Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lessons Learned Thanks To Grandpa

Grandparents have been described as "one of nature's way that we often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us." (Igor Stravinsky). I know this is to be true. Time spent with my grandparents gave me a wonderful foundation for my family history research.  But in the midst of  recounting the names and stories of ancestors I discovered lessons learned from my grandparents.

My mother was an only child, her parents knew each other all their lives and married when they both were well in to their 20s: they were married ten years before my mother was born. When they became grandparents, it was apparent their granddaughters were going to be the center of their world.

Some of my fondest memories are of the times I spent on my grandparent's dairy farm. Learning how to call in the cows for milking, riding along with Grandpa on the tractor while he mowed, tapping maples in the spring and cooking down the sap to make syrup, picking hazelnuts and butternuts in the fall, catching night crawlers to fish. My grandmother shared her love of history and books - my grandfather his love of nature. Both gifts I still carry with me today.

Fast forward forty years: our family vacation home, a four-season log 'cabin' located on the original dairy farm where I spent my childhood years remains the place central to my life. Earlier this month my family gathered for the 9-day gun deer season at our cabin, a tradition I know my grandfather would have been pleased to know was being carried forward. Hunting was a major part of my grandfather's life; being out in woods with friends who also looked forward to time spent "at deer camp."  He lived long enough to see his grandson-in-law establish shared hunting traditions at 'the farm' and his great-grandson's first hunting seasons. I wish he had lived to see his oldest granddaughter shoot her first buck.

Wisconsin Gun Deer Season, November 1945. Harley Space far left in black/white coat. Digital Image.
Original photograph privately held by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski. 2010

Recently a friend lamented the coming of winter, in addition to the cold, chapped hands and lips, she said she "hated that there was no color in the world" until spring. While walking out of my deer stand, I was struck by the beauty of the woods: the many shades of brown in the leaves covering the ground, remnants of last night's sleet among the moss on an oak tree, ferns refusing to relinquish their grip even in the midst of snow. I can hear my grandfather's voice pointing out the beauty of 'the out of doors."

Thank you Grandpa.

Copyright (c) 2010 Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Tombstone Tuesday: Milton R. Black, 1924-1945

You won't find the name Milton R. Black listed among the branches of my family tree however, our families share a common denominator: that being the loss of a family member in service to our country.

Like all family historians, I am drawn to cemeteries. Unlike my second cousin who finds my interest rather ghoulish, a stop to 'visit the relatives' brings a sense of peace and having taken on the responsibility of being my family's "Keeper of Everything," I can't help but feel joy having had the chance to get to know them. So it was with Milton beginning the day I convinced my husband to stop at the small cemetery on the outskirts of Kempster in Langlade county, Wisconsin.

Kempster, a small community of less than 1,700, is home to many of my paternal grandfather's nieces and nephews and their families. Both my grandmother Alma Polar Space and great-aunt Leona Polar Belott, taught in the Kempster schools at one time or another during their long teaching careers. Kempster is also one my favorite 'back way' trips to Elcho during our summertime ice cream road trips. My acquaintance with Milton Black began with a stop at the cemetery on one of these return trip from the Elcho Ice Cream Shop. The cemetery, located north of the intersection of county roads J and B with a view of pretty Sunfish Lake, has always been on my to-visit list but as any genealogist will tell you, making a request for a cemetery visit when traveling with family members, timing is everything. On this day, my husband was agreeable to a stop to wander among the stones. Success!

Set apart from the rest of the markers stands a red granite monument with a large Flag of the USA. While the cement mortar is need of repair, the artificial flowers and flag show recent visits to this particular marker. The placque reads:

In Memoriam
Milton Black
August 27, 1924
January 23, 1945 

The dates are similar to those of my uncle Earle Bergeron and I surmise that they more than likely knew each other as they would have attended Antigo High School, Earle being two years ahead of Milton. Earle, born in June 25, 1922, enlisted in the Army Air Corps in July 1940 immediately following graduation and became one of the Flying Sergeants who flew "The Hump" in the China Burma India theater during WWII. He died on April 23, 1943, when the C-47 he piloted crashed on take-off.

 Looking at the dates we wonder if Milton died during the Battle of the Bulge. I take a couple of photographs of the memorial and file it away as the perfect post for an upcoming Tombstone Tuesday.

It isn't until weeks later, sitting at the film reader at the Antigo Public Library looking at Milton's obituary in the March 5, 1945 edition of the Antigo Daily Journal that I learn how much he and Uncle Earle had in common :

     Sgt. Milton R. Black, 19, son of Robert R. Black, of Kempster, was killed in action Jan. 23 over Burma, the war department has notified his father.
     Sgt. Black was an aerial engineer for a troop carrier squadron of the 10th air force which operates against the Japanese throughout the India-Burma theater. He had been  credited with 25 combat missions and 275 combat hours, and had been awarded the air  medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight.
     The Kempster airman was born Aug. 27, 1925 in Green Bay. He attended the Kempster school and was graduated from Antigo high school in 1942. Enlisting in the service in December 1942, Sgt. Black received his training at St. Petersburg, Fla., Gulfport, Miss., Buffalo, N.Y., Kansas City, Mo., and Love field, Tex. He went overseas June 19, 1944.
     Sgt. Black's mother died April 28, 1942. Besides his father, he is survived by two brothers, Maurice of Kempster, and Pvt. Milo Black, who is stationed at Amarillo field, Tex., and one sister, Mrs. Vernon Keen, Koepenick.

Three days later a photo of Milton Black with a revised reprint of the complete obituary was run on the front page of the Journal; ironically, adjacent to the photo is a sub-headline: "Success Reported Against Japanese On Many Fronts."

A search of Ancestry.com listing of WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings shows the family indicated their wish to have Milton buried in Honolulu, Hawaii in the National Memorial Cemetery of Pacific, Territory of Hawaii; resting in Plot P, Row O, Grave 800. This record reveals Milton served with the 9th Squadron, 3rd Combat Cargo Group. His list of awards includes the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart.

A further check of Ancestry.com U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 shows Milton enlisted on December 10, 1942, in Milwaukee, WI. His enlistment record lists his civil occupation as "semiskilled mechanics and repair[men]". His height was recorded as 65 and weight 145.

I locate the obituary of Milton's mother Ida Sievert Black in the April 29, 1943, issue of the Antigo Daily Journal and discover another sibling, Robert, who died in 1928 at the age of six months.

I find myself thinking about how much these two young men had in common and the stories and experiences they would have shared had Earle and Milton lived to attend a high school reunion.

I think about how young they were when they went off to war, never to return, and am reminded of the quote by Henry David Thoreau: The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

Copyright (c) 2010 Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski

Friday, November 5, 2010

Follow Friday: Moultrie Creek Gazette

I know I am not the first family historian to ponder the wonders of the digital age in relation to how computers, the Internet, Apple and IBM have changed our lives and wish for the opportunity to ask our grandparents for their take on this explosion of technology.

As the newsletter editor of my chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution I am always looking for inspiration and ideas on how to keep our members interested. Like newsletter editors everywhere, I look to other newsletters for fresh ideas to incorporate into our newsletter. You don't have to be a newsletter editor to be inspired by Moultrie Creek Gazette, which I am pleased to feature for Follow Friday.

Denise Olson has created an on-line publication that is consistently my go-to whenever I am looking for inspiration or just to browse the articles or I want  enjoy the first-class photography. A few of her recent articles that grabbed my attention: using your own family ephemera to create custom graphics for family history projects and building a blog network. I highly recommend both articles but don't just take my word. Spend a few minutes and I guarantee you'll become a follower as well.

A post to Creekside Chatter, an online service from Moultrie Creek, asks the question, What will the Future of Business Cards Look Like? has my attention. As a former owner of an ad agency and hubs involved in social media in his career, this is a topic that recently came up over our morning coffee. I'm anxious to see what the rest of the blogisphere thinks.

Moultrie Creek Gazette gives me a chance to stretch my creative wings, learn something new about this wonderful digital age but I confess to printing out my favorite articles. Something I'll bet my grandparents would have done as well.

Keep up the great work Denise!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Mildred Little Graduation

"Mildred Eileen Little Graduation." Mildred Little (back row, far right). Digital Image. Undated.
Original photograph privately held by Cindy Bergeron Scherwinski. 2010.


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