed her a large archive box containing these letters. We all must search for and reach out to family and share what we have. By doing this, we will build a better family history.

For Better or for Worse comic strip. Used with permission.
https://www.fborfw.com/

 

How frail and ephemeral is the material substance of letters, which makes their very survival so hazardous. Print has a permanence of its own, though it may not be much worth preserving, but a letter! Conveyed by uncertain transportation, over which the sender has no control; committed to a single individual who may be careless or inappreciative; left to the mercy of future generations, of families maybe anxious to suppress the past, of the accidents of removals and house-cleanings, or of mere ignorance. How often it has been by the veriest chance that they have survived at all.

Elizabeth Drew

 

 

 

 

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

The Dance

This well worn picture was taken about 1968.

When we go through an old box or album of pictures they can give us reason to laugh or sigh, and even feel a little sad. We get the most out of these pictures when they are of us or were taken by us. We know the background and story that the picture represents. The picture helps to capture the moment so we can recall the events that were taking place all around while the photograph was taken. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but sometimes we have to tell its story.

The above picture was taken at a Valentine semi-formal dance at my girlfriend Sandy’s (now my long time wife) high school in Beekmantown, New York. It was what we called a semi-formal dance. I know it was a semi-formal because I am wearing a coat and tie and Sandy is wearing a dress. The area high schools held many dances throughout the year. It was not uncommon that if two schools had an athletic contest, the school that was not hosting the athletic event would host a dance. Students and athletes from both schools would attend the dance. The cost to get into the dance was nominal, and the music was always a live band. Most of the bands were high school students who had gotten together and formed a group. We also had bands from students from the local colleges and from people who did it part time from their regular jobs. Below is news clipping from a 1967 Plattsburgh Press-Republican news article, about a newly formed band.

News article about just one of the many area bands.

 

It was at a school dance Where I met my wife. We did not go to the same high school as she went to Beekmantown High School and I went to Plattsburgh High School. We were to meet at a dance at a third school called Mount Assumption Institute (MAI). The night we meet I had no intention of going to the dance. I was at home watching television when a good friend came knocking on my door. He had a major crush on a girl at school and he wanted to go to the dance being held at MAI to try and meet up with her. I will admit it took some effort to talk me into going, as the last thing I wanted to do was go out that night. We walked to the dance where he went off to find the girl of his dreams (he had no luck) and I was thinking I would just go home. That’s when a girl who had her school locker next to mine came up and said she had someone she wanted me to meet. That’s when she introduced me to her cousin Sandy. She was cute with freckles and red hair and while I did not know it then I had found my dance partner.

Below is MAI the school where I met my wife. The school closed down a few years ago but has been remodeled into apartments. Funny I can still hear the music.

This was where my wife and I had our first dance.

 

 Could I Have This Dance

I’ll always remember that magic moment

When I held you close to me

As we moved together, I knew forever

You’re all I’ll ever need

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Would you be my partner every night?

When we’re together it feels so right

Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?

Released 1980

Songwriters; Wayland Holyfield and Bob House

 

 Happy Valentines Day

 

Posted in Whats in a Picture? | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

A Box Full of Surprises

This was the box that was full of surprises.

 

All that it cost me was twenty dollars. For those twenty dollars, I received hours of fun and entertainment. So as far as I am concerned I obtained more than my money’s worth. All this was found in a box of pictures and documents at an estate sale. When I started looking through the box, the dealer informed me that that I would not find anything local since she brought the box up from Florida (I live in New York State) from the estate sales she did while living down there. The box contained well over a hundred pictures and documents, so I started to group items that had names in common. Eventually, I had four groups that drew my interest. After a little negotiation, the dealer and I settled on the price. Now all I had to do was to research the people staring at me from those photographs. I needed to see if I could find them a home to which they belong

John F Rollins

 

The above picture is of John F Rollins who was born in Springfield, N.H. in the year 1835. The Rollins family was easy to find as they have several family trees on ancestry.com. I did discover that John Rollins had moved to Florida by the time of the 1880 census where his occupation was listed as receiving U.S. money. That sounds like a job I would like. He was still in Florida for the 1900 census where his occupation is simply listed as a Capitalist. He must have moved back up to N.H. after 1900 because death records show that he died there. However, his time in Florida may explain how these pictures ended up there. I have five pictures from this family, John in the picture above, Gertrude Rollins, John H Rollins, Nora Rollins, and one which is written on the back as Great Grandmother Rollins. I received two quick responses to my inquiries regarding the pictures. One person only wanted digital copies but the second person wanted the photographs. I was pleased to send the photographs and not have to destroy them as I have a limited amount of room.

 

The family of Oscar A Rexer Sr.

The picture above is of the Rexer family. On the back of the picture is written Aunt Erma, Grandpa Rexer, Uncle Bill, Dad, Grandma Rexer, and Aunt Gertie. With a little research, I was able to put complete names to these people. They are left to right Erma Rexer, Oscar A Rexer Sr., William O Rexer, Oscar A Rexer Jr., Frieda Spiehs Rexer, and Gertrude M Rexer. I also have a picture of Oscar Rexer Jr. taken for his high school graduation and a picture of his wife to be Helene Nietmann. However, they also had many documents and such mixed in with the photographs. Someone had taken great care to keep these items together as a group as many were placed in Sheet protectors of the type that would be placed in a three-ring binder. Some of the items were a death certificate, a letter written in German, a map highlighting a city in Germany, and among other things, a statement of personal history filled out by Oscar Rexer Jr.

This is one of the many paper documents that I have for the Rexer Family.

From these papers, I was able to start putting some of the facts needed to research this family. Also, I was able to get some records from ancestry that was of great help. The Rexer family immigrated to America in December of 1910 from Germany. Oscar Rexer Jr. was about six years of age. They arrived at a difficult time since hostilities were soon to break out between Germany and the U.S. World War One broke out in Europe in 1914, and the American public became apprehensive toward people of German heritage. Then with Germany, increasing submarine warfare life for German immigrants became much harder. When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917 the lives of all German-Americans were to become very difficult. Most German-language publication ceased to exist; German music was no longer played, streets, buildings, and even some cities were renamed. German language instruction in schools was stopped. Many German immigrants and German-Americans were subject to mistreatment, and some were killed by mobs that got out of hand. Many were jailed without charges and released after a day or so. On an application that Oscar Rexer Jr. filled out is an interesting tidbit. To the question “Have you ever been arrested” Oscar gave the following answer. “May 1924 Port Arthur Texas. While on a weekend trip to Texas was picked up on suspicion, held overnight on open charge. Released without charges being preferred.” While this was after World War One it was during a period in our history of negative reaction against immigration, and also perhaps there were some ill feelings toward people of German heritage.

One of the many articles found by looking at online newspapers.

I also was able to make good use of digital newspapers on the internet. I found many news articles like the obituary shown above that allowed me to learn more about the family but also to locate living relatives that may be interested in having these items returned to the family. This was very useful since the Rexer family had very little in the way of family trees on ancestry. I was able to reach out with social media and by phone to well over six family members. Only one was to return my messages. However, she is currently living outside the country and said she would have me mail the papers and photographs to her when she comes back for a visit. She should be back in the country now per the dates she has given me, but so far I have not heard from her or anyone else from the Rexer family. I will keep these items for a little while longer.

J. Silver Hill

The happy smiling man shown above is a sad story. It is the only item I have for him, and his smiling picture was what drew me toward keeping it and seeing what I could learn. On the back of the picture was written J. Silver Hill, Nov.1905 Dixon, Calif. I did some checking on ancestry and soon found what I believed to be the right family. Also once again online newspapers proved to be very valuable in the search for Mr. Hill. I was to learn that his full name was Joseph Silver Hill and that his father was James Hill. However, it seems that everyone called Joseph by his father’s name of James and sometimes even put a Jr. after his name. This was a little confusing when I first started to do my research on Joseph. As you can read in the newspaper article below Mr. Hill committed suicide as he perceived that he had not won the love of his new wife.

One of the many news articles I found regarding the Hill family.

This took place in 1915 just ten years after the picture was taken. Mr. Hill was well off finically leaving his new bride $35,000 which would be in today’s value about $861,000. I was able to very quickly contact Susan, a relative of Mr. Hill who very much wanted the photograph. I had asked her about Lillian, the young bride and she was able to tell me some more of her story. This is what she wrote. “You inquired about Silver’s wife, Lillian. I did a bit of checking and found she did not remarry. She was a librarian prior to her marriage in 1914. She returned to her profession, wrote a number of children’s books, became “chief” of the California State Department of Education in the 1930’s & 40’s. She died in Los Angeles in 1973. She’s buried just south of San Francisco in Colma.” I was also able to find some of Lillian’s children’s books for sale online. I cannot guess as to the reason she did not remarry, but it seems she was able to carry on and have a full and very meaningful life. I find it very sad the Joseph Hill was not able to do the same.

The pictures below I believe are all from the same family. This last group proved to be too difficult for me to gather any information on. The people have the following names, Haynes, Sue, Kate, Jimmy and not shown in the pictures below Evelyn. Several pictures are stamped Florida, and I believe that is where they were taken.

On the back of this picture is written “Kate”

Some pictures of Kate, Sue, and Haynes.

On the back of this picture is written “Auntie Sue, Jimmie used your $5 on monthly payments on his scooter. This was taken Sunday August 19, 56.”

I will keep these photographs for a while in the slim hope that a family member may come across my blog and would want them. This was a pleasant diversion from working on my family lines and helps to keep my research skills sharp. Also, I think that this is something that all of us that work on genealogy should do. Just imagine if each of us did this just once a year the number of family heirlooms that could be returned. Besides, it is fun to do, and when it all works out; it gives you a nice feeling of accomplishment.

 

 

 

Posted in Lost and Found | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

The Christmas Gift Under The Tree That Grew Into A Family Tree

The gift that helped to end a 55 year mystery.

 

The question I should have asked Bill about the DNA test kit he gave his wife Kelly for Christmas last year was, what did he think would happen? What did happen was an incredible life-changing event for Kelly and a family mystery that looked to be unsolvable finally revealed. Kelly was born in 1962 and immediately given up for adoption. She was to search for her biological family without any success until this year.

I now have to back this story up about fifteen years and give a little background. I have been researching my father’s family which had been scattered due to some unfortunate circumstances when he was very young. Two of his siblings were adopted into different families, one sent to the county home, and the four remaining including my father tried to make it on their own. Of the four remaining the oldest was 19 and the youngest age nine. I had finally found some of the children of the brother who was sent to the county home. It was with his daughter Susan my first cousin that family ties were reestablished and much information learned. Susan was to tell me a story about an incident that occurred when she was about fourteen years of age. At that time her family was working very hard to establish a farm in Potter County, Pennsylvania near the town of Shinglehouse. A woman with a young pregnant daughter came to visit. The woman turned out to be Susan’s father’s sister who she had never met. In fact, the sister was one of the siblings that had been adopted and had moved with her new family out of Pennsylvania several states away. In fact, it would be several years after hearing this story that I would finally learn what happened to her after the adoption. The young woman was left in the care of Susan’s family until she had the baby. After the birth of the baby, the mother came back at once and took her daughter home. Susan who thought that her family was going to keep and raise the baby never saw her aunt or her cousin again. She had no idea what had happened to the baby.

In March of this year, I received an email from Kelly asking for information as we have a close match in our DNA. We soon started talking over the phone. This was when I found out Kelly was adopted and was trying to find her biological family. I found out she was living in Potter County where she was born. She had been told that her mother had come from out of state for her birth. This was all Kelly knew about her birth and mother. Of course, Susan’s story came to mind, but I was in a quandary about what to do. Since hearing the story from Susan, I had tracked down the woman who could well have been the young pregnant woman in this story. We had exchanged letters and several phone calls regarding family history, and she was to give much information that filled many missing pieces of the family story. The baby being born in Potter County was never mentioned. Also while a long shot a couple of other possibilities could have been a viable explanation. I did give Kelly the name of a person who I have worked with on the Moore family history for years that had all the information I had. Then I thought and stewed about Kelly and her search for a couple of months until I could not stand it any longer. I contacted her again fully prepared to tell her where she should look. However, she had most of the answers already. She had reached the person I had recommended and with detective skills that would rival Sherlock Holmes she had put together most of the pieces. All I had to do was to fill in the Moore family history for her and introduce her to Susan. However, before I could introduce them, she found Susan herself. I told you she was good. Kelly informed me that Pennsylvania was releasing the birth certificates of adopted people who were of age on November 3, of 2017, and she had already sent in her request to the state.

Kelly was at last able to see her birth certificate which helped solve the mystery.

 

The above birth certificate proved that her mother was who we thought. The father was a bit of a surprise as the man was neither of the mother’s two husbands. However, Kelly had already through DNA testing had found the Green family and now the birth certificate confirmed the father. Kelly was able to find her biological family due to hard work on her part and DNA testing. Also what helped was years of family research that helped to make sense of the information on the birth certificate and gave direction to the DNA findings.

This summer my wife and I traveled to Potter County and met and visited with Kelly and Susan. We had a wonderful time and will be going again next year. It is a satisfying and pleasant feeling to meet family and to form bonds that you would never have without the research and effort that had to be done just to discover your family’s story. Just to be on the sideline to see the joy that Kelly and her family have experienced is very satisfying. It has also given me even more of a reason to keep researching and writing the family’s story.

Left to right. Susan Moore Lewis, myself Charles Moore, and Kelly Hunter. Picture is taken at the entrance to the driveway to the long abandon farm where Susan grew up and where Kelly’s mother stayed when she was pregnant with Kelly. At long last Susan was to learn what happen to the little baby that was born in 1962.

 

It has not all turned out well. Kelly’s biological mother who is alive has refused to acknowledge her or even speak with her. Also, her brothers and sisters from her mother’s two marriages have not been willing to accept her. This is the reason many names and locations have been left out of this blog. However, her siblings from the Green family have embraced her and welcomed her to their family. Regrettably, her biological father has died. His children do not believe he ever knew of Kelly’s existence. I tend to agree due to the clandestine nature of her birth. Of which some facts had to be left out so living people could not be readily identified. This month one of Kelly’s newly found siblings drove over 600 miles to visit with her. They spent several days visiting and she was caught up in her Green family history. But even better she has found new family members to love and be loved by.

Kelly with her newly found Brother, Christopher Green, who came to visit this month.

 

 

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , | 40 Comments

All Dressed Up With Someplace To Go

Windmill Craft Market in Penn Yan, N.Y

 

 

 

This summer I visited the Penn Yan Craft Market which is located in the Finger Lakes region in New York. They had vendor after vendor selling all types of handcrafted items that took more talent to make that I could ever hope to have. Along with all these fine items was a robust farmer’s market. As I was going from booth to booth and in one building then to the next, I sighted the display shown below.

 

Lost pictures. All of us should try to return a lost picture to the family it belongs to.

I started to look through the box of pictures and found one with the following inscription written on the back, Byron Duckwall Charley Duckwall’s son. It was clear to me that Byron did not need to be an instant relative for some unrelated family he had to find his own family. The picture below I believe was taken for Byron’s high school graduation.

I was able to trace Byron family very quickly on Ancestry.com where vast amounts of information were found. Byron was born in 1916 in the state of Indiana to a family that was doing very well for its self. The 1920 U.S. Federal Census shows his father Charles was furniture merchant and they had two live in servants at home. In the 1930 Federal Census Byron’s father was now a civil engineer doing surveying for the county. His mother also had a job listed as a hack driver for the public schools. No servants were listed for the family. Perhaps due to the Great Depression that was just starting. According to Byron’s army enlistment records, he entered the service during World War 2 in July of 1942. He was married and had four years of college. I also noticed many pictures of Byron shown on Ancestry.com at various ages. I also saw one picture the same as I had but it had writing across the front. I found several family trees that listed Byron. I was able to send out six emails and waited to see who would reply. I received three replies. One person said they did not have Byron in their tree while another person said they would think about it and let me know if they are interested. It has now been well over a month, and I have not heard back. The third reply explained how they are related and would “love” his photograph. I did ask them if they knew how his picture could end up in a box in New York when as far as I could find out he did not ever live in New York. I also asked if they had any stories about Bryon they could share. I made this request twice and never got any information except a mailing address for me to send the picture. The picture has been mailed, and I hope they are happy with it.

 

Mr. Byron Duckwall son of Charles and Mary Duckwall.

 

We all should do this when we get a chance. I know if someone was to find a picture of my ancestor and send it to me that I would be very appreciative. All this cost me was a dollar for the price of the photograph and just a little more for the mailing. It did take a little time to track the family down but to be honest; I enjoy that.

 

 

Posted in Lost and Found | Tagged , , , , , , | 44 Comments

Walking With Giants

Clinton County had only a population of 54,006 in 1940. A casualty list of 304 people shows the suffering done by the people of the county. Several family members are listed.

 

It was the above picture of a newspaper page that fueled the idea of this blog post. I had used this image in an earlier post. When I studied this newspaper page, I was reminded of the many people I knew while growing up that served in the armed forces during World War 1 and World War 2. Many of the names in the list above were people who I knew or knew the family. Many of the people who served during these wars never talked about their experience and the first time I knew about it was when I read their obituary when they died.

I wanted to write about my family’s history in these wars but was not sure what to say. Then I came across a poem by Paul Wesselhoft that put into words my feelings much better than I could express. Mr. Wesselhoft has permitted me to use his beautiful poem for this blog post

Walked Among Giants

By Paul Wesselhoft 

 

I walked among giants,

Men of renown,

Great ones they were,

Some, were women.

These men of might

Walked the earth

And communed with us.

They were brave when bravery

Had to make a difference.

Daily, they die.

Soon, they will be extinct.

They left their mark, though,

For all time.

During the great disruption,

They performed gargantuan feats.

These titans saved the planet

And preserved a way of existence.

Daily, they die.

Some were killed in the fight,

Others captured, tortured.

The remains of some were never found.

Some were maimed in body and mind.

Most lived to see a new day, a new world.

Now, these colossal men

Serve as pallbearers for their own.

They barely carry the load.

Some hobble with canes.

Some are bent over with years.

Some can only watch

With dim eyes from wheelchairs.

Their eyes see three colors blur as one

And slowly fall into the ground.

Daily, they die.

They are almost a lost breed.

Some are written about,

Most are not.

Some, were my uncles,

Others, my countrymen.

One was my father.

I can tell my children

And their children,

That for a time on earth

I was privileged,

To walk among the giants.                                                                     

 

Uncle “Chet” Edward Bushey

 

Lawrence Cole

 

Maxwell Moore

 

Edward Lyon

 

Robert Lyon

 

Page Cole with his wife Mary Bushey Cole.

 

Charles Moore

The pictures above are from my side and my wife’s side of the family. These were some of the giants we were privileged to call dad and uncle. While I am not going to tell their complete story, I would like to share with you a quick review of some of the deeds these men did and perhaps a glimpse of the price they paid. One man was buried alive in his trench left to dig himself out with his hands and a mess spoon. His mind was so affected he would spend large amounts of time in VA Hospitals and live for the rest of his life with his sister and her husband who was also a war veteran. One man above was to come home as a young man having his hair turn snow white and was to remain that way for the rest of his life. One of the soldiers pictured above would spend the war stateside in coastal defense. He would spend the war trying to get sent overseas so he could get into the fight. I have letters from his younger brother who was in Italy telling him, no begging him to stop trying and stay in the States. The younger brother depending on what was going on either carried a typewriter or a B.A.R. weapon. One man landed with the third wave on Omaha Beach on D-day. Some fought in the hedgerows, the Battle of the Bulge, saw the air raids in London, one helped to liberate two concentration camps. Two men were to receive purple hearts for wounds. One of these men was wounded so severely that he was told he would never walk or have children. He was to have several children, and he walked until the day he died, but he did live with pain the rest of his life. Two of these men were to suffer the death of a brother in battle. I heard their wives tell of how for years after they came home that a sudden loud noise would spook them. I remember one aunt telling how after a very loud thunderstorm one night she woke up to find her husband under the bed. But for the most part, they returned home found jobs and raised families. One was to find a home working maintenance at a large college. He came to be so well respected that when the college president died the family requested that he be one of the pallbearers.

Perhaps someday I will be able to tell their complete stories. These were private men, and their war experiences were never open for discussion. Much research was done to find out what I do know. Rare was the day when any of them would speak about the war at all. When they did talk, it was usually a funny story and never about the horrors that they shared. The war was something to be left behind no matter how fast they had to run. For now, this is my small salute to them this Veterans Day.

 

Posted in Lets Talk | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments