Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day, by Annette Skarin

Officially proclaimed on May 5 1868, by General John Logan, for those who had died during the Civil War, this day was later changed to honor all who had died while in service during war.

This past month I was rifling through my mother’s memorabilia she had saved over the years before she passed away in 2003. I ran across a newspaper article with a picture of a silhouetted figure of a soldier kneeling by a small American flag; planted patriotically in the ground. The title underneath read: THOSE WHO SACRIFICED ARE REMEMBERED…World War I veteran Roy Bolar, 2415 Calumet Court, kneels at veteran’s grave in Lincoln Memorial Park. This was a picture of my Grandmother Esther’s brother.

I knew I had an Uncle Fred whom I had never met. He was adopted by my grandparents, Jay J. Allen and his wife Esther, after he tragically lost his parents in a car accident on Ocean Blvd., in Long Beach, California in 1931. He had become securely integrated as a member of the family, which also consisted of three sisters: Dorothy (my mother), Ginger and Janet.

My grandfather had been honorably discharged from the Navy on January 16, 1922, after serving his time in France. Then in 1940, after being a successful business owner, and while still in the prime of life, he suddenly became ill and was hospitalized. He wrote to his oldest daughter (my mother) that he had been diagnosed with arterial sclerosis cerebral but was expected to live till 80 years old. He died a few days later.

My grandmother had been a school teacher and also taught piano, but could not manage the family after her husband’s death. She sent her two oldest daughters, Dorothy and Ginger, to a Christian boarding school in Canada. My Uncle Fred was sent to a separate school, and while there he wrote many comforting letters to his mother.

After his graduation from high school, my Uncle Fred proudly followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy during World War II. He wrote to my grandmother about his longing to return home in the spring of 1945. It was not to be. On Jan. 1, 1945, a plane stealthily cutting its engine, bounced off the deck of the ship, the SS John M. Clayton, riddling it with bullets and dropping a bomb over the side. The explosion caused the oil tanks to catch on fire. My uncle was one of four men who lost their lives that day. His body was burned beyond recognition, but he was still able to confirm who he was after being taken ashore, and before dying the next day.

A letter didn’t reach my grandmother until March 1, two months later. The end of the letter said…”You may be able to find some consolation as you remember your son, that his life was given for his country and the thought that he died for something rather than of something will also have its compensating value.”


  1. Annette,
    I so loved your story.It made me physically stop what I was doing , and take the time to remember and honor all of my hero's. Gail

  2. Another of grandma's great stories of her family history proves sometimes how fate can change the outcome of our plans and how we sometimes are definatly not in control. Keep it up =] -Joshua Tatro

  3. You always have the most intricate details in your stories. My mom is amazing!

  4. Annette, you capture the spirit of those that you write about and those who read your stories. I'm one of your newest fans and I look foreaward to more of your stories.

  5. Thank you for giving me pause and helping me take the time to remember those who have come before us...those who have helped make our world with it's freedoms and blessings what it is today.

  6. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us how many people have given their lives to perserve our freedom. Terri

  7. Dear Annette,
    What a beautiful and heart-rending story especially for Memorial Day. How lucky that your mother saved that newspaper article. Your grandparents will be justly rewarded in Heaven for adopting Fred and raising him to be a fine American Patriot. It's a shame you never had the opportunity to meet him. Nora

  8. Nora, In a sense I did meet my uncle when I read his personal letters and his history. Before that I had only viewed him through a 1-D photo. Now when I see the pictures of him, he becomes a 3-D memory.

  9. Annette, however could you lack confidence in your writing ability?! Your talent is evidenced by the many favorable comments you receive in class and the many nice comments here. Keep on writing for your well-being and for us to enjoy. Your stories are sensitive, very visual, informative and wonderful reading.