Walter Rogers was his name. He was from South Dakota and stationed on the USS Oklahoma.
“He was just a typical teenager. He loved cars and all things mechanical. It was during the Depression, and no one had any money. We were a very poor family, but he was an ambitious teenager. And he would scrounge around for parts for a car. And he finally was able to accumulate enough parts to make a functioning automobile.”
Scientists used mitochondrial DNA and dental analysis to identify Rogers’ remains.
The Children’s Blizzard, a book by a man named David Laskin, is “the gripping story of an epic prairie snowstorm that killed hundreds of newly arrived settlers and cast a shadow on the promise of the American frontier.”
My mother’s grandparents had arrived the year before, in 1887, from Germany with two of their children, Emil and Otillie, who was named after an aunt. What happened to these two no one knows. I’ve been looking and looking for years.
Obviously, death must have taken them away, since besides the immigration paperwork, they are never mentioned again. Did they get caught up in the blizzard like so many others? I will keep hunting for details. They deserve to be remembered and their stories told.
My great uncle died earlier this year, in February. He lived to the age of 101. Before his death, I interviewed him in-depth multiple times about his life and what he remembered.
He taught me a bunch, indulging what corn cribs are, the storms of the Dust Bowl, and a slew of humorous stories, his particular talent, which I wish had been documented in some way.
While living in Seattle, from 1939 to 1941, he was recorded in the phone book, which are quite hefty to lug around. He lived with the Neilson family, who came from the same South Dakota town as him, Lake Preston.
Nineteen forty-one was a pivotal year. Everett married his longtime girlfriend, his father died from cancer, and the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting America’s entry into the Second World War.
The death of his father, George Hay, impelled him and his newlywed wife to return to South Dakota, where he took over operation of the family farm, until doctor’s orders made him give it up in 1953, the year they returned to the Pacific Northwest, moving to a berry farm in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.
I visited my great grandparents farmstead a few years back, during a family reunion. It was fun. I was there with my nephews and lots o’ cousins.
I don’t have many memories of the place, though cousins have told me that we did visit the homestead as kids. I do recall my great grandmother’s funeral, which must have been at the now-shuttered Methodist church in town. My younger brother was crying, having been scared by seeing her laying in an open casket.
There’s a museum in town with items related to the family, including a lot of her father’s items from his dentistry practice.
I spent quite a bit of time in South Dakota that summer and just scratched the surface doing research on the family. In Watertown, my mom’s hometown, I pored through microfilm of old newspapers for a few days and only got through a year or two.
I also learned that I had lived there for the first two years of my life, which I didn’t realize, as I was born in Iowa. I really need to get back there to explore some more. Maybe I should just pick up and go for a bit this summer.
In 1997, a South Dakota man and Rams fan made a decision on a whim. He was thinking of a way to honor his favorite team. Maybe creating a web site devoted to the history of his Rams would do it. So he bought the domain losangelesrams.com, which, now that the team is returning to Southern California, may be worth quite a chunk of change. He never did anything with it, but it may turn out to be a great investment.