Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sentimental Sunday - 1961

New Easter Dress - 1961
Family friend, Phil Olsen in the back round.

Going to church.  This is moi and my mother, Ethel Taylor Steele.
We attended First Baptist Church of Beverly (Massachusetts).
Our family lived at 60 County Way, in the Ryal Side neighborhood.
This is the year that my father and I spotted a rabbit in the back yard. He explained that it was Peter Cottontail and I, undoubtedly believed him. The funny thing is, we never saw a rabbit again in that yard.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Military Service Diary of Richard Andrew Steele, Sr.


This is the diary of my father, Richard Andrew Steele, Sr. (1913-1995). It chronicles his service during World War II as a Boatswains Mate, First Class.  Most of his service was spent aboard LST 899.  It begins November 14, 1944 and ends January 5, 1946.

The book itself measures 8”x 5”, is bound in khaki green cloth.  The front page has a printed number 50174 and reads “Manufactured by U.S. Government Printing Office”.
The pages are lined and are not numbered.  The pages of the entire book have been cut diagonally at the upper corners. His words were written with a fountain pen.

Inside Front Cover:  In case of anything happening to me – please forward this to my wife – Mrs. R.A. Steele, 9 Kernwood Ext., Beverly, Mass.

I will transcribe this just as it has been written.

Sandra Steele DeFord. March 26, 2013

The Journey to the Pacific Begins

The crew of 105 men and 7 officers was formed at Camp Bradford, Va. (Norfolk) Nov, 14? 1944.  We underwent extensive training as a unit for two weeks – on Thanksgiving Day Nov. 28th 1944 we left Little Creek, Va. on the LST 985 for a two weeks training cruise.  We went to Baltimore, Md. and cruised in adjacent waters for two weeks.

Upon return to Bradford we went to Pittsburg, Penna. on Sunday Dec 12, 1944 to pick up our new LST 899.  At Pitts we stayed 11 days at Carnegie Tech awaiting the completion and commissioning of the ship. (Ethel came back with me after I had two days at home and stayed 5 days with me).  We were happy just to be together – she attended the commissioning exercises held on a gloomy, frigid snowy day Dec. 23, 1944 at Dravo Shipyards, Neville Island, Pa.

We pulled out into the Ohio River at noon of that day and headed down river for New Orleans, La.  That was the last time I saw Ethel – waving goodbye from the dock (God knows I miss her).  I’m writing this March 9, 1945 and will be in Pearl Harbor in two days.

The trip down-river was gloomy – icy – wet – went thru about 60 locks in the Ohio and handled icy lines all the way – a tough trip – ship covered with ice.  The Miss. River proved smoother, muddier but no locks to contend with – we arrived at New Orleans on Dec. 31, 1944 and the next day, Jan 1st 1945 we were fully commissioned and our Capt Thornton officially took command.  That was the day he said “Let this be known as a happy ship.”

We got supplies, ammunition & fuel at New Orleans and I had some excellent liberties there – a very quaint, interesting city.

About Jan 10, 1945 we left for Mobile, Ala. where we dry-docked for 8 hours and I went into Mobile for mail and sent Judy picture post cards of Mobile.

Leaving Mobile at 7 P.M. that evening – unbeknownst to our Capt. we had a drunken pilot aboard.  Our Capt. Saved the ship from ramming a dredge in mid stream by putting all engines “full astern” and having me let go the “stern anchor” – we stopped inches from the dredge – got a new – sober pilot aboard and made the Gulf of Mexico in early A.M.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Here I Begin

So, here I begin my journey, writing about my genealogical adventures.  I have been inspired by the Blogging community and viewing some of the Rootstech 2013 convention which was streamed live over the internet.  The emphasis on storytelling was a main theme this year; telling our stories for the generations in the future.  I have taken my title from renowned story teller, Syd Leiberman, a keynote speaker who shared some of his family stories in order to inspire his listeners to tell their own.  He encouraged us, and I paraphrase, to catch some time, tell a story and launch it on the water.  I found that phrase to be particularly descriptive of the process. One must first capture the memory or the moment, tell it or write it down and then release it as you share it with others.

 Dennis Brimhall, the CEO of FamilySearch International posed the question, “What would our future generations wished we had done for them 200-years from now?”  He demonstrated the power of storytelling, sharing what his daughter had accomplished by interviewing his father who was a bomber pilot over Germany in World War II.  She researched the records and assembled a bound book with his story and photographs as a tribute to her grandfather.  The future generations in that family will get a glimpse into the heroic life of this man who was shot down over Munich and captured by the Germans.

Writing regularly is good exercise.  It can accomplish several things simultaneously, such as improving writing and typing skills, keeping one to a schedule, helping to reach goals, and hopefully the end product might be enjoyable enough to interest others.  I find that if I commit a goal to writing, the goal becomes solidified and somehow becomes more important to finish.

Along with my compulsion to find where my ancestors came from, one of the projects on my list is to transcribe my father’s World War II diary.  Even though I personally have no further generations to pass this to, I think others of my generation that have relatives that served on an LST in the south Pacific might find it interesting.  Someone of that description started a web site for the LST that my father served on.  That would be an ideal place to present it. I just need to start and do a few pages at a time. 

I would also like to find a way to present a family history beyond dry reports, with written stories and summaries, photographs, maps, etc. in order to bring a family to life.  There were several programs and applications mentioned at the convention that might be helpful, such as Tree Lines.  I am currently working on the family history of a friend which I would like to “bring to life” in this manner.  If I could develop a system that works well, I think my cousins in various branches of my family could appreciate their history even more and want to keep it for further generations.  Perhaps that is the legacy I will leave my family, extended as it might be.