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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Elmer Eugene Clarke

Elmer Eugene Clarke was my 2nd great-grandfather's younger brother.

He was born in Funkstown, Washington County, Maryland December 3rd, 1865.

Elmer and two (or more) of his brothers relocated to Chicago where he met and married Susan Berg. Together they had 10 children; Lyman, Clifford, Zora, Elmer Jr., Stella, Edna, Alice, Eloise, Irma, and Dorothy.

From the November 19, 1952 edition of the Chicago Daily News, page 55; CLARKE - Elmer E, Clarke Sr., Nov. 18, dear husband of Susan, fond father of Zora Blake, Stella Rudolph, Edna Hanson, Alice Jenkinson, Eloise York, Irma Froberg, Dorothy Thompson, Clifford M., Elmer E. Jr., and the late Lyman John Clarke. Services Friday Nov. 21, 2 p.m., at funeral home 301 S. 5th-av., at Maple-st., Maywood. Interment Arlington Cemetery. FIlmore 4-0100.

A special thank you to Grandson #3 for locating the headstone above after we walked and re-walked all the likely rows in Section 11 at Arlington Cemetery. And for his cheerful willingness to help Grandma fill Find A Grave requests while we were there.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Scraps of Family History

A pile of books about family history scrapbooking waits patiently on my desk. I've become obsessed with creating a written and photographic record for my descendants.

What a celebration there would be if I discovered a diary written by my great-great grandmother! Or a photo album compiled by a long lost great-aunt. Heck, I'd be happy to see brief notes my ancestors had written to one another, wouldn't you?

The books I'm reading encourage me to start by preserving one story, one event, or one photo and the tale it tells. How excited I would be if any one of my ancestors had done this for me!

Some stories are in the here and now; the first big snow of 2010 with pictures taken while running from falling tree branches. Others are in the past; tales of a much beloved pet who now resides in cat heaven. The one I'll share today spans the past, the present and possibly the future.

When I was a kid we had a 20 foot flagpole in our front yard. My dad was uncompromising about the care of the flag that flew from sun up to sundown everyday. In the morning, one of my sisters or I would hold one end of the flag while Daddy hooked it to the cord and raised it by a pulley. In the evenings we would lower the flag and fold it width-wise twice. Then starting at the striped end, we made a triangle fold 13 times, one for each colony.

My parents divorced and my mother had the flagpole removed. Folding the flag was relegated to Girl Scouts and parades, until last month when my dad was laid to rest at Fort Snelling National Cemetery.

Uniformed volunteers folded the flag that had been draped over Daddy's casket. With a 'thank you' for the service my father gave his country, they placed the flag in my stepmother's hands. Pastor said a few more words and the crowd started to thin. In a moment of immeasurable generosity, my stepmom turned to me and said, "You should have this." Then she handed me the flag. And returned the memory of my dad holding his end as we moved closer to each other with every fold.

Today the framed flag resides next to a photo of more than a hundred uniformed men, one of whom is my husband's late father. The stories of our veteran dads have merged and will be told to our grandchildren as one. The future will tell which of them will take ownership of the treasures and the stories. Perhaps the first to erect a flagpole in their front yard.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Silver Linings

Despite my advancing years, my father was always Daddy to me. My evening commute was often spent visiting with him on my cell phone. Every conversation included hearty laughter on both sides of the line. I miss that the most.

The compassion shared by others has been overwhelming. There aren't words enough to thank everyone who reached out with comforting thoughts and more. Your kind words and deeds helped in many ways.

A dear friend of mine refers to this type of experience as an AFGO; "another flippin' growth opportunity". In that spirit, here's what I've learned:

Every family needs an active genealogist. All eyes turned to me when the funeral director asked about names, places and dates. I wrote Daddy's obituary for the living as well as for his great-great-great grandchildren.

Every genealogist must interview his or her own family members. The tapes on which my dad talked about his life are among my most precious possessions.

Every grief-stricken child needs a clear-thinking genealogist to lean on. My husband is my hero. He was the genealogist I couldn't be in those first few action-packed days; locating another source for Army discharge papers, assembling groups of relatives for photographs, gathering printed materials for Daddy's genealogy file, and so much more.

Every picture tells a story. I looked through hundreds of photographs while preparing a memory board for my dad's church service. And I realized how quickly our stories can be lost if they aren't written down for the next generation.

So as part of my healing process, this genealogist is also becoming a scrapbooker. I attended my first workshop last night. The scrapbook I'm creating is filled with mementos and pictures of a handsome young man named Bill.