Memorial Day Memories

2013-07-06 Dad's WWII StoryIn years past Memorial Day was a solemn day of mourning to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed, towns held parades, speeches were given and prayers offered up. Cemeteries were filled with people cleaning graves and decorating them with flags and flowers remembering those loved ones lost in service to our country.

This weekend would be a great time to interview family members young and old of their memories of Memorial Day. My father wrote the following of his experiences of fighting in World War II and being homesick. He shared the joy that he and other soldiers felt being back in the United States with family.

“The war had ended and it had been almost two years since I had seen my family, and I missed them. I was ready to go home now, but it would be another six months before I would get to see them.

But first we were refueled and were sent back to Okinawa to pick up other personnel and headed for San Francisco. Additional bunks were welded to the hangar deck to enable us to pick up more soldiers in Pearl Harbor.

The next assignment for us was to go to Shanghai, China and pick up more troops and take them to Seattle, Washington.

We brought back a lot of men home to the United States, and they were really happy to be back. What a wonderful and exhilarating time that was when we saw the States. We were back home in the U.S.A.

After a short stay in the States we moved down the coast to the Panama Canal. After a short stop there we went through the Panama Canal to the Atlantic Ocean and to Norfolk, Virginia. Our ship was to be decommissioned.

In March 1946, I finally got a 15 day leave to go home after 27 months away. After my leave I went back to Norfolk, Virginia and back to the Anzio. In May I was finally discharged and went back to Beaumont, Texas.

After being out of the Navy for three months, I reenlisted for two years. I was sent to New Orleans for reassignment, and I was placed on a sea going tug for a short time. Then I was assigned to Washington D.C. to work with guided missiles off of Virginia. After a stretch there, I was placed on a newly built huge ship named the U.S.S. Coral Sea. We took it out for a shake down to try all the new equipment. We went to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and we got to see some of the sights of Cuba.

I was due to be discharged in two months and was not re-enlisting so I was removed from the U.S.S. Coral Sea because preparation was being made to go on a six month cruise to the Mediterranean. I’m glad I didn’t re-enlist because if I had I wouldn’t have met my wife, Jean. I was getting tired of all this adventure, and I had enough to last me a life time.

During my time of service I was able to go ashore in the Philippines, Island of Guam, Ulithi, Okinawa, Kerama Retto, Ryukyu Islands, Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands, Korea, China, Cuba and Panama City.

I was finally discharged in July 1948. I’m happy to say that I was proud that I did serve my country. I got to see a lot of this world, but the U.S.A. is still the best. It’s an adventure I shall never forget. Looking back at all the events I experienced, I thank God for all the lessons I learned and that He brought me back safely.”

Dad has not only recorded his memories of his experience serving in World War II for his family but has done his part in preserving American history. This weekend would be a great time to interview family members young and old of their memories of Memorial Day or of their service to our country. Pull out your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories and the memories of family members to preserve a historical military story for future generations.

  • What did your hometown do to honor fallen victims of war?
  • As a child, how did you celebrate Memorial Day?
  • How did you feel when you heard the war was over?
  • If you were overseas, how long did it take for you to return home?
  • How did you feel when you set foot back in the United States?


A Mother’s Journey


I will never forget the three most special and blessed days that were given to me. Those days were the birth days of my daughter and two sons. My children were given to me as totally dependent infants to feed, clothe, bathe, teach, and most importantly love and make them feel special. My parental goal was to raise them to one day be independent enough to go out on their own and be responsible, loving adults.

I enjoyed every stage of their lives, but I admit it got harder for me as they got older. They were pulling out the scissors to begin cutting the apron strings. Each snip was hard to accept. Often times for me as independent as I wanted my children to be, it was difficult to watch them make their own choices.  But if that was my goal and that goal was met, why is it so difficult to let them be independent? I feel my mom and dad looking down on me from heaven and saying to me, “Do you understand now why we had a hard time staying quiet?” Perhaps in another thirty years my children will understand too.

We made wonderful memories together when they were little at home and on day adventures. Life was a bit simpler. When they were little, I could corral them into the home, close the doors and feel safe from the outside. It is impossible to do that now. But I need to accept that they are adults and trust that I trained them well to handle difficult times on their own.

They are outstanding adults that always try to do well and are willing to heed my advice in some matters. I am most thankful that all three have followed my highest goal for all to be college graduates. I have always felt that the choice I made in my life not to complete college changed my path drastically and led me down a road with more obstacles. I am proud to say my daughter graduated in 2009, one son graduated yesterday and my other son will graduate in December. They will all be Purdue University alumni.

Now that the final strings to the apron have been snipped, it’s my turn to become independent, sit back and watch them travel their paths. However, when they were little I often read to them Robert Munsch’s book,”Love You Forever.”  At every stage in the mother and son’s life the mother repeated: “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be” Ditto for me! And remember… the door is always open!

If you have already experienced these times of transition between parents and children, now is the time to grab paper and pen or open your laptop and start Keeping Your Memories of your experience for future generations to read your advice on the best and/or worst ways to handle this transition starting with the following questions:

  • What was the best advice given to you to raise your child(ren)?
  • What advice do you give on raising children and letting go as they get older?
  • What did you enjoy doing with your child(ren)?
  • What was your proudest moment of your child(ren)?
  • What is the one thing you most want people to remember about your child(ren)?

Five Generations of Women



On this Mother’s Day I want to honor five generations of women. Each with a legacy of her own.  My great grandmother died in 1897 at the young age of twenty-nine. Her surviving husband dispersed four of their five children amongst aunts and uncles. My grandmother, May, their fifth child, was only five years old and was separated from her siblings and raised by her grandmother.

The story has been told that my grandmother was not treated very warmly by her grandmother, and she was only able to complete the third grade. She eventually married, had eight children, worked diligently both at home and as a seamstress at a local shirt factory. I didn’t know this about my grandmother when she was alive, but I had never asked. And perhaps I never knew because she didn’t let obstacles stop her and she just persevered. My cousin, Debbie, remembers Grandma telling her that she missed out on learning and stressed the importance of education.  Despite the lack of schooling she was able to teach herself. She loved English and words.

My mother was the sixth child out of eight. She was born into this hardworking financially struggling family and raised during the Great Depression. She grew up with little and had a physical obstacle in her life but she persevered. She was the first child in her family to complete high school, and she too loved to learn. She married and chose to be a stay-at-home mom with four sons and one daughter. She encouraged reading as she was an avid reader, loved words and literally studied the dictionary to play Scrabble.

I am the fifth child, the only daughter. Compared to the first three generations, my childhood was considerably easier as my parents didn’t need to worry as much about food on the table and clothes on our backs. I completed high school and attended college but did not complete my education which to this day I regret. In my lifetime I survived life threatening brain surgery, dealt with infertility, and in time was blessed with three children. I eventually became a single mother, juggling full-time work and young children. But as my mother and grandmother did, I persevered and let none of my obstacles stop me. As a child, I loved reading and had a passion for writing. Since I was a little girl I wrote stories and as a teenager wrote for my high school newspaper and have continued writing since then. With my writings, I can share with my future descendants how coming from a strong line of women has enabled me to become a stronger woman. Today I am happily remarried, my children are grown, and I continue working and writing.

My daughter is the oldest child with two younger brothers. She is the fifth generation in this line of women and has already begun to put her mark on the world. She has always been an outgoing, assertive, young woman with goals and ambition. She successfully completed her college education and is currently a first grade teacher and has touched many young lives. She also loves to read and teaches first graders to read not only for educational purposes but for enjoyment. All of these grandmothers, who were born in 1868, 1892, and 1928 (two of whom she never met) influenced my daughter’s life. I am proud to have been in this line of women.

Are you able to compile the lineage of your ancestors and what they persevered? What memories and/or pictures do you have of your grandmothers/grandfathers? Now is the time to pull out your laptop or grab a pen and paper and start Keeping Your Memories of your lineage and how each generation had a part in your life.

May is Personal History Month


May is Personal History month, a time for recalling and preserving family stories and moments that helped make you who you are today. My father, whose 89th birthday was this past week, is one who influenced me. He passed eight years ago but his spirit is still with me through his teachings. He showed, by example, good character and work ethics. I watched him rise early in the morning to get to work on time. I admired him for his diligence, patience and tolerance.

Dad was a conductor for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He is the third from the left in the group photo of his fellow railroad workers. The railroad yard where he reported to work was known as Cole Hour.

The picture instantaneously stirs memories of the late nights when we, dressed in our pajamas, would climb in the car to take the forty-five minute drive to Cole Hour to pick up his paycheck as this was decades before direct deposits.  Afterwards we would go to a nearby store that was open late into the night where he must have been able to cash his check. We were each allowed to buy one treat for ourselves.

I find it amazing how my parents raised our family of seven on one income, but I do remember when it was close to payday Mom would often times fix potato soup or something similar that was nourishing but not necessarily filling the table up. We would have glasses of water at dinner time instead of milk so we would have some for breakfast. For quite some time we only had one car which Dad used to commute to work. As kids, we had to walk or ride our bikes to whatever destination we were headed no matter the distance.

As a child, I had no idea how my parents budgeted Dad’s pay checks, but rather associate payday with a trip to the grocery store. I still remember all the grocery bags being brought into the kitchen from the car and the elation felt when unpacking the food and seeing the cookies, cakes and fresh colorful supply of Kool Aid envelopes.

It is refreshing to think back of my memories of my life as a child when my concerns were not how bills were being paid, but as to the excitement to be out with Mom and Dad for the drive to pick up the paycheck. We never had to worry about being fed or having our needs met because we were fortunate to always have what was needed. At that time we didn’t have to worry; that was our parents’ job.

What special memories do you have of the simple times that you had with your parents that you would like to share with your descendants? Open up your laptop or grab paper and pen and start Keeping Your Memories of the times that you will always cherish.

  • Where did your father and/or mother work?
  • What routine was always scheduled for payday?
  • What special groceries were you always expecting to be brought home on payday?
  • Did you eat sparingly close to payday?
  • How has your father or mother’s examples influenced you?