Family service to country honored

NEWELL – A local group made sure that the history of local residents’ military service and sacrifice are not forgotten during an its second-annual Armed Forces Day Celebration and Open House, held Saturday at the Tri-State Genealogical and Historical Society in Newell.

Members of the society as well as the general public contributed photographs, artifacts and other items for displays that covered several tables inside the society’s library in the basement of the old Wells School on Washington Street.

According to Karen Stewart, president of the society, the idea of the event was to take an opportunity to show appreciation for those who are presently in military service, in addition to all American veterans, especially those who died while serving in uniform that will be honored on Memorial Day.

“Most of us have military men in our family histories, and we’d like to learn more about them,” Stewart said. The resources of the society, including historic documents and volunteer researchers, were available for people who wished to know more about the veterans within their own family trees.

Society secretary Bonnie Ryan says that putting a call out to members of the public to donate their family photos and artifacts for display at the event was twofold. “We were hoping to get more people to realize that we’re here,” she said. In so doing, she hopes that people will learn about the historic and genealogical resources are available to the public, not just on Armed Forces Day, but throughout the year.

Society member Sue Ann Barrett, celebrating her 73rd birthday, was wearing an appropriately patriotic outfit of red, white and blue for the occasion. She had another outfit with her as part of her family display: A little sailor’s uniform and cap that her father, James G. McDougal, had purchased and shipped home for her while he served in World War II.

“This little uniform here is 69 years old,” Barrett said with a laugh. “That’s something that you won’t find every day.” She had a photo of herself at age 4 in 1945, wearing the outfit and saluting proudly.

Barrett’s father was a Seabee, or member of the United States Navy Construction Battalion (CB), stationed in Guam late in the war building airfields. Her display included other photos, uniform patches, his dress blue sailor cap and the blue star service flag that hung in the front window of the family’s home in Mannington during the war, signifying that a family member was serving in the war.

Linda Laronge, a member of the We Made History group of presidential living historians, was on hand portraying first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. As Mrs. Roosevelt, she spoke about her long relationship with her husband, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and their 13 years in the White House, as well as detailing her life after the president’s death, including her role as U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. “She became her own person after Franklin passed away,” Laronge said.

A recent recipient of the society’s research was New Cumberland Mayor Linda McNeil, whom they presented with a genealogy going back five generations on her mother’s side. Stewart says they found that every generation but one had military men. “The only reason he did not serve was probably because there was no war going on when he was of age,” she said. In another generation, a father and his five sons had all served in uniform.