Friday, March 17, 2017

Remembering Uncle Clare--Friday family photo

In sorting through the basket of Christmas cards and letters this week, I found one from my cousin Sharon who lived in a Chicago suburb when we were children.  She is the daughter of my mother's oldest brother, Leslie.  The letter was dated December 20, 2000. Our parents' brother, Clare, had been killed in WWII in October, 1944. I recall my mother saying he couldn't be a pilot because of a hearing problem, but was trained for photographic mapping.  He was an aerial engineer for the 24th Mapping Squadron of the 8th Photo Group, Reconnaissance (10th Air Force) which served in the China, Burma, India theater. Clare and a pilot in his unit were killed in an explosion when their plane hit a gasoline supply, through the stupidity of his commanding officer who insisted the men go up in a blinding storm. No one else in that unit lost his life and we only found out how Clare died when a great nephew, Steve, attended one of their reunions in the 1990s.
Sharon writes in December 2000: "I just finished gathering Steve's information, pictures, and letters from Clare and sent it off December 7.  I hope it gets there.  I copied the letters from Clare and the photos, just in case.  Leslie (Sharon's father) had at least 40 letters from Clare which I also loved reading.  I had no idea he had been stationed in so many places around the United States.  He was even out in Kingmore, Arizona, for awhile.  I told Steve how we cousins would walk down the hall to "Clare's room" and peek in and see the flag and the purple heart.  He was someone we wished we had known.  Gayle remembered that too. [As did I.]

I have one vivid remembrance of Clare visiting us in Chicago and giving me a stick of Dentyne gum.  I was 6 by then in 1944 and I remembered because of the pungent flavor of the gum.  I thought it was so good.  Then I read in his letters it really did happen and he even took a picture of Richard and me standing by the back door.  The negative had been laying in the letter for 56 years.  He told Leslie they didn't bother developing it because they thought it was too faint and maybe he could have it made up.  When I held it up I could see 2 little kids on it, so I took it in and sure enough it was Richard and I as we were that day with Clare. [I remember Clare visiting our family in Mt. Morris, so it may have been the same trip.]
Leslie wrote Clare in September, 1944, and it must have come back to him [my grandmother also had a letter returned to her that he never received]. It was with Clare's letters.  It must have been so awful. I said to our daughter I wish I could've been more responsive to it all then and she said, "You were just a child."  So I said to Steve if his children don't grasp it all right now, they will someday and your book (Steve was working on a book about Clare's life) will be there for them.

While I was copying pictures for Steve's project, I made up some extra ones for my cousins.  I'll get them off to you in the new year.  These pictures and letters make me feel like I didn't miss out on knowing Clare after all.  We enjoyed visiting with Howard in October and having him help me identify pictures, names and places.  Muriel also was a big help.  We noticed from my old pictures there had been 2 Marmon cars over the years with Charles and Mary (our grandparents). I asked Muriel how they got all that camping equipment in the Marmon for their trips out to Kansas and she said they strapped it to the running board.  Mary would prepare for weeks."  
Sharon mentioned that the camera store had been able to develop the glass plates that came to her from her father's collection of slides, movies, and negatives. He had died in November, 1999 in Arizona when he was 97. In the developed plates below, Clare is in each one, and the lower right has my mother with him. Although Sharon doesn't say, I assume Leslie took the photos since he isn't in any of the photos in the other plates.

Some of the developed glass plates from Leslie's collection sent by Sharon.

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