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Posts Tagged ‘52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks’

This week’s theme is on “Military” so I am writing about the United States Air Force. Not only did my father and maternal grandfather serve but I was born at a USAF Base medical center. As Yoda would say: “The Force is strong with this one.”


Glen Johnson

My grandfather Glen Roy Johnson (whom I’ve written about several times before) entered the Army Signal Corps on February 5, 1918 during WWI. My grandparents had been married not quite 14 months and had a son who had been born in mid-December 1917. He went to basic training at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas before being assigned to the 14th Balloon company with training at Fort Omaha, Nebraska. During training, one of the balloons exploded killing two and injuring over 30. Either then or at another time during training, my grandfather’s hand became injured resulting in a permanent curve to two of his fingers.

Gen Pershing is 5th man from the right

My granddad left for France in July 1918. The day after they landed, General John Joseph Pershing insisted on inspecting the 14th and 15th Balloon companies. Years later in life he was quoted in a local newspaper as saying, “We were just off the transport after 11 days at sea and most of us hadn’t had a bath. He [Gen. Pershing] was quite impressed that we were enlisted men.” (The Fairborn Daily Herald. Lucille Rue. 8 Aug 1978.)


Photo taken of a display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio
Caption reads in part: Balloon of the 14th Balloon Company – following Armistice

After returning from France and being discharged as a private, Granddad won a reserve commission while he was a civilian worker. It was to the Quartermaster Corps. At the time he was living in Greene county, Ohio in a town called Fairfield which would eventually become Fairborn (along with the merge of neighboring town Osborn). In 1942 he re-entered active duty in the Army Air Corps which would become the United States Air Force. He retired on December 1, 1958 as a Colonel.


Gene Amore – 1950s – Japan

My father, Eugene (Gene) Amore enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on November 16, 1939. He went to Iceland in August 1942 where he was stationed for 15 months as an airplane mechanic with the air transport command. After he returned and following the marriage of my parents in December 1943, my Dad was stationed in Great Falls, Montana for awhile. In early 1953, he was sent to Tachikawa Air Base in Japan. My mom, brother and sister followed several months later. Most of the 1950s saw my family living in Japan through two tours of duty. He retired from the US Air Force in 1960. After returning to the Dayton area, my dad worked Transporation in Civil Service. During the Air Force museum’s move from a building off Broad Street in Fairborn, Ohio just inside the gates of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, my dad was responsible for the transportation of all of the aircraft, etc. to their new home located off of Springfield Street in Dayton – the present location.

I am very proud and thankful for my Granddad’s and my Dad’s service to the United States and the Air Force. The Air Force is in my blood. Each time I wander through the Museum filled with aircraft, artifacts, and history, I get goosebumps knowing that my family played a part in all of that.

(All pictures – original and digital in possession of Wendy LIttrell. US Air Force Logo – courtesy Wikimedia commons)

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All of my life while my mother was alive, I heard the word “Gomennasai.” This was the Japanese word for “sorry.” After living in Japan a total of 7 years in the 1950s, Mom used some of the words she learned quite often. By the time I was in school, I knew by context what gomennasai meant. Another phrase she used was “Doumo arigatou” – thank you. She pronounced it “dom airigato.”

Mary (Johnson) Amore wearing kimono in Japan

I was fascinated by her use of the Japanese language. By the time I was in fifth grade, I knew how to county in Japanese. Then my grandmother taught me to count in German. As a freshman in high school taking Spanish, I could also count in that language. It would be nice to say that I speak four languages – Japanese, German, Spanish, and English – but only if we are talking numbers!

My Spanish classes were only for two years. I had signed up to take a third year until I realized that only Spanish would be spoken and written in class. My problem was that I hadn’t learned to think in a foreign language. I could memorize the words but speaking, reading or writing, I would have to think it in English and slowly translate that to Spanish. So after moving from the midwest to the Dallas area after high school, I really did my best to communicate with people in a factory where I worked who spoke nothing but Spanish all the while they were trying to find the English words to speak to me.

My middle daughter took two years of French so I was completely lost when she would talk. My son took Latin – excelled in it and loved it. And my youngest daughter took three years of AP Spanish who now teaches her children Spanish.

Yet the one language I feel we should all practice is love. Being courteous, polite, helpful, respectful, and kind to one another – no matter what language comes from our lips, forms more of a common bond than words. Go Speak – of Love!

(Top image: Creative Commons. Image of Mary Johnson Amore – digital and original photo in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for private use.)

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After losing a mother, it is especially difficult that very first Mother’s Day following her death, but it is especially trying when it happens all at the same time.

My mom died on May 1, 2009 – a Friday. Her memorial service was held on May 6 – a Wednesday. As soon as we returned to her home that day, the funeral home called – her ashes were ready to be picked up. Such a beautiful urn we had picked out for her – which was still sitting on the dining table when Sunday – May 10 – Mother’s Day – rolled around. In one sense, Mom was still there with my sister and me, and in another, she was now gone. We’d walk by the table – a room we had to walk through no matter what – and touch the urn lightly and say “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” Bittersweet phone calls came from our own children to wish us the same. Yet, on that first Mother’s Day, without my mother, “happy” was not the right word.

A year later as a crisis unfolded among my family, it still didn’t feel like it should be “Happy Mother’s Day.” I was sad for many and had found it difficult to even look at greeting cards that year. Yet, I needed to find cards for my mother-in-law and my stepmother.

The years began passing by, always with the thought of Mom, but I kept busy and life was good. The middle of April in 2013, my mother-in-law had to be admitted to a local nursing home for hospice care. Her cancer was winning, and her fight was coming to an end. During my daughter’s baby shower on May 4 before we all left, we received the news that she was gone. What had been a joyous day filled with anticipation of the new little boy soon to be gracing our family turned into sorrow. The next morning – Sunday – we headed from Texas to Missouri to say our final goodbye.

Mother’s Day 2013 was on May 11, just a few days after my mother-in-law’s funeral. Instead of two cards that year, I only had to buy one to send to my dad’s wife.

Now, it has been nine years since that first Mother’s Day without my mom and five years without my mother-in-law. My dad’s wife is still with us – and so I continue to buy one single card. I am blessed that my three daughters are all mothers so I do send them cards. I am able to read Mother’s Day cards now and instead of grief, I smile and know that both Mom and my mother-in-law are aware of what they both meant to me.

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My maternal grandmother, Vesta Christena (Wilt) Johnson, was the middle child (and oldest daughter) out of six children born to her parents Martha Jane Stern and Joseph Napolean Wilt. She had three older brothers – Clarence, Jesse, and John, and two younger siblings – Nellie and Clifford. My great-grandparents divorced before my grandmother was ten. Martha went on to marry her late sister’s widower, William Frank Clawson. They did not have any children together; however, Joseph married Anna Park and they had a son named Albert – my grandmother’s younger half-brother.

It was apparent throughout the letters my grandmother wrote to her siblings as adults that none of them spent any time with their father or his new family following the divorce. I’m not sure if my grandmother ever met Albert, but she did have a picture of him at about 16 years of age. There was also a picture taken later of a tombstone shared by Joseph and Anna as well as Albert who died in 1933. The birth year listed 1917.

As new records were added to online databases, I discovered that Albert’s age was listed as 5 years old in the 1920 census and as age 15 in the 1930 census. At least a two year discrepancy according to his tombstone. Then I discovered his birth certificate showing that Albert was born on October 21, 1914! That meant that someone made a big error on his birth year listed on the tombstone.

Then I discovered Albert’s death certificate. Joe was the informant listed on his son’s death certificate and listed August 1, 1914 as the date of birth. There was an inquest to find cause of death. And that is when I read the horrible information. Albert died due to his skull being crushed; struck by a railway train as he was walking along the tracks. No wonder some of the information was off – as a grieving father, Joe may not have been thinking clearly about his son’s birth when his tragic death was fresh on his mind.

How did Albert not know a train was coming? Not paying attention? It happened too fast? Or could he have been deaf and not felt the vibrations in the ground soon enough? I bring up deafness because an earlier collateral relative on the Wilt side – brothers Charles and Absolam Hottinger, “deaf-mutes” according to the Rockingham (Virginia) Daily Record on November 9, 1912, were struck by the Chesapeake Western freight train near Penn Laird. Absolam was killed almost instantly, and Charles had extensive injuries.

I find it quite sad that my grandmother did not have a relationship with her younger brother, and instead of stories and her memories, all we are left with is one close-up photo of him.

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My family tree has many Johns, Josephs, James, Peters, Williams, Marys,Marthas, Sarahs, Elizabeths, and Catherines but not too many Clementines. There are exactly two. Clementine Romaine Adney, daughter of Henry Harrison Adney and Elizabeth Jane Blazer was born in Holt, Missouri on January 29, 1873 and died on December 23, 1952 in Benton, Oregon. Clementine was my second cousin three times removed. Our shared ancestors are Philip Blazer and Elizabeth Kingsley.

The other Clementine is my great-aunt; sister of my paternal grandfather. Her birth name was Louisa Clementine Amore. Her first name was in honor of her mother’s mom – Louisa (Bookless) Werts Simon. Yet, she was “Clemmie” to everyone else.

Aunt Clemmie was born on March 12, 1874 in Lafayette township of Coshocton county, Ohio to William Henry and Mary Angeline (Werts) Amore. She was the oldest of seven and the only girl. When she was 12, she was an exemplary student with perfect attendance and a grade of 100. Unfortunately, her education went to 8th grade but not beyond according to the 1940 census.

At the age of 19, Clemmie married Benjamin F Baker on December 7, 1893 in Coshocton, Ohio. The couple had four children: Donald Francis, Anna Belle, Clara Ethel, and Charlotte (Lottie) Christina. Ben Baker died on May 19, 1936 leaving Clemmie a widow. Their children were all grown and married by then. The 1940 census lists Clemmie living in the Curtis Davis household on S. Eureka Avenue in Columbus, Ohio as a housekeeper. She had worked every single week of the previous year with an annual income of $260.

At the Amore-Baker reunion in 1951, Clemmie posed with her six brothers for a photo. Left to right: my grandfather Lloyd, Rollo, Clemmie, Zade (Isaiah), Roy, Clarence, and Herbert. It is one of only three I have of Clemmie and her brothers. She died on April 4, 1956 in Springfield, Ohio at the home of her daughter and son-in-law, Anna and Harrie Foster. Her brother (and my grandfather) Lloyd had passed away the year before. Her obituary stated that she was survived by her four children, 12 grandchildren, several great-grandchildren, and five brothers. Aunt Clemmie was laid to rest next to her husband at Sunset Cemetery in Galloway, Ohio.

This is a post in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge for Week 6. For more information or to sign up to participate (all free!!), check out Amy Johnson Crow’s post: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

(Clementine graphic: Wikimedia Commons – public domain. All other digital photos in possession of Wendy Littrell)

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My paternal grandmother’s mother Frances V Ogan has been a mystery due to the fact that there is nothing that reveals her parents. The family story suggested that she had been left on a doorstep as a baby. The first census that I was able to find for her in the early 2000s was the 1880 census because that particular one was free to view. Her parents were listed as born in Ohio so that gave me hope that she knew that information. As the years went by and access to other census records opened up for me, I soon discovered the first census taken after her birth in 1846.

In the 1850 census in the Evan and Susannah Ogan household is a person with the name of Francis Foster, age 3, and born in Ohio. The person is marked male. The adults in the household, both born in Virginia, were both aged 64 – too old to be the biological parents of young Francis. They were living in Rich Hill township of Muskingum county, Ohio.

In the 1860 census there is a 13 year old Frances Foster – this time listed as female – living in Cumberland township of Guernsey county, Ohio – a distance of almost 6 miles from Rich Hill township. Frances is living in the Evan and Susan Ogan household. The adults are both listed as 73 years old.

Ten years later in 1870, 23 year old Frances Ogan is still in Guernsey county residing at the Eagle Hotel in Cambridge township. She is listed as a cook born in Ohio. Susannah Ogan had died five years before, and Evan was back in Muskingum county living with his 56 year old son Peter’s family.

For awhile I tracked Evan’s and Susannah’s children to see if any could be Frances’ biological parent. Nothing seemed to fit. I keep coming back to the surname used in the first two censuses – Foster. Did Evan and Susannah know that her birth name was Frances Foster? Or did they give her that surname because she was a “foster’ child? And what do I make of the fact that Evan and Susannah seemed to move soon after the 1850 census to a neighboring county and then move back once Frances is deemed an “Ogan” and out on her own? Could this have been a case of Evan and Susannah taking in a neglected child and moving in order for any birth family not being able to  find them? Was Frances related to them through a nephew, niece, cousin or dear friend? What could possibly move two people who had raised many children and were empty-nesters to raise a very young child? I may never know the answers, but I’m forever grateful that Frances had two people who took care of her in order for her to go on and marry a widower with three children. My grandmother was the youngest girl of the eight children they went on to have together.

This is a post in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge for Week 5. For more information or to sign up to participate (all free!!), check out Amy Johnson Crow’s post: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

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Some of the prompts for this week included: sharing a family recipe; which ancestor/relative would you have come to dinner; or family dinner traditions. I can’t pick just one ancestor or relative that I would want to have for dinner – besides I wouldn’t want to spend time preparing, serving, and cleaning up because it would cut in to the time to visit! I decided on focusing on family dinners – those way in the past and not so distant past.

When I think about family dinners, I remember many things.. The first is how my niece and nephews and I all had to sit at the “kids” table for Thanksgiving or Christmas. That was not where I wanted to sit, and I wasn’t shy about letting my parents know! My mom always had the table decorated with a gorgeous tablecloth and her good china. Today, I have the same table and one set of the china! I remember Mom and Dad in the kitchen working together to get the turkey sliced and ready for the table.

There were years we went to Michigan for the holidays. Two of my dad’s brothers lived in Detroit, and my mom’s brother lived in Battle Creek. During those meals, there would be aunts, uncles, and cousins at the table.

Some meals of my childhood included Memorial Day picnics where we all sat outside in the backyard at our two picnic tables. Cold drinks and fresh watermelon as wel as Mom’s potato salad were on the menu. There were meals at my grandparents’ apartment with my Uncle and Aunt in attendance. One year during a birthday, all of us “kids” were squished around the kitchen table while the adults took the dining table or TV trays.

Me and my two oldest daughters – Thanksgiving 1984

After my kids came along, most Thanksgivings were spent for the most part in Missouri with all the extended family on my husband’s side. Meals were eaten anywhere someone could find a seat! Two years in the late 90s, we went to my dad’s for Thanksgiving. The first year we went, my brother and his wife were there. It had been the first time since I was about nine that I spent a holiday with my brother and my dad at the same time. It was also the very last meal I shared with my brother before his death almost 3 years later.


My dad Eugene Amore and my brother Jim Amore – Thanksgiving 1998

During my kids’ high school years, we would have their friends in and out – just as my mom had when I was a teen. There was one summer that one of my daughter’s boyfriends was at dinner almost every single evening. At Christmas, their friends, our son-in-laws, their parents, and extended family would join us at our church’s Christmas Eve service and afterwards, everyone would meet us at the house for our “appetizer” meal. Most evenings at home, our family meals were noisy with chatter and laughter. The funniest stories have come out of those meals. As our four children grew up, moved out, got married and had their own families, there were meals spent at their homes.

Many years ago at one of our family reunions, someone made sure to leave a chair empty as a remembrance to those who are no longer able to share our meals. In conclusion, what does “come to dinner” mean to me? It’s a sum of all of the meals I’ve had the priviledge to share with family in the past and to continue to share with in the future.

This is a post in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge for Week 4. For more information or to sign up to participate (all free!!), check out Amy Johnson Crow’s post: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

(Top photo: Wikimedia Commons licensed under Creative Commons)

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