I thought I would write a little in relation to Veteran’s Day. For the most part, it seems this holiday is forgotten in the United States. Really, American’s celebrate the same day on Memorial Day in May. I can understand the European View of holding it on the 11th of November. It is the day WWI ended.
I remember well the time I first experienced Veteran’s Day. I sat in the Eccles Ward Chapel in Patricroft, England. There on 11 November 1999 I sat. The services started at 11 AM. We had the hymn, opening prayer, and a few comments by the Bishop until 11:11 arrived. It was then we took two minutes to remember what was done.
Growing up in Idaho means we had little or no realization of any war. There are no war memorials outside of cemeteries to commemorate anything. No war in modern days has taken place anywhere near Idaho. Even the American Civil War means little to Idahoans. My grandfather served in the Philippines during WWII but he speaks so little of it. I had Uncles and Great Uncles who perished in WWI and WWII. I had been to their graves but they were the dead, just like the other dead in the cemetery. The idea of dying for one’s country meant very little to me.
One of my first memories of England is the day after we arrived. We were taken into Altrincham Town Centre and there we proselyted for an hour or two on the way to the mission office. I did notice the cenotaph. I thought how oddly placed it was. It was something that we have relegated mostly to cemeteries in the United States. Once and a while you find one in front of a town or city hall.
While I served in Hyde, Cheshire once of the way we knew where to turn in town was at the cenotaphs. The same in Dukinfield. When we arrived early at one member’s house we would loiter at the cenotaph to street contact until time for dinner. A number of times I thought how oddly placed these things were. I knew they were naming those who died in the ‘Great War’. For some reason or another I thought they doubled up on the names over the various cenotaphs. It never occurred to me names are not typically duplicated on these things, or if they do, the intention is not to do so.
Suddenly I found myself sitting in a church meeting remembering. These souls did not fight for my country. However I felt come into my heart a gratitude for their sacrifice. Could I do the same thing if called upon? Somehow a dawning realization came upon me of the hundreds if not thousands of names I had seen on cenotaphs in my first year in England. They were everywhere. There were continuous reminders of the dead who fought for their country.
About a month later I found myself walking the streets of Runcorn, Cheshire. There is a large cenotaph probably around 15 feet tall. The bus would drive by it every day. I could not help but notice the little red, fake flowers on popcicle sticks stuck in the flower bed all around it. The cenotaph meant more to me by this point but what were the little red flowers? I noticed each of them had a name written on them and they appeared hand-made.
I asked what the little red flowers meant that were still scattered everywhere a month after the 11th of November. I was then told about Flanders Fields and the poppies. The poem was shared with me. It made sense, I felt the poignancy of it. The imagery is intense while the poem isn’t all that catchy to me. In fact, some of it still doesn’t make sense to me so I share only the first verse here:
In Flanders Fields the poppies grow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Would I have this type of courage? Would I be willing to go and serve my country so willingly? Even if I was drafted, unwillingly? To set aside all other hopes and aspirations to serve my country? I did so for my church. I would think I would be willing to for my nation. While I am not entirely enamoured with my country at the present, would I still be willing to do it? Probably.
In fact, I feel some desire to serve in the military. However my life hasn’t permitted the chance and my wife is against the idea. I don’t think I will be making that decision. But I wish to honour those who do and especially those who died in doing so. Accordingly, when I saw my clock at 11:11 this morning, I stopped for 2 minutes to remember. What does our future hold? I don’t know. But our past is nobler because of these good souls who gave all. Not only to join, but they never returned. We were on the side of right then, and our nation was preserved. I hope and pray our nation continues on the side of right and we will yet be preserved.
An uncle of mine arrived in Whitney, Idaho a year after his death in WWI. His remains arrived in a lead casket which was buried with great fanfare for the small community. WWII repeated this scenario with another Uncle, another family line, buried in Richmond, Utah. His body arrived months later and he was interred with great fanfare. May we live our lives in such a way, regardless if dying for our nation, but let us die in such a way that the community wishes to come out and pay homage for your great sacrifice for the future of man, good, and our country.
There is not a whole lot to report on at the present. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving here in blessed Virginia.
Amanda and I drove to Massanutten, a resort up in the hills. We went up to spend Thanksgiving with Amanda’s Uncle and Aunt. It turned out to be an interesting day. I enjoyed the drive up to the area. Gordonsville was the highlight of the day, the town having a personality completely its own. A rare thing it seems these days.
Massanutten wasn’t anything to boast about. They do have a very large indoor water park. Other than that, it was just a bunch of condos in the middle of the mountains. Don’t get me wrong, the mountains were beautiful. How much more beautiful without the “hello, here I am” presence of the resort?
Amanda and I have determined we will never go out to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal again. It seems to undermine what the day is about. Who would have ever thought it was Thanksgiving. Where was any resemblance of Thanksgiving, other than a commercial version of the foods associated with the date?
We went back and pretty much watched the TV for the rest of the day. Driving home, we were relieved to leave the situation which seemed lacking so much.
Hopefully, I can pay some homage to the day here even though the day did not provide much.
This week, I discovered I am the posterity of individuals who lived at Jamestown. Yes, next years celebration of 400 years in America, honored even by the Queen, is directly relevant to me. Not just through this nation, but through my ancestors who lived there. The Clark (or Clarke) family, the Summers, Lumpkin, and Thompson groups I am all related to. There is a possibility my Clark’s even come from the famous John Clark, who was the Master’s Mate on the Mayflower. He had been to Jamestown before, imprisoned in Spain, made the trip of the Mayflower, and eventually made his way back to live in Jamestown. He died not too much afterwards. I am also a descendent of the Graham Clan who settled parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. They extended into Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio as well. I am an American very deep in some roots. One of those Grahams was a personal friend of George Washington, and convinced him to help endow a new school he had founded. Yep, a Graham founded Washington and Lee. My history includes three future presidents, universities, and other numerous recorded aids to society.
My roots expand the ocean many times. My roots run to Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England. My ancestors were in the court of rulers; my ancestors even ruled parts of the Roman Empire. My ancestors come from Sweden, Norway, and the largest number from Germany. I have family who can be traced into Russia, Australia, and a score of other nations. The foundations I have been given are broad and inclusive. I am so very fortunate. Each of us have a history which began long before we were born.
Those blessings extend beyond my family. This nation, which has its hopes in liberty and freedom are one of the greatest blessings to me. I am very fortunate. It may be a weakness in many ways, but is a great boon in many more ways. I pray for the principles upon which it is founded to continue to go to the whole earth. I pray that those principles would be grasped by other nations and be implemented into their states. I pray our nation might return to the principles of truth and freedom for which it is founded.
I remember the lives of those who were given for this freedom I enjoy and others do not. Two of my Great Grandfather’s were gassed in WWI and both lived to tell the tale. Both met painful and difficult deaths due to it. One grandfather has purple hearts to show for his wounds and success in WWII. The other grandfather tried to enroll, but due to health issues was not allowed to be a part.
I pray for the soldiers of freedom everywhere. I care not what nation they represent, as long as they are there for liberty, freedom, and truth. I pray God will bless those who represent those hopes and ideals. That those who do not represent those ideals, or those they represent, will be thwarted in their designs.
It is with gratitude I offer my thanks to He who makes death not a fear. I thank and give adoration to the Savior of all mankind, even Christ that we might all live again. That despite wickedness and fear, we have nothing to fear but sin. I express my deepest thanks for the restoration of His church back on the earth and the miracles which abound about us. The gathering of lost nations, the restoration of Israel, the building up of the kingdom in preparation for the king whose right it is to rule. My deepest sympathies are with the restoration and furthering of eternal purposes upon the earth. My greatest joys and delight come from this impressive, yet almost unrecognizable effort happening in our midst.
I am pleased to have been born at this time of such great blessing. It is with a certain hope I see the future, despite all which is prophesied to come upon us. So much pain that the Saints will barely escape with their lives. We have seen little or nothing of what is to come. Nations will rise up against nations and desolation shall abound on all the earth. Those of the order of God have not need to fear though. This I am grateful for. For the Priesthood which shall protect those within the covert from the storm, for the Resurrection that those who will be lost; both for their own sins and for a more full judgment upon the wicked.
Most close to home I thank for those who are dearest to me. I am thankful for those who so deeply touch the deepest parts of my soul. Many who are now separated from me by death, but that too shall not be for long. My dearest wife, and all her splendor for which I am a blessed soul. My parents who fought and struggled so hard for my upbringing and their abiding love for me.
There is a whole multitude of souls I could reference for their influence in my life. The more I learn and contemplate, the more I realize how intricately every soul is linked to one another. Even years later we remember the influence of another. There are influences from childhood, influences from events far away, and even influence from beyond the grave.
My heart is full. I am thankful for all things.
This week brought some happy differences from the mundane run. Not at all to give the impression that life is mundane though. The longer I live, the more I realize it is just like beauty, all in the life of the beholder. There are those people wandering their lives thinking they are a nobody and with nothing great in their character or soul. Then there are those people who find fascination, excitement, and life in all there is about them. They are a different breed.
Somehow, I feel like in Richmond, I walk through a load of people with no excitement in their lives. Life is a labyrinth for them to wander and walk. There are so few who are in it for the game, and the experience.
The great Samuel Clemens, a fascinating man. One who watched the every move of those about him with great detail. Their every movement captured their personality for him. That is one of the things that made him such a great writer. He was able to take those little details and wind them into a story and make the characters that much more real.
Suppose it would be the experience of the riverboat pilot which would teach you even more closely to watch the details of the water. The slightest quiver could mean life or death. Just his assumed name of Mark Twain shows a certain yearning.
Earlier this week I was able to pick the brain of a man who I found to be very fascinating. A silent man in the past, but who gave voice this week. I wanted to hear his story. So I started to inquire and found some wonderful stories.
Having William Borah fresh on my mind, I was thinking of the honour of the President of the United States coming to visit you in your home state. Senator Borah toured with him and introduced him to all audiences that he was presented before. For some reason this has really lingered with me the past weeks. President Roosevelt paying one of the greatest honours to a man of the opposite party. President Franklin Roosevelt went to Republican Idaho and toured with its Senator. It also showed the distinction of Senator Borah. This really has hit home with the latest election.
So it was with greatest delight that I wandered through the mind and history of Mel Thompson. Learning he moved with his family to Nyssa, Oregon in the mid 30’s. They moved up there and basically homesteaded a new territory. Knowing many of my own family would move to that same area within the next 10 years I really sought to pick his brain.
Family history and my delving into history met ironically in the mind of Mel. He told of the experience when he was still in school that the President of the United States came to town. Yes sir, little Nyssa, Oregon welcomed the President. I knew who one of the men was who traveled with him, the same Senator Borah.
These stories come to life for me when I can go to the places these events happened. But they come so much more alive when I know a person and can learn from firsthand experience. Like sitting on the porch of the Price home in Malad, Idaho where Senator Borah visited with Helen Daniels Price’s father.
Having been to Nyssa several times in my life, the latest just in 2005 when I traveled out there with a visit to Parma. The Amalgamated Sugar Factory, with which Dad was closely tied for a good 25 years. Cannot forget the Sharp family members who moved, and some of which still live in Malheur County. The Fort Boise replica is not far away either. Oh, and the elusive Rhoda Christensen Davenport Pappas Halan who wrote letters from there, but that is the end of the story. I have found no more.
All truth can be circumscribed into one great whole. That truth certainly extends beyond the theoretical. That truth engulfs us into it as well. Funny thought, to consider ourselves the truth, but in essence all things are truth. Whether we like or live it or not; even our lying is in truth and will be treated as such. Our lives mingle, intertwine, and are very much related to each other. How could one ever conceive that their actions don’t affect another? President Roosevelt, Senator Borah, and in the school yard where the children were let out from class to go out to the street to see the President’s motorcade prove that point. One of those children had a face, had a personality, and had the name of Melvin J Thompson.
Last weekend, we went to Washington to attend the temple, to see Amanda’s grandparents, and to witness of a baby blessing. It was a great weekend, but turned even better when Amanda’s grandparents came to stay with us for an evening. An honour I would be willing to give a lifetime to do with one of my sets of grandparents. (I suppose I am giving a lifetime to do so!) It will yet come to pass and I will cherish that day.
We attended the Washington Temple Saturday morning. Amanda and I were asked to be the witness couple for the session. That was our second time. Shanna just thought that was something else. I wish I could have done an endowment with any of my grandparents, living I mean. It bothers me even still today my Grandfather, my only living grandparents, chose not to come to our sealing. For what reason I do not know, and probably prefer not to know. There again, how woven our lives are together. That the mere presence, or absence thereof, would so affect me. What if Mel Thompson had not been in the audience that day? Who would ever have known? Nobody would have known, but now I do. Somehow it rings a siren to my soul and brings back me back to the reality of the past. It seems so far distant sometimes. But now that nameless face has altered my life some 70 years later. Even further, all those who read this will be altered to one degree or another, by this events significance. That says nothing of all the other individuals present that day. How many of them told that experience later in life, how many wrote it down, how many family members recall that event today. I would venture that at least one somewhere, somehow, even if from a recorded record.
Our families were tied a little more closely that day in Washington and the following convo. The drive back to Richmond brought out the stories of childhood in Pingree, Idaho; Nyssa, Oregon; and Ogden, Utah. The stories included excursions to the Pacific and World War II and running into Mel’s brother at Pearl Harbor from Air Craft Carrier #77 to his training at Farragut in northern Idaho. His missing attendance at the Laie, Hawaii Temple by one day was told followed by his bouts in learning telegraphy for the railroad. Even those appear to be the most ordinary have a life to tell. Sadly, it is in the eye of the storyteller that plays just as much of a role as that of the listener. The listener has to seek and find connections, living what is true empathy. In return, the speaker has to give of himself in such a way for the other to experience it.
Is it any wonder the gospel works the way it does? Not only does one have to be prepared to receive, but the giver has to be prepared to give. Otherwise neither will give nor receive and both will most certainly not be edified. One side operating just doesn’t work. It falls on deaf ears, or is droned out before even arriving at the other party.
Too often there are those who are giving for the wrong reasons make it strained. Those who seek it for the wrong reasons ruin the experience.
Anyhow, it was a fascinating lesson, and I was able to come and grasp some more of the 60’s. I have really struggled coming to understand the 70’s and 70’s. I just cannot tell why. Even though I was born in the late 70’s, there seems to have been some type of disconnect.I have been fully engulfed in Richmond, Utah in 1961 and 1962 through the eyes of Lillian Coley Jonas Bowcutt. The lifestyle of a lady in her 60’s though just does not seem to portray the era. Especially this is true in a community which was still very rural and in some ways behind the times. I just cannot seem to get the culture of the time. 50’s, 40’s, 30’s, I feel like I have a very good grasp, like experiencing through proxy. In stepping backwards farther, I struggle to back further and feel it is due to the 60’s and 70’s. Honestly though, I have not much desire for that time. I don’t know why. So I push further back into the 20’s and 1800’s without it.
Anyhow, I never really got to pick Shanna’s brain much. I got Mel on such a roll that he was not about to give up his shine. We both were so enjoying it while the others just slept, knitted, or did something else. So I regret not picking apart Shanna’s past, which I am sure holds many interesting experiences and stories. Perhaps another day, with the right experiences will open that book.
They spent the night, and we had breakfast together before Amanda went to school and I went to work. Mel, Shanna, Dennis, and Gwen toured the Museum of the Confederacy and St. John’s Church. We invited them for dinner, of which they accepted. We made white chili for their dinner. They loved it, we put it over rice with corn. In the end, games and conversation were out as Dennis seemed not very desirous to stay. So we bid them adieu and wished them well on their drive home.
It was an experience I will not soon forget. It is a rare thing such experiences happen. So much has to align for such events to occur. A man I had viewed as so quiet proved to be very perceptive, keen, and wise.
I don’t like the tone of this little blog, so I think I will be leaving. I feel like I am condescending or portraying some type of sage. Which I am not attempting, but failing. I am so weak at words it is frustration. What I would not give to have the power and verse of Mark Twain or Hugh Nibley.
Sunday I thought I would try and call a distant cousin of mine. My Great Great Grandfather was born in Pulaski County, Virginia. He had a half
brother, who was a few years younger who was born there as well and remained there for his whole life.
So, my Great Great Grandfather’s half brother had a son whose name is Howard Ross Sr. The only reason I knew all this is back in the 60′s and 70′s he wrote a book on the Ross family and my Grandfather was given a copy for some of his help with the book. I knew Howard was around 81 years old. It just happened a few years ago, I ran upon a missionary who served in the West Virginia mission. I asked if he ever served down around Bluefield, West Virginia and he told me he served in that ward. I asked if he knew a Howard Ross who was about 80. He laughed and confirmed that anyone who lived in Bluefield knew Howard Ross. That missionary was very helpful in securing his address for me. Well, I wrote ole Howard a letter and to my delight he called me one evening in Logan, Utah while at school (about 2004). I was in the middle of a party of sorts, so I told him I would call him back. Somehow I lost his number and could not call him back. Worst of all, I did not have his mailing address either. On top of that, I did not know how to contact the missionary who gave it to me. So I was where I had left off.
The only thing I remembered from that short conversation was that he personally knew my Great Grandfather and my Great Great Grandfather had visited his family when he was still a boy.
Since moving to Virginia, even while in DC last year, I tried to find Howard Ross. Ross is a common name, and there was not a Howard Ross in the phone book anywhere near the area I needed. I ended up calling several dozen Ross numbers in the book in Western Virginia, but not one knew who I was trying to get. So I had decided I would just have to drive out there and ask people on the street of Bluefield. I never got the courage to do so as it is several hours away and if I found him, I was sure he would be out of town.
Sunday, something came over me, and I thought to try and find him again. I went to my family history and tried to find a name I might be able to only have one or two hits on in West Virginia and Virginia. I decided maybe I would look through my file and see if there were some towns which were small and possibly a Ross might be in one. Well, I saw Naoma, West Virginia as the birthplace of a family. I searched it, and a Willie B Ross came up. I had a Willie B Ross in my file, and so I called. It was a little awkward as I had him as dead. I rang the number and I asked for Willie’s wife. Sure enough, it was her. I told her how I was related and she said she did not know as much about that as her husband and that I would have to talk to him. That was a little awkward knowing he was dead, a little more so when she went to fetch him!
In the conversation with Willie B Ross, he was indeed the person I had in my file (I did not tell him he was dead though). We went through all the
children, dates, birthplaces, and then he gave me his son’s phone number, John Ross. John is a physicians assistant in Beckley, West Virginia and
personally knows ole Howard Ross. Well, I thank them, hung up and called John. It was a good visit with him. He informed me it would have to be
short as his basement was flooding at that moment. He was kind enough to give me Howard Ross’s phone number, and his son, Howard Ross Jr, and his daughter’s number, Sally’s number, and then chatted on and on. I was feeling guilty since his basement was flooding and so I excused myself and let him go.
I then phoned Howard. Number disconnected. I called Howard Jr. Number disconnected. I thought and prayed for Sally to answer. Well, some old man answered and I knew I was at a dead end. I told him my name was Paul Ross. He asked if I was the son of Milo Paul Ross, grandson of Milo James Ross, great grandson of John William Ross, and great great grandson of James Thomas Meredith-Ross. I knew I must be have hit the mark.
He too was in the middle of a family crisis at the moment and visited with me only for a short 20 minutes. In the meantime, I gleaned this much
My Great Grandfather came to visit in the 1930′s. Howard remembered it because he was missing a finger. He asked what happened. Apparently he had a spider bite and because of what was happening to his finger, he dipped it in acid. Well, the doctor said he saved his life, but was going to have to lose his finger. I thought, what an interesting story. He then asked if I knew anything about my Great Great Grandfather. I said I did not. He told me he also came to visit in the 30′s from out California. Apparently he was a Bishop in Fresno, California. He came to visit the family and was upset they did not have a cow. He asked how they could be self-sufficient without a cow. Apparently he went out and purchased a cow for the family for the time he stayed there. Howard roared with laughter when he said then when he left, he went and sold the cow, and went back out west. We had a good little visit about life and where I was, and what he was doing, and then his crisis brought him back to reality and he excused himself. We set up an appointment for a meeting sometime in the spring, he said only if he lived, he was not going to be there if he was dead. I very much hope I can meet up with him, to learn some stories on the side I know so little about.
After hanging up the phone, I called my Grandfather to confirm and pick his brain a little. Grandpa is usually pretty tightlipped about the family, but he opened up about quite a few things last night. Here is some of what I got (combined with what I already know).
He was born in 1921 to John and Ethel Ross in Plain City. Ethel had been in an accident on the old train line that used to go out to Plain City. She
had received some type of settlement from the railroad (documentation I will have to try and find) and then moved to Paul, Idaho and bought a
confectionary. It was on what is now Idaho Street. Dad has a good stash of checks, paperwork, and other stuff from the old confectionary. It was
there, running the confectionery, that she met Mark Streeter after he returned from military service. I don’t know where or how much he served in WWI, but they were married. I don’t know that either, but they had a daughter, June Streeter who now lives in Adelanto, California. Grandpa said Mark Streeter ran off on her.
She kept busy at the confectionery until she met John William Ross. He and all his family had lived in West Virginia in the 1910 Census. I think his
sister, Fanny Ross Phibbs (her husband was Judge Calvin Dickerson Phibbs in Rupert) was the first one out. I think she came first(between 1912 and 1916), and then convinced the rest of her family to come out. Especially with the opening of the new sugar factory at Paul, and the building of the new city for all the employees. Fanny obviously lived in Rupert, and the rest of her family came out. I don’t know when John met Ethel, but he served in the Army. While he was stationed at Fort Logan, Colorado he was a cook. She went to meet him, and in 1920 they were married at Fort Logan. I assume they had met at some time previous to his military service. I don’t know the dates of his military service, and where all he served. Grandpa said he thought his father had been gassed, but was not sure about that. The 1920 Census has him in Colorado as an army cook.
On a side note, John had been married in 1910 in West Virginia. He had a son in 1911 named Hobart. I will get to some stories about Hobart in a
Grandpa was born in Plain City in 1921. Paul was born in Paul, Idaho in 1922. Harold in Burley, Idaho in 1923. Then Ethel had Ernest in 1925 in
Plain City. Ernest was born in July, Ethel died in August, and Ernest died in September.
Grandpa does not remember living in Idaho. Of course, he was probably too young. He does remember his mother’s death. He was terribly upset because they would not let him see his mother in the casket. They said he was too young. He said he was old enough to know his mother was dead and wanted to see her.
He remembers his father afterward bundling them up, they went to Ogden, and caught a train to Idaho. They then lived with James and Damey Ross in Rupert, Idaho. He doesn’t remember his father being around during this time. James and Damey contacted the Sharp’s (Ethel’s maiden name) and had them come get the boys. They could not afford to feet them anymore. Sometime in the early spring, he said Os (Oscar) Richardson and Dale Sharp drove up to Rupert in Os’ Hudson and picked them up. He remembers the drive past the poplar trees from the old town outside the Paul factory through Heyburn, over the river bridge there, through Declo, Malta, and all the way back to Plain City. He lived with Ed Sharp, whose wife was an East; Paul lived with Fred and Vic (Sharp) Hunt, and Harold lived with Delwyn Sharp. Paul in 1922 fell from a barn and died of a concussion a few days later.
From that point on, he never saw his father until 1948. So from 1925 until 1948. Apparently the Sharp’s forbid him from coming to visit. Grandpa has a whole bunch of letters from his father that were sent to Vic Hunt, but they were never given to the boys. Only after she died, did Grandpa and the others find out about the letters. They are actually very tender. Grandpa said his father had told him the reasons why the Sharp’s forbid him from coming to visit, but he did not want to disclose them. He said he was going to say nothing against the Sharp family who were so good to him. (I took that to mean it was not so much John’s fault, but the Sharp’s.)
Grandpa said he got a letter in early June 1948 saying his father was in Livermore Hospital and would only live a few more days. His sons were
requested to come and visit him. Great Grandpa Donaldson, Grandma’s Dad, gave Grandpa the money to go see his father. Harold did not want to go. Grandpa went to Livermore, Alameda County to the hospital. He walked in the building, up the stairs, and right to the room where his father was. He just knew where it was at. He sat down there and saw his Dad in pretty bad shape. This was a veteran’s hospital.
They started to talk. The hospital staff escorted him out because he was to have no visitors. He explained the position, showed them the letter from the Red Cross, and they let him go back in. He stayed there through the night talking with his Dad until he passed away. He said he learned quite a few things. I could tell Grandpa was crying over the phone. He would not tell me most of what he said. He just said he sat there and held his hand while talking through the night.
He found out that he used to take a taxi from Ogden, pick up Betty Booth, and they would ride out to the Sharp farm. John would sit in the taxi while Betty did whatever she was doing there. Grandpa remembers the taxi sitting there by the side of the field and the man and woman waving at him. He never knew that was his father or Betty Booth. Later in life, he said Betty was an old widow who could not take care of herself. Grandpa and Grandma would pay for her coal and Grandpa did repair work for her home. He even reshingled it one year, and Betty’s family made him sign an agreement that she did owe him anything. Her family did not know Grandpa and Grandma were paying for the coal. They thought it was the Maw family, who delivered the coal. Grandpa found it very moving to find out that he had supported the woman who had made it possible for his father to see his children. He thought it was a fitting service.
Grandpa would tell me nothing about what they visited about that night other than his father talked about life. Apparently he married an old widow in California who was wealthy and that took care of him the rest of his days. Grandpa did not know if the widow was still living when his father passed away.
Grandpa then took me through some of his war stories. He dwelt mostly on a recent deal where he had been honored at some stadium for being so decorated during WWII. He said the announcer interviewed him first and this was some of the things he told the announcer.
Those who were decorated during WWII were only the lucky ones who lived through the battle. He said the more that died around you, the more
decorated you became. He said his awards are not for his bravery, but a symbol of how many more died around him and he was fortunate to not have fallen. Grandpa was wounded 4 times during the war. He said they were all part of doing the job just like you smash your thumb once and a while with a hammer while working. He found it terribly disappointing that the longer time goes on, the more we honor the living who made it through the war. He points out that it is the dead who need remembered, not the living. What about those who never had family? Grandpa has a family who will remember him. What of those whose lives were snuffed out and have not family to remember them?
He pointed out to the announcer that a bar of soap was his best friend. He lived for weeks at a time in a foxhole. He even brushed his teeth when he had extra water with a bar of soap. On more than one occasion, a man would jump into his foxhole for cover, and by morning the man was dead. He had spent a couple days with a dead man because they could not get him out. One man he buried there by the foxhole and later told others where he was buried when the battle was over so they could go back for him. He said we don’t understand war. He said do we realize that in a foxhole for days, weeks you have to go to the bathroom. You put some dirt in your helmet, do your duty and set your helmet out of the hole until morning so you could bury it and hope your head was safe uncovered in the meantime. You always hoped you had enough water to rinse out the dust and whatever else so it didn’t stink too bad. The same clothes for weeks at a time, in a very humid, wet environment.
He said his awards for bravery were because he did what needed to be done because he was tired of the foxholes. He wanted to move forward. He was lucky that artillery and others gave enough cover that they were able to take the high ground.
Anyhow, it was a great conversation. I enjoyed the time. He cut it off, said he appreciated the phone call, and to call again some time. He then
hung up. (In usual Ross fashion, we are not much for telephone etiquette)
It was an interesting conversation. A man who never knew his father really, then had a crash course for a day until he died. His mother is only a
memory of younger childhood. Ed Sharp from what I understand was very hard worker and worked his children just as hard. I need to talk to Dean and get some more information about his parents before he gets too old.
Well, that story pretty much ends there. But there is another one that goes with it.
I started looking at applying for University of Virginia Law when I noticed it asked for family members who had gone to UVA. I remembered Evelyn Hoogland (who is a first cousin of my Grandma Ross through the Van Leeuwen family) telling me her daughter graduated from UVA. I needed to know what year she graduated. I called Evelyn and she gave me Kay’s phone number and told me to call her. So I called my cousin, Kay Hoogland. She graduated in 1981 from UVA and I remember Evelyn showing me a magazine or two with Kay on the front page. I knew Kay had made a name for herself. I phoned her at home outside Chicago. We had a wonderful visit and like we were old friends, I enjoyed our talk. She gave me encouragement, offered help, proofreading, even a letter of introduction. I was thrilled. She gave me one professor to contact and get to know who apparently is from Northern Utah. His name is Richard Merrill, and with a name like that, I would assume is related to Marriner Wood Merrill and his family comes from Cache Valley. I guess I could even be related to him! We will have to pursue that end.
It is time to wind down, and I am over my time limit. I learned a whole heap on Sunday. Made some new connections, and I hope opened some doors. I only scored average on the LSAT (only those who were diligent to read this far will get this news) so I am going to need a miracle to get into UVA or any other wonderful law school. Kay could be the unlocking of that miracle. More importantly, I unlocked a great number of doors to my own history and family on Sunday. The Spirit of Elijah is alive and well. An effectual door has been opened, and there are many more yet to come!
Time for rest and FHE. Love to you all. I love you, I know the church is true!