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Archive for the ‘stories’ Category

This past weekend as I perused newspaper articles in Ancestry, I ran across a boatload of information concerning some distant cousins and an in-law of one of my great uncles.

Susan Peterson posted on her blog, Long Lost Relatives, an article, What To Do With Skeletons in the Closet” on February 26, 2011. She asked some pertinent questions (I urge you to go and read what she posted).  When I ran across all the information that made it abundantly clear that not only does our family have skeletons in the closet, but some scandals, and then those who are just plain screwed up, I realized that I would have to answer those questions.  My belief is that if the involved individuals are deceased – and more importantly – that the next generation is also deceased, and if the information is a matter of public record – especially when it was in the newspaper or on a document that anyone could obtain, then I will tell the story.  If there are truly sensitive aspects, I won’t lay them out in such detail, but respect the fact that there are possible descendents who either don’t know or have chosen not to acknowledge such behavior. 

A little over a year ago, I wrote Georgia On My Mind about my great-grandfather’s niece, Georgia Amore. This weekend I’ve learned some new information in addition to bits and pieces I’ve discovered since I wrote that. Soon, you’ll see that post again – with all the newest items added!

Many years ago when I first started my genealogical journey, a cousin mailed me some information – before either of us were proficient at scanning – and my email system back then wouldn’t even allow attachments. If it had, I’m sure it would have taken a very long time to download as I was still on dial up. One of the news clippings he mailed to me concerned someone who died in prison fairly recently in genealogy time (the 1970s). The man had the same last name as my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Neither of us had heard of him or even if he was part of “our” House family. Fast forward ten years and I’ve made a connection – and a pretty sad one at that. Some of you might remember the series I wrote about my grandmother’s brother, Alva Lester House, – Lester’s Despair – Part One and More Tragedy for Lester House, concerning several losses that he experienced during his life.  The news clipping concerns Lester’s son and his grandsons.  After I assemble all of the new items, I will write a post about what I’ve learned.

Another news item that caught my eye, was about my great-uncle’s sister-in-law.  I found it only because I’d put my maiden name as a keyword to search Coshocton newspapers.  I saw the name “Mayme Amore” (first name spelled incorrectly) and wondered what it was about.  She was married to my grandfather’s brother, Roy. (Yes, a real consanquity chart would say that Roy is my grand-uncle, but as I’ve mentioned before, I grew up having him referred to as my great uncle.)  I clicked on the news article and it was about Mamie testifying at her sister’s trial.  Whoa!  What? A trial?  What sort of trial?  And that my dear readers, is something you’ll have to ponder for awhile – but I will give you the answer and all the particulars soon!

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Twenty seven years ago today, I was at work when my boss, the owner of the printing company for which I worked, opened the door to the graphics room and told me I had a phone call.  It was early afternoon and I still had an hour or so of work yet. No one usually called me at work.  As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew.  I knew because that was how I had envisioned it happening a week or so before.  It wouldn’t be my mom calling me or anyone else – it would be my brother.  The words he spoke brought forth too many polarizing emotions.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.  I knew that a life lived had been to the absolute fullest.  I knew that while everyone else in the family would be falling apart, that I would draw on my inner strength and remain strong for them.  This woman we spoke of had been a constant in my life since birth – the only grandmother that I knew.  When it seemed that my life was falling apart throughout different periods, she was my champion. When I was at my absolute lowest and disappointing everyone else, she hugged me and let me know that no matter what she wouldn’t be mad at me and would love me unconditionally.  Walking into my grandparents’ apartment later that evening and seeing my grandfather all dressed up in a suit – for he had been waiting to go see his beloved wife – stabbed my heart.  My mother expressed that my grandmother had really wanted to see her newest great-granddaughter, my baby, just a little over a month old, and had never gotten to.  I broke down in grief.

Within a week the family gathered to remember this matriarch of our family.  We laughed and we cried.  Six of us – grandchildren and great-grandchildren – were pallbearers.  It was such a cold day – the day we carried the casket out of the church into the waiting hearse.  Snow covered the ground.  We traveled to the cemetery and had a final service in the chapel.  It would be several more years before I went to the gravesite.  When I did return, it would be to visit not only my grandmother and my mom’s baby sister, but also my grandfather, who wasn’t able to go on after the love of his life was gone.  He passed away a year less a day after she did.

Like me, my grandmother was a child of divorced parents.  When I was young and going through the rough patches of my parents animosity, she would always comfort me and tell me she knew what I felt.  As a young child, I used to spend weekends with my grandparents.  I was the youngest of their eight grandchildren – by fourteen years – so to say that I was spoiled by them is an understatement!  In my defense, I never asked for them to spoil me and in their defense, during the time the others were young and growing, my grandparents lived in Germany and were always traveling due to my grandfather’s military duty or for pleasure.  They missed a lot of holidays and birthdays with my siblings and cousins.

Vesta Christena Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Indiana to Joseph N. Wilt and Martha Jane Stern.  She was the oldest girl and fourth child.  Another daughter and son followed her.  Before she was 12, her parents had divorced.  Her mother married her widowed brother-in-law, Frank Clawson.  The family moved from Noblesville to Anderson, Indiana and on Easter Sunday 1916 she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.  Vesta dated Glen Roy Johnson for several months and the two got married at Martha and Frank’s house on Christmas Eve 1916.  The following December their first child, a son named after his father, was born. As the years went by the family added their first daughter, Genevieve, and then a second daughter, Mary (my mother), and lastly baby Lois Evelyn who was born prematurely and died just a little over 2 months later.

 

My grandmother knew her own heartache. She was separated from her beloved Glen for quite awhile while he went to training for the Signal Corps and then went overseas to France during WWI.  She had been separated from her mother and two youngest siblings after Martha moved to Oregon before my mother was born.  She lost a baby and then much later watched her oldest daughter suffer from a brain tumor and ultimately succumb to another inoperable one.  She lost the father that she hadn’t seen for so long without having that estranged relationship mended.  As the years wore on, she watched her youngest daughter struggle and grieve for the end of an almost 30 year marriage.  She lost her mother and three brothers.  She sat by her husband’s hospital bedside for months as he recuperated from a blood cot on his brain that he had suffered in a fall.

Then her health began to fail.  She wasn’t a stranger to health issues – having one ailment and surgery or another throughout her adult life.  But after she broke her elbow in the early 1970s, she was never as healthy as she had been.  All too soon she was experiencing a heart attack every three months.  I was very scared about losing her – not only for myself but for what it would do to my mother. After hospital stays and a change in her diet and medication, it seemed she rallied from the heart issues (although they were still there). 

The family would gather for a surprise birthday we had for her at our house.  She was so surprised when she walked in through the garage to the dining room and most of her family.  Then there was the 60th wedding anniversary celebration at their apartment complex.  Long time friends, church friends, military friends, and the family and extended family came to honor them.  We were only missing one of my cousins and her family.

I moved away for awhile and when I returned back to my hometown, I realized just how she had aged – my grandfather too.  I knew that as the years had ticked by, time was winding down for their life among us.  My grandfather had been the one who had several health issues before I had moved away and I guess I had thought that he might be the one to go first.  Then she was hospitalized and then again several weeks later.  That visit was one she wouldn’t return home from.  I learned later that she had told the apartment manager as the EMTs were wheeling her to the ambulance to make sure her husband would be okay.  Did she know she wouldn’t come home? Did she decide that it would be okay to go if it was her time?

My grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – born on May 7, 1898 – died on January 19, 1984.  My grandfather – Glen Roy Johnson – born November 21, 1898 – died on January 18, 1985.  They were the glue of the family.  There are times during holidays and celebrations, the family left an empty chair – in honor of our grandmother.  Our Beloved Nana – the woman whose “grandmother” moniker I have assumed for my own grandchildren – the woman whom I will never live up to as a grandmother – the woman who is always beside me in times of trouble – smiling and cheering me on.

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With the brand new year, I will try to keep this blog updated a bit more often. Today marks the beginning of a new column – if not daily – then weekly or monthly – called “On This Day.” I will list some genealogical facts – births, deaths, anniversaries – of those in my family history file.  I wanted to start yesterday – so for argument’s sake – we’ll just pretend it’s January 2nd.

On This Day – January 2nd – in 1940 my brother was born.  He weighed over 10 lbs according to the story my mom told me. She went into labor on New Year’s Eve 1939 and told me she was delirious due to the pain. When she realized he’d been born, she thought he was a New Year’s baby – then realized she’d been out of it for 2 days.

Mom had turned 18 a little over 3 months before Jim was born.  Doesn’t she look so young? 

Due to my dad’s military service (and being stationed in Japan twice in the 1950s), my brother learned to fly an airplane, became interested in photography, participated in the Explorer Scouts overseas, and graduated from an American School in Japan.  He later became very active in the Overseas Brats and attended several reunions.  My brother became a member of the Eagles and played “Santa Claus” for children at Christmas Events.  He loved to dress up for Halloween and on one ocassion, dressed as a vampire and had a “coffin” built for an Eagles Halloween party.  He scared many people that night when they would all check to see if that was a “real” person in the coffin and at the right time, he would raise up and scare them!

My brother was 21 by the time I was born and had been married 9 months.  As I got older, he was more than just an older brother to me.  He became somewhat of a father figure – as my dad and I rarely saw each other due to the physical geographical distance between us.  My brother was the one who took me to my first rock concert – to make sure nothing happened to me.  He was my “date” for one of my school dances.  He chaperoned my first boy-girl party (and got so bored he ended up spending the rest of the evening talking with my mom upstairs in the living room).  He was thrilled when he got to hold my kids.  He would call me “Sis”.  He made me laugh.  He and his wife blessed me with another nephew.  Then 10 years ago, after an undiscovered illness, he became very sick.  It was discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. After the first chemo treatment, he faded very fast.  I got to see him the week before he passed away and can only hope that he knew I was there. 

I especially miss my brother on holidays and birthdays – still waiting for that phone call and hear him say “Hi Sis!”

January 2nd for me will always mean Jim’s birthday.

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The center of our home was – and always has been – the kitchen.  The above pictures (photographer: Gene Amore, held privately by Wendy Littrell) show the eat-in kitchen of the house I grew up in.  This was where smaller, family birthdays were celebrated; where the holiday meal preparations were done; where my dad marked the heights of me and my niece and nephew on the recessed door; where we’d sit at the table while talking on the telephone; and where I’d spend my meal times.

Dad and Mom preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner

The kitchen was the place I could find my mom if she wasn’t at her sewing machine or out in her flower beds.  She liked to cook and bake.  She taught me how to cook in this kitchen.  

Mom by the stove

On one side the kitchen was accessed by an open doorway that led into the formal dining area and on the other side it led into the living area – a recessed wooden door could close it off. 

This was not the kitchen my mom used for the last 32 years of her life but it was the kitchen I’ll always think of when remembering childhood meals and ocassions.

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Recently, I posted the article, Helping Hands, for the 88th Carnival of Genealogy’s theme on “Volunteerism”.  That post started the wheels in my brain turning, and I wondered, “Just what type of organizations did my family and ancestors join? What were their roles? How long did they continue their associations? What type of ‘rules’ were required or the type of paperwork submitted in order to become affiliated with those groups?”  So let’s dig in and find out! (Note: when I started writing this article several days ago, I didn’t realize just how many organizations and groups – civic, professional and fraternal – my family had joined.  I’ve realized that I need to break this post into sections.)

Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.

When I volunteered to be a leader for two of my daughters’ troops, all I had to do was fill out an application form and commit to attending the Service Unit meetings (once a month) and hold regularly scheduled Troop meetings.  In order to participate in field events, I needed to have one other adult (preferably a co-leader or a parent) with me and have completed a CPR/First Aid Course.  Toward the end of my “leader” days, Girl Scouts were also requiring background checks.  I was a Girl Scout Leader for my oldest daughter from her 3rd grade year until she was in high school.  I was a Leader for my youngest daughter through her Kindergarten year through her 4th grade year (the two overlapped!).   As a member of Girl Scouts, I only participated through two years of Brownies and six weeks of “Girl Scouts” (the term then for when a girl “flew up” to the real scouting program).

History of Girl Scouting: Organized on March 12, 1912 by Juliette Gordon Lowe.  She had met Lord Baden-Powell while in England and became interested in the “new movement” of Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. 

Boy Scouts of America


My grandfather was a member of the Boy Scouts as a Scoutmaster and received the Silver Beaver Award.  Today, adult volunteers must submit an application, attend required Youth Protection training, and follow the Boy Scout Law and Oath.  Women were once only allowed to be “Den Mothers” but today can hold any Cub Scout Leadership position.  Girls are allowed to participate in the Venturing and Explorer programs however the Eagle Scout badge is only for males.

History of BSA: Founded in England in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell and incorporated in America by W.D. Boyce on February 8, 1910.  The Silver Beaver Award is an award for distinguished service that is given by the Council.

White Shrine of Jerusalem


My grandparents were members of the White Shrine of Jerusalem for several years.  This is not a “racial” organization – the “white” refers to the purity of Christ.  Membership is for women who have been active members of Rainbow Girls or Job’s Daughters for at least three years and have attained the age of 18.  Women who are related to a Master Mason are also eligible to join.  It’s purpose is Fraternal, Charitable, and Spiritual.  To join this organization obtain a petition from someone and complete the necessary information and submit with an initiation fee.  After confirming a Masonic affiliation, a vote is taken and a potential member will receive the results and a date for initiation.

Free & Accepted Masons

My grandfather was a member of Michael L. Finnell Lodge #711 located in the 8th District of Ohio of Free and Accepted Masons.  He reached the 33rd Degree many years before he passed away.  To become a member of the F&AM, one must contact the secretary for the nearest lodge and schedule a time to be visited by two members of the lodge who would recommend you for membership. Qualifications include: a resident of the state for specified period of time, be at least 19 years of age, believe in a Supreme Being, live a moral life, not an advocate of government overthrow, and read and write English.

History: Freemasonry was founded in 1717 in Londong, England and is a fraternal organization.  The traditions are founded in the building of the temple of King Solomon and the ceremonies use the tools of stonemasons that symbolize truth and moral lessons.

American Legion

My grandfather was a past commander of the Dignam-Whitmore American Legion post 526 which is located in Greene County, Ohio.  Anyone on active duty or has served in an eligible war era (WWI, WWII, Korean War, Viet Nam War, Grenada, Lebanon, Panama, Gulf War – 1990 to present) is eligible to become a Legionaire.  The American Legion Auxilliary is for women who are related (spouse, daughter, mother, sister, grandmother, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, etc.) of an American Legion member or deceased member.  Sons of the American Legion are for those male descendents of an American Legion member.

History: The American Legion was founded by WWI veterans in 1919 in order to assist disabled veterans and their families.   They also helped maintain a strong defense.  One achievement for the American Legion has been the GI Bill of 1944 that helped WWII veterans.  They have fought to increase health care for veterans and were instrumental in getting compensation for victims of Agent Orange, undiagnosed Gulf War illnesses and much more.

Order of the Eastern Star

My grandfather was Past Worthy Patron (1957) of Aero Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star and my grandmother was a charter member of the same chapter, No. 536.  My grandfather was honored upon his death by the Aero Chapter for his service of 30 years and 8 months.  Membership is for men who are Masons and women with specific Masonic affiliation.  Women are also eligible if they have been members in good standing for three years of Job’s Daughters or Rainbow Girls and have attained the age of 18.  To become a member one must talk to a current member of the local chapter and submit a petition.   It is not a secret society and members must believe in a Supreme Being.

History: click here to read about the three different time periods of Order of the Eastern Star history.

National Association of Balloon Corps Veterans (NABVC)

Since my grandfather served in the Balloon Corps during WWI, he was automatically a member of this group and in the mid-1950s, was elected as National Commander at one of the national conventions.  Although, not active in recent times, as all members have passed away, the NABVC was instrumental in 1975 who assisted the British WWI Balloon Veterans in locating one of the last Caquot Type R balloons from that era.  After restoration, the balloon can now be seen hanging in the United States Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio. (Picture is of the Caquot Balloon hanging in the US Air Force Museum; photographer – Wendy Littrell; digital image held in private)

National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE)

My grandfather, having been a federal employee for many years, was part of this organization and served two terms as regional Vice President.  To become a member one must be an active federal employee or a retired/former federal employee.  One of the perks my grandfather experienced happened on October 18, 1971 when he traveled with NARFE to the White House.  He enjoyed a meeting with President Nixon and received a photo of the group. 

History: Formed in 1921, this association helps improve and safeguard earning rights and benefits of active and retired federal workers, their families and survivors.

Antioch Shrine Temple 

My grandfather was also a member of the Antioch Shrine Temple in Dayton, Ohio.  One of the qualifications to becoming a Shriner was to be a Master Mason.  This is a fraternal organization based on Masonic principles.  The Shriners supports Shriners Hospitals for Children.

History: The Shriners were organized out of a meeting in New York of several Master Masons which included physicans and actors.  The first temple was organized in the New York City Masonic Hall on September 26, 1872.  In 1888 there were 48 temples and over 7,000 members in the United States and Canada.  The Shriners came to the aid of those victims of the 1889 Johnstown (Pennsylvania) flood. At the 1920 Imperial Session in Oregon, Freeland Kendrick of Philadelphia wanted to establish a Hospital for Crippled Children. The first hospital was in Louisiana. In 1996 the hospitals became the Shriners Hospitals for Children as they had updated their care to provide treatment for burns, spinal cords, neurological, cleft lip/palate and a multitude of others. The hospitals provide care at no cost to the patient or their families – only what is best for the child.   Today there are about 400,000 Shriners in 191 temples all across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

High Twelve Club

As a Master Mason, my grandfather also belonged to the High Twelve Club, Chapter 69 of Dayton.  Members must be Master Masons however anyone can attend meetings.

History:  The first club was chartered by E.C. Wolcott on May 17, 1921.  It is a group of Master Masons who support those Masonic causes that emphasis patriotic events and youth support.  It is an association that is dedicated to the unity of Master Masons without the formal ritual of a lodge.  The name came from the term “high twelve” for noon which is the time many clubs met.

Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite

The Valley of Dayton is the chapter my grandfather had his membership. The Scottish Rite is open to all Master Masons in good standing.

History: the first Scottish Rite Supreme Council was founded in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina.  The organization shares the same belief as other Masonic organizations that there is no degree higher than a Master Mason.  Even though there were members of Scottish ancestry, the organization originated in France in the early 18th century.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)

My grandfather was a member of Post 6861 located in Fairborn, Ohio.  To be eligible one must have received a campaign medal for overseas service or served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea or received hostile fire or imminent danger pay.  Members must also be U.S. citizens, currently in the military or have an honorable discharge and have served overseas.  There is also an organization called VFW – She Serves that is exclusively for women who honors the sacrifce of female veterans who served overseas.

History: In 1899 veterans of the Phillipine insurrection and the Spanish-American war founded local organizations to get benefits and rights for their service.  When they arrived home, there weren’t any medical care or pensions for them and most were left to fend for themselves.  The VFW helped with the passing the GI Bill for the 21st Century in 2008 and fought for the improvement of VA medical facilities.  Today there are over 2 million members in 8100 posts worldwide.  Their mission is “honor the dead by helping the living.”

Voiture 40 and 8

As a WWI veteran, my grandfather was a member of this independent – by invitation only – organization with the long name of “La Societe des Quarante Hommes at Huit Chevaux” – but commonly referred to as “Forty and Eight”.  Invitation is extended to honorably discharged veterans and those who are honorably serving in the United States Armed Forces.

History: Founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from France, this organization’s aims are charitable and patriotic. The logo reflects the WWI origins as Americans were transported to the front lines by railroad cars that bore the stenciled numbers “40/8”.

Association of Old Crows

My grandfather was a member of Kittyhawk Chapter 70 in Ohio.  Members are people who are engaged in the development of related areas of electronic warfare (military employees, civil service employees, scientists, educators, etc.).

History: Organized in 1964 to exchange information on operational and technical parts of defense electronics and like fields. For more on the history please click here.

Reserve Officers Association of the United States 

Members are Reserve Officers in U.S. Armed Forces. 

History: General John Pershing formally established this association in 1922 after WWI.  The second session of the 81st Congress enacted Public Law 595 – “An Act to Incorporate the Reserve Officers Association of the United States.”  President Harry Truman signed the charter on June 30, 1950.

Retired Military Officers Association

This is open to all retired military officers, former military personnel, active duty professionals, business professionals, students, and business owners/managers.  Since my grandfather retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Colonel, he was eligible for membership.

History: Information about the RMOA mission can be found here.

Aviation Hall of Fame

My grandfather was a charter member of the Aviation Hall of Fame.  Members need only to pick what level of membership and send in the appropriate monetary amount.  The National Aviation Hall of Fame is located at the U.S. Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

History: Founded in Dayton, Ohio in 1962 and chartered by Congress in 1964. It is dedicated to preserving as well as promoting the legacy of those in America who are outstanding air and space pioneers.  Past inductees have included: Jimmy Doolittle, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh, Wilbur and Orville Wright, Chuck Yeager, Neil Armstrong, Howard Hughes, and James Stewart.

National Sojourners

This is another organization that requires Masonic membership as well as honorable service (currently or in the past) as an Officer or Senior Non-Commissioned officer in the uniformed services.

History of the sojourners can be found here.

 

 

 

Lions Club

My uncle was a member of the “Cereal City” Lions Club in Battle Creek, Michigan. Members are invited to join and are made up of men and women who are service and community minded.  In order to facilitate membership, one should locate the nearest club and contact that club to express interest in joining.  My uncle was a past president, and a recipient of the Melvin Jones Fellowship Award.  He also held several other titles in his local Lions Club.

History: Began in 1917 by Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman.  It is the world’s largest service organization with more than 1 million members in 45,000 clubs internationally.

Chamber of Commerce

My uncle was a member of Battle Creek Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

 

 

American Society of Mechanical Engineers

 My uncle was a member of this Society.  Those who seek to become members must fill out an application that requests professional information and pay the required dues.

History: Founded in 1880, the ASME is a not for profit professional organization. Collaboration and knowledge sharing is enabled across all engineering disciplines. The society helps the worldwide community of engineering to develop real world solutions for challenges faced.

 National Amputee Golf Association

As an avid golfer most of his life, when my uncle faced the challenge of being an amputee, he joined this association. Membership is open to anyone who has lost a hand or a foot at a major point (hip, wrist, elbow, knee, etc.). 

History: The NAGA was incorporated in 1954 and began with a small group of golfers who got together to play golf.  Soon, the games turned into regional tournaments.  Today there are over 2500 members globally.

National Security Industrial Association (presently: National Defense Industrial Association)

My uncle also enjoyed membership in this group.  Members could be corporate (companies and institutions) or individual (defense professionals).

History: In 1944 the NSIA was founded as the Navy Industrial Association as not-for-profit and non-political. It began as a way for government and industry (especially the defense industry) to have effective communication.  When the Department of Defense was formed, the name of the association became the National Security Industrial Association.  In 1997 the NSIA merged with the American Defense Preparedness Association to become the National Defense Industrial Association.

(Stay tuned for Part II!)

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Volunteer as a noun is defined by Dictionary.com as:

a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay.

Volunteerism is defined by the same source as above as:

the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, esp. in one’s community.

I pondered how being a volunteer and volunteerism correlated with my family history and genealogy.  I can remember many activities that my mother took part in that would qualify as “volunteer”. 

  1. Girl Scout Leader
  2. Church Council member and President
  3. Church committee member
  4. Parent Teacher Organization member
  5. Substitute Teacher (when it was all volunteer)
  6. Working at school carnivals and community festivals
  7. Helping to coordinate her alumna banquets
  8. Driving elderly friends or church members to church, church functions or back home
  9. Hosting women’s or club functions or bridge parties
  10. Driving her teenage daughter (me) and friends everywhere

As a member of several organizations (Parents Without Partners, American Legion, FOE Auxilliary, and a Square Dancing Club), I’m sure she put in a good many volunteer hours.  Through the church, even when she was ill and couldn’t do very much, she still volunteered to cook chickens that would be used for the Tuesday night dinners the church held for the community.

My mom saw volunteerism modeled by both of her parents who were very active in community organizations.  My grandparents either separately or together were members of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees (N.A.R.F.E.), American Legion, Eastern Star, and Daughters of America.  My grandfather served on the Council for the Village he resided in and worked hard toward the merger of the towns of Fairfield and Osborn in Greene County, Ohio long before they did merge to become Fairborn.  He also was a Boy Scout leader for many years and a member of the Masons.

My mom’s brother also saw the modeling of this type of volunteerism of his parents and became very active in the community as an adult.  He helped organize the Battle Creek (Michigan) Hot Air Balloon championships; was a member of the Masons and the Lions club; member of the Battle Creek chamber of commerce who started the Leadership Academy; helped with Battle Creek’s sesquicentenial celebration leading to the formation of PRIDE INC., of Keep America Beautiful; and many other activities.

Researching the many volunteer activities and the organizations my family members have been involved, has led me to the conclusion that they were very giving people and have passed on this sense of helping others.  I have spent a good number of years wondering if “no” is part of my vocabulary. 

At the age of not yet 50, I have been a Girl Scout Leader for two of my daughters; spent many years on the Christian Education board at church and the Cemetery Board; have now sat on the PTA as a board member and officer for 4 years; helped with one of our community organizations via our church by helping to make lunches for low income families during the summer; as a coordinator, treasurer and public relations chair for a parent organization; and other activities.

So how do I pass this on?  Will my volunteerism or that of my mother, my uncle, and my grandparents impact the lives of my children, grandchildren or the great-grandchildren yet to be?  And how does one go about volunteering without it being all about them?  Helping others – either within a structured organization or individually – is not to make a name for oneself.  It shouldn’t be done with the thought that others will think more highly of you.

Volunteering in the name of genealogy should take on the same thought process.  If you are in the position to help someone – whether it is spending an hour at the local libary looking up obituaries or a census index; going to a nearby cemetery to photograph/transcribe a few headstones; or pointing someone in the right direction – you should.  Just because it is the right thing to do.  Someday you may need that type of help.  Very limited. Very specific.

I don’t know how much I’ve contributed to other’s research however I have received communications from very, very distant cousins or people researching the same surname as I am, and I’ve at least responded or sent them my own communication.  If nothing else, I hope they feel that they aren’t out in the genealogy research “world” without a paddle – that someone else has read their query or message board post.

I’ve been helped immensely by volunteers.  Not only has a kind lady taken pictures of the requested headstones for me but she photographed other family members’ headstones and spent several hours at her local library researching the names and sent me news clippings.  And she didn’t want one penny for her time or her postage.  That is a volunteer – being selfless and not thinking about what was in it for her.

Two of my relatives in my Johnson line along with myself have pooled our resources and research and share everything about our shared lines that we find – including questions about whether we are on the right track. 

That is volunteerism through genealogy.

Another definition of Volunteer is someone who signs up, enters, and serves in the military.  Even though our service men and women do receive pay from the government, by offering to sacrifice themselves in order to assure our freedom – that is still volunteerism.

I’ve had many ancestors and family members who have volunteered in such a way.  My grandfather for WWI, and went on to serve until the Korean War.  My dad and his brothers who served during WWII and even beyond.  Cousins who served in the Viet Nam War.  Children of first cousins who served in the first Gulf War.  A great-grandfather who served in the Civil War.  Others who serve now – although not in a battle zone.  This type of selfless sacrifice has also been passed down through the generations.

Humanitarian?  Philanthropic? – they all add up to VOLUNTEER!

This post was written for the 88th Carnival of Genealogy.

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leaving battlecreek

When my dad got orders for Japan in the early ’50s, he went ahead of the rest of the family.  Mom had to get from Ohio to the Pacific Coast in order to sail to Japan. 

The photo at left was taken when my mom, brother and sister were leaving my Uncle’s home in Michigan headed west.  They drove 450 miles in one day and got to Fargo, North Dakota about 6:15 p.m.  In a postcard to her folks, Mom said they stayed at a cabin for the night – the cost: $4.  They traveled through Montana and went to Oregon in order to visit my great-grandmother for a short time.hughgaffey naval ship  Then north to Seattle to Fort Lawton where they had to wait a few days before sailing to Japan on June 9, 1953. 

The trip, aboard the USNS General Hugh J. Gaffey, would take 12 days – although by crossing the international date line, they lost a day.  While on board, my sister tap danced in a Variety show and my brother – when not seasick – made friends.  The ship carried 2400 troops – all on their way to Yokohama. 

dad_nash

trainMy parents were in Japan for two tours and while there, they drove the Nash that had been transported via ship with them.  Sometimes they jim school busrode a train like the one pictured (left) and my siblings rode a bus (right) back and forth to school or on field trips.

While on their 2nd tour in Japan, my parents and brother all learned to fly courtesy of the Tachikawa Aero Club.  They even “starred” in a short film promoting the Aero Club Family Plan.  Back in the States and after I came along, my parents still flew every once in awhile.  Here’s a picture of my Dad in ’72 getting ready to fly.dad by plane

My parents had some very interesting adventures in the air and on land.  I feel very blessed that not only do I have stories and pictures, but memories of when I accompanied them on some of their adventures!

Written for the 18th Edition of Smile for the Camera – Travel.

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