Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lyle Glenn Aston - never forgotten

Around this time 42 years ago, my sister and I rode the bus home from school, got off the bus and walked into the house … just like any other day. But as soon as we walked through the door, everything changed. Dad met us at the door telling us Mom was in bed and we needed to be quiet. Why? She had just learned that her nephew, Lyle, had been killed in Vietnam, and it broke her heart. 

Lyle died on 30 March 1969, a Sunday according to the calendar. My best guess is that the word was received back home on the 31st, for I found a news article from the Beckley Herald that said the Pentagon released the news of his death on 01 April. That should mean that the immediate family had been notified; and since the 31st was a Monday … a school day … it fits.

Lyle was the oldest son of Mom's only sister, Eva Harris Aston. In fact, Lyle and his younger brother were like sons to Mom – she and Dad lived in the upstairs of Eva's home when they were married in June 1948. Lyle had been born 15 May 1947, so he was just shy of turning one.

After graduating from high school in 1965, he attended West Virginia University, where he studied forestry. The war in Vietnam had been going on for years and it continued to escalate. At that time, a man could request a student deferment if he could show he was a full-time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree in certain fields, although his future was up to the local draft board whose decision considered factors such as time completed toward a degree, relative progress and standing in the course, and relative chances for employment in his field of study.

Bottom line … Lyle was eventually drafted into the Army and his tour of duty began 30 November 1968, just 16 months after getting married and with a daughter who was not yet three months old. His tank commander wrote an online memorial part of which he says, “I remember you always showing off the picture of your less than one (1) year old daughter. You were a proud father ...”

Lyle was assigned to the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (Blackhorse Regiment) at the time of his death, a Specialist Fourth Class (SP4), D Company, 1st Squadron. As an Armor Crewman, his tank took a direct hit to the driver's compartment from a rocket-propelled grenade while in the province of Binh Duong in South Vietnam (located immediately to the north of Saigon, which is now Ho Chi Minh City). He was killed instantly … a small consolation, but at least he didn't suffer or fall into enemy hands.

Lyle's body was recovered and brought back to the Lutes Funeral Home, which was on Second Street in Moundsville at that time. The funeral home was packed with what seemed like a never-ending line of family and friends during visitation hours. Services were held on 10 April 1969 first at Lutes and then graveside in the Fork Ridge Christian Church Cemetery, where the military rites and playing of taps were very emotional. Mom never could stand to hear taps after that. And to this day, any time I hear them it takes me back to Lyle's funeral and brings tears to my eyes. 

He is honored on Panel 28W, Row 88 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Vacations & Genealogy

This time last week, my husband and I spent the night in St. Peters, MO, just northwest of St. Louis. We were on our way home from a two-week ski vacation in Summit County, Colorado, and had driven across most of Kansas and Missouri that day. What a difference a week makes – the laundry is all done, the ski gear is all packed away, the luggage is all back in storage … and I'm almost over the sinus infection that hit me during week two. All in all, we had a great trip with good weather for the drive across country; lots and lots of snow in the mountains; and a few of those gorgeous sunny days that make spring skiing in the west simply divine.

So now that I'm back home and need to write a blog post … but I can't seem to get my head back into genealogy! Still some sinus fog? That's pretty much gone. Spring fever? Maybe. Come on brain … I need a segue from vacation to genealogy … wait, I got it ... photographing a cemetery!

A few of my relatives (you know who you are) find it quite amusing that I take photographs of gravestones. They just don't seem to understand the wealth of information that can be found on those pieces of history. Of course, you're probably wondering, “How does this tie into a ski vacation?”

If you've ever driven across western Kansas, you've probably noticed the old limestone fence posts that can still be seen interspersed in many of the fence rows.

The story behind these “post rocks” fascinates me – the Kansas pioneers learned to quarry and use the stone because the plains had no trees to make traditional fence posts.  There is actually a Post Rock Museum in LaCrosse, KS, that we hope to visit one day.

Along I-70 near Dorrance, Russell County, we discovered St. Joseph's Cemetery which has a sign made from a large slab of limestone and is surrounded by a chain fence that incorporates the post rocks. 

Looking at the limestone up close revealed a number of really cool fossils in the rock that were shaped like shells. 

As I was looking at the sign and the posts, it dawned on me that even though I was in Kansas … here I was … in a cemetery … taking photos … just like being at home!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In Memoriam: Alda Louise Harris Kuhn

Alda Louise (Harris) Kuhn
Today marks the sixth anniversary of my mother's physical death … but my sister and I were robbed of the mom that we love to remember long before that as Alzheimer's slowly took her away from us. Mom loved to laugh, and her wonderful sense of humor will always be in our memories. She taught us little dittys like Mairzy Doats and poetry excerpts like My leg? It's off at the knee – and they still amused her even after her Alzheimer's had progressed considerably. At that time, while my sister and I were painting the outside of Mom and Dad's house prior to selling it, Mom would sit in a lawn chair watching us and laugh as we repeated the verses we had learned so many years ago.

Glenn & Louise
Mom was born 03 April 1925 off Fork Ridge in Marshall County, West Virginia, to Charles McClure and Dessie Charlotte (Aston) Harris. She and her future husband, Donald Glenn Kuhn, both attended the Fork Ridge Christian Church. On 11 June 1948 they went to Bellton, West Virginia, where they were married by Rev. Ister West in his home (his wife Edith J. West and neighbor Minnie F. Ealy served as witnesses).

Mom and Dad wanted children, but it would be seven years before I was born - long enough that Mom and Dad had been contemplating adoption. Their joy at my birth was offset by Mom's health issues that turned her world upside down. Although her life was a difficult one due to various illnesses and near-death, her determination and inner strength kept her going. Dad once told me that Mom said she had to survive to take care of her little girl - I was only two years old when she nearly died the first time.

And survive she did. A few years later, she and Dad were thrilled to find out that a second child would be arriving – but the doctor wasn't so thrilled due to Mom's health issues. Yet once again, determination and inner strength got Mom through the delivery and life went on.

I doubt if there were ever enough hours in a day for Mom. She loved to bake, sew, and make crafts of all kinds. Outside, she raised a garden and tended many flower beds. Mom loved to feed and care for animals – photos of her as a young girl often included cats, dogs, horses, even sheep. That love continued throughout her life with numerous dogs and cats.

Just like Dad, Mom was strong in her Christian faith; she loved to listen to gospel music, especially while she was working in the kitchen. Dad loved to sing hymns and gospel music – but I suspect Mom enjoyed listening to his singing even more.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Alzheimer's disease first started, but we can look back and see differences in the late 1980's.  Moving Mom to a nursing home was one of the hardest decisions our family ever faced, even though we knew we could no longer provide the level of care she required. So in 1999, we moved her to the Home of the Good Shepherd in Wheeling, West Virginia. Mercifully, our fear that she might want to return home never materialized - the Alzheimer's had destroyed her memories to the point that she gave no indication that she even realized a change had been made.

For a few more years, she continued to recognize both my sister and me, but it was Dad whose presence could make her eyes light up even after she could no longer speak. He was the love of her life, and he visited her every day. The staff at Good Shepherd all loved Mom and said that she was one of the sweetest patients they had. She retained her sense of humor for some time, and the nurses and aides loved it when she would laugh with them and smile.

Within a month of turning 80, Mom was finally called home by God.  (Ironically, her older sister, Eva Mae Harris Aston, was 80 when she had also died from Alzheimer's in 2002.)  When Mom passed away on 09 March 2005, she was surrounded by her family; Dad, my husband and I, and my sister and her family were there.  We rejoiced that as a Christian, her death actually brought life and healing to her ... but we miss her so, so much. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Glassworkers - Part 4

This is the final post in my Glassworkers series, and if you're not a Kuhn relative, you're probably thinking … finally!

As I've noted in the previous posts, my Kuhn ancestors (my dad's paternal line) included several glassworkers … and my dad, Donald Glenn Kuhn, also did his own time at Fostoria Glass in Moundsville, West Virginia. However, my Church ancestors (my dad's maternal line) also included several glassworkers. If you read my earlier post about the marriage of my grandparents, Herbert Kuhn and Nellie Church, you'll recall that they were both working at Fostoria Glass when they eloped in 1921. I think she was a painter at that time.

Nellie was from a large family of 12 children born to Eli and Lenora (Summers) Church, and most of her siblings also worked at Fostoria at one time or another. I know some of their positions and hope to keep discovering more of them:
  • Ollie was a foreman in the Etching Department per his death certificate.
  • Elizabeth was a timekeeper per the 1930 federal census.
  • Vera's job was to “rub on” per the 1930 federal census.
  • Orrel, commonly known as Oac, “carried in” per the 1930 federal census. He was later a glass blower according to family.
It seems that I remember my grandmother, Nellie, talking about a time when she and older sister Vella were both working at Fostoria together – and if I'm correct in remembering that Grandma was a painter, then that may be what Vella did also.

According to one of my cousins, Nellie's sister Lela told the story that Eli and some of his children were working at Fostoria at the same time. Something was said that angered Eli, so he gathered up his kids and said "Come on, we're quitting." That must have been quite a sight!

In closing, I have decided that I'm not as done with glasswork as I thought, but I'll wait a few weeks before I come back to this topic.  I want to research some of the jobs that glass work entails, e.g. "rubs on" and "carrys in" and "gathers" - and I remember seeing a booklet that my dad had with some info about working at Fostoria, I just don't remember exactly where I saw it.  So while I'm looking for that booklet, you get a break and I'll have a chance to cover some other topics I have in mind.  Then one of these days when you least expect it ... I'll pick up the subject of glasswork again!