I wanted to thank the Lon M. Helm, Jr. American Legion Post 182, for providing a Veteran Memorial at the Garden of Memories Cemetery in Pittsburg, Kansas. I have learned how much a small memorial can affect many lives.
Two years ago, I decided to drive through the Garden of Memories Cemetery as I had never been in that cemetery before. Soon, I saw a small veteran memorial and of course, I stopped to read the names. I saw the name Myron Bolser, whose parents lived across the street from my grandparents in Arma. He was a pilot in Germany during WWII whose plane clipped wings with another plane as they were in a hurry to get out of Germany after dropping bombs before getting shot down. Unfortunately, they crashed and Myron’s crew was buried in an American Cemetery in 1945 and then moved to Jefferson Barracks Cemetery in 1950. I email his niece.
I read the rest of the names. Elmer Junior. Junior is a family name. Who was he? When I returned home in Independence, Missouri, my genealogy experience helped me research online until I found his death certificate. When I was a little girl, I could sense that his parents Sevie and Belle Junior, always appeared sad and acted as if something was missing. After I saw his son’s name on the post’s memorial, I then understood.
I remembered a cousin from our large reunions we used to have in Lincoln Park. I didn’t know that Lavonne Prettyman had died and found her name in an obituary. Her daughter was listed as Nancy Prettyman Lewis who now lived in Lamar, Missouri. I looked up her address online and sent her a letter, giving her my email address. She responded with three emails. She told me that Elmer Junior’s plane crashed when he was testing it in Corpus Christi, Texas when he was serving in the Navy in WWII. He and his wife had been married only 7 weeks. She remarried, had three children and now lives in Topeka, near her daughter.
After contacting Julia, I packed my video camera and tripod and drove to Topeka. After introductions and a pleasant lunch, I interviewed her, videotaping it. She knew names and the same places in Arma and Mulberry I knew. She was family. She is now 97 years old and we still talk on the phone. I’m so glad she lived so long so I could meet her and hear about Elmer and the family memories. She told me where he was buried. After three tries, a very hard-working and dedicated city caretaker at Mt. Olive Cemetery in Pittsburg found Elmer’s and his parents’ headstones for me. Elmer’s photograph was on his stone. Then I knew what he looked like. I had visited relatives’ graves many years at Mt. Olive but never knew Uncle Sevie and Aunt Belle’s graves were there. I also found other relatives buried nearby whom I had been looking for a long time.
Nancy told me that I also have cousins in Mulberry, Arma, Ft. Scott, Louisburg, and Grandview, Missouri. She told me about her four children, who are also my third cousins. Today and for the first time, I called Hazel Junior Wallace, who lives in Grandview. She told me more about the Junior side of the family and how they came from France to work in the coal mines like so many others.
Harold J. Horn, my father, who fought in Okinawa in World War II and is buried in the National Ft. Scott Military Cemetery, would have been proud as he knew both Myron and Elmer. I see on Post 182 webpage that Gayle Prettyman, my cousin, is a member of the Sons of the American Legion.
Not only did I learn of another cousin who died in the war but rediscovered members of my family which has meant so much. A big thank you to Lon M. Helm, Jr. American Legion Post 182 for all your work in providing such a precious gift to all of our families.
Cynthia L. Horn