11 November 2011

Veteran's Day

When I think of WWI, I always think of two pictures that hung on the wall of my parents' home when I was a child. The pictures were of my mother's grandfathers, Otis and Olen, each in an Army uniform. Unfortunately I don't have copies of those pictures to share. I don't have pictures of my grandfather and grandmother in their Navy and Army Nurse uniforms. I don't have pictures of my great-uncle, or two uncles, or assorted cousins, or father-in-law in their uniforms, either. In fact, I hardly have any family photos at all. I'll inherit them eventually. In the meantime, it's just as well--I'd probably lose them.

I do, however, have access to one photo of the aforementioned Otis, which happens to have been published on the internet. Otis is the small boy in the Little Lord Fauntleroy suit. The older boy is his half-brother (his mother's son from a previous relationship, even though Genealogy.com will try to tell you they're full brothers), the baby is his sister, held by their mother. The man in the coffin is Otis's father, an Irish immigrant, dead of dysentery at 39.

It might look like Maggie is smiling here, but I assure you that her face is clearer in the original photograph and she is clearly not smiling.

I remember the first time I saw this photo in a family album. I was pretty shocked. But photos like this were not uncommon at the time--pretty much the last chance to take a family photo if you didn't already have one. The children here did not meet happy fates, alas. The older boy was a professional card player in a smoke shop, and the baby was eventually sent off to be raised by another family. Otis joined the army, and then came home and married a very pretty local girl and had a son. Otis's wife died of TB just a few years later and Otis had to send his son to be cared for by relatives, first by Maggie here pictured, and later with the boy's maternal relatives. Otis died of TB in 1933 at a VA hospital. He was 40 years old.

Otis's little boy is 91 years old now, having surpassed the combined lifespans of his father and grandfather a decade ago. He's a veteran, too--of WWII and Korea.

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