Thursday, October 09, 2008

Where's Waldo? (subtitled "Go ahead, Make My Day")

In the late 1980s, while researching the family of Jacob and Louisa (Fisher) Phend, I wrote lots and lots of letters in an attempt to make contact with their descendants. Jacob and Louisa had seven children, six of whom had children, and those six children had a combined total of 53 children. Of the 53 grandchildren of Jacob and Louisa, 48 survived into adulthood, though not all of them had children.

Being a relative "newby' to genealogy at the time, I didn't really think too much about the fact that I actually made contact with or found out information about the families of all of the grandchildren. Well, all except for one of them. Looking back on it now, I think the response I received from writing all of those letters is pretty amazing. I realize now that I was fortunate, and lucky. Very lucky.

You have to remember that this was "BTI" (Before the Internet). But now we have the Internet, and the World Wide Web. Where once it took weeks to receive a response to our communications, it now takes a few hours, or a few minutes, or even seconds to respond and pass information back and forth.

Where's Waldo? Well, as mentioned above, there was just one grandchild that I didn't make contact with or find out much information about his family. His name was Waldo. Waldo Guy Phend was born on October 27, 1893 in Kosciusko County, Indiana and was the son of Christian and Mary (McConnell) Phend.

Christian was a brother of my great-grandfather, Henry Phend. From what I was told by several of Christian's grandchildren, he was a very strict disciplinarian. Very strict. While Mary was reported to be a kind and gentle woman. Christian and Mary had twelve children born between the years 1876 and 1895: Clarence Delbert, Marion Ora (aka Orie), Carrie Louisa, Delvin Henry, Harriet (aka Hattie), Harry, Myrtle Iva (aka Ivy), Lillie Belle, Ethel, Grover Hillis, Waldo Guy, and Clifford Lester. Carrie died from complications of childbirth when she was 24 years old; Ethel died at the age of 10 months; Grover was killed at the age of 21 in a tragic railroad accident; and Clifford succumbed to tuberculosis when he was 15 years old.

Probably, at least in part, due to Christian's strict discipline, when he died in 1929 only four of his eight surviving children were still living in Indiana. Clarence was a preacher living in Arkansas; Marion Ora was in Franklin County, Washington; Delvin was in Scott County, Iowa; Harriet was married to John Rhoades and living in South Bend, Indiana; Harry was living in Kosciusko County, Indiana; Myrtle was married to Franklin Wehrly and living in Elkhart County, Indiana; Lillie had married Alvin Miller and they were living in Johnson County, Iowa; Waldo had also gone to Johnson County, Iowa where he married Edith Palmer, but in 1930 they were living in Nappanee, Indiana though he would later return to Iowa.

The obituary of Harriet Phend Rhoades, published in the South Bend Tribune on July 25, 1964 provided a clue as to where Waldo might be. His residence was given as Jefferson City, Iowa. So I wrote to the public library there and they told me that "Waldo had a shoe repair shop at his home, married a second time, and moved to California. When he died on Jan. 26, 1979 he was cremated and brought back to Jefferson and is interred in the cemetery there. He was survived by two sons and five daughters: Elmo Phend, Grover Phend, Mabel Milan, Louise Dawson, Jeannette Snodderly, Lois Groves, and Grace Ross." The only other information provided was their places of residence: Dubuque, Davenport, and Jefferson (all in Iowa); South Bend, Indiana; and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

That little bit of information was all I had on Waldo and his family when the Phend Family history was published in 1991. I've since learned that he died on June 26, 1979 rather than January 26th and he was living in Corona, Riverside, California (Social Security Death Index and California Deaths on ancestry.com). His first wife, Edith Palmer, was born on February 17, 1898 in Johnson County, Iowa and died on November 2, 1970 at the home of a daughter in Edwardsburg, Michigan (her obituary, published on that date in the South Bend Tribune). His second wife, Dorothy Vernon Myers, was born September 15, 1906 in Iowa and died December 10, 1989 in Riverside County, California.

Several attempts have been made in the intervening years to contact Waldo's children, without success, until June of 2000 when I made contact with Elmo Lowell Phend, oldest child of Waldo and Edith. He went by the name of Lowell and was born on April 15, 1918 in Washington Township, Mason County, Iowa.

Lowell served in the U.S. Navy from July 1942 thru December 1945. A year after his discharge from the Navy he enlisted in the U.S. Army; retired in December 1966 as a Master Sergeant; was awarded the WWII Victory Medal, Army Occupation Medal - Japan, Korean Service Medal with 5 bronze stars, Good Conduct Medal with 3 loops, Expert Carbine, and National Defense Service Medal with one Oak Cluster. He started College at a late age, in his 60's, and received the Bachelor of Biblical Studies degree on May 8, 1987 and Associate of Theology on May 20, 1988. He was licensed to preach the Gospel by Concord Baptist Church in Caroline County, Virginia. He had been married twice but had no children.

In April 2002, his wife informed me that Lowell had been placed in a nursing home, a result of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. A little more than a year later, a note from her told of Lowell's passing on July 22, 2003 in Richmond, Virginia. Interment was in Concord Baptist Church Cemetery, Ruther Glen, Virginia.

I'll admit it has been a while since I've attempted to find the other children of Waldo. I'm sure that if I tried just a little, I could probably locate one or two of them. Maybe one of them will read this and contact me instead, I'm getting a little lazy in my old age ;-)

One of the reasons for starting my website five years ago, and then this blog, was the hope of making contact with relatives. Yesterday morning I received an email from a grandchild of Waldo, a daughter of his son Grover. She found the Phend obituaries on my website first and then the blog. We've been passing emails back and forth and she has now read many of the postings on the Phend family.

She wrote "You have just made my day." And I'm here to say that she made mine, simply by contacting me. Thank You! For all of the hits my blog gets from people searching for the same surnames I'm researching, very few actually make contact via email or leave a comment. Why is that?

5 comments:

  1. Wish I was researching the same surnames! I agree, why is that? I eagerly look at my blog daily to see if anyone comments on ANYthing. Very few do. But I do know people are reading it - that's something.
    Great work.

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  2. Thanks for stopping by Judith, and I'll take a look at your blog too!

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  3. Neat how you discovered the info about Waldo. And so nice his descendant contacted you. I think some people are intimadated by commenting or they assume it's meant for someone other than them.

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  4. Hey Becky, thanks for all your research over the last two DECADES! I'm the second granddaughter of Waldo Phend showing up as a result. I hope to make contact with my first cousin, daughter of Grover, for the first time, as we've never met or even known about each other. Our families have been so fragmented. I'm the daughter of Mabel Phend/Kane, who is Waldo's daughter, and still happily living in Boone, Iowa, at age 88. My husband and I just retired last year and moved to Goshen, Indiana. I look forward to sharing more when you return from your trip. Thanks again! Dianne Chmidling

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  5. The following is a video of Grover Phend (a son of Waldo) talking about his life and being homeless.

    http://www.thonline.com/multimedia/?id=2830

    This comment was posted by Lindsy, Grover's daughter, on another post and I've moved it to this post as it is more appropriate.

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