Wednesday, February 28, 2018

William Evert Franklin, a soldier and a scholar

  William Evert  Franklin

1912  -  2004

  Friday, March 29, 1912 was a day to be remembered and celebrated -  not only because it was Fred and Queen Franklin's first wedding anniversary and Queen's 21st birthday, but it was the day when their first child, William Evert, was born.  

18 year old Queen Dickerson
in 1909
19 year old Fred Franklin
in 1899
    In today's world, William Frederick Franklin (aka Fred), who had no formal education and  often  moved from farm to farm looking for work, would probably be considered a migrant worker.  On the other hand, his wife, Queen Rebecca (aka Queen), had been a teacher before her marriage but was expected to set her books aside in order to tend the house, plant and weed a vegetable garden, milk the cows and care for whatever children they might have. 
    In her later years, Queen enjoyed telling the story of their first child's birth, but only after she had assured herself that there were no young children "with big ears" lurking nearby. (After growing up, some of those same children wondered whether the story was actually true, but never had the nerve to ask).   

     As a heavily pregnant West Virginia girl living with her husband near Osgood, Indiana, Queen was "celebrating" their first wedding anniversary - and her birthday - alone.  This wasn't unexpected because normally Fred worked on Fridays either as a stone cutter in the Osgood stone quarry or, if there was no work for him, would earn some money tilling the neighbors' frozen fields in preparation for spring planting.
     What Queen hadn't expected that morning as she kissed Fred goodbye was that she would go into labor while she was all alone and – ready or not - would soon be sharing her 21st birthday with an infant.  As the contractions increased in intensity, she hurried onto the porch and started waving a sheet back and forth in the direction of the farm where Fred was working since she had no other way to communicate with him.  Miraculously, he did see the sheet and upon deciphering her frantic message, borrowed a mule from the neighbor and hurried to Osgood in the hope of finding a doctor.

     In the meantime, while waiting for help to come, Queen had little choice but to retreat to her bed where she discovered that the pain lessened as she rolled from one side of the bed to the other.  As a matter of fact, it was during one of those maneuvers that her baby boy emerged on his own.  (Imagine Fred and the doctor's surprise when, upon finally arriving at the cabin, they found  both Queen and her baby cleaned up and peacefully sleeping!

     The child was named William Evert for his father, William Frederick, and in memory of Queen's deceased father, the Rev. William Vincent Dickerson, who had died when she was only 3 years old. Perhaps because there were already so many Williams in the family, their son was normally called  Evert by his family and William or Bill by his business associates. 
Queen and Fred with Evert & Edna 1913
Evert looking on with disdain as
 Edna  tends her baby brothers
      Following Evert's birth,  the small family moved to Holden, Missouri in Fred's never-ending search for work.  It was there that 15 month old Evert became “big brother" to Edna Bethel (a misnomer since he never grew taller than either Edna or his brothers who were born a few years later). 

     Four years after Edna's birth, the family moved once more - this time to Ritman, Ohio where Fred finally found a  job in a box board factory which paid enough for them to finally be able to buy a home of their own.  It was also  a special place for Edna because, with the birth of Paul Keith in 1918 and Carthel Floyd in 1920 she became a  "Big Sister" (although she never got taller than 5'1-1/2).
Evert, (5) & Edna (4)
     What the Franklins didn't learn until after they had moved into the house was that it had been built outside the school bus route which could only be expanded if  there were two or more children to be picked up at one time.  Since Fred was working in a different part of town and none of their neighbors had school-age children, the Franklins were forced to hold their bright, verbal 5 year old back from school until his 4 year old sister had turned 5 and could join him in first grade - and on the bus. 
8th grade graduation
      Thanks to that transportation restriction, Evert and Edna moved together through every grade in elementary school and high school, until finally completing their second year of college.  However, they  never stopped competing against each other for the highest grades, most class honors and, in later years, winning every game (including croquet, horseshoes, bridge, hearts, canasta and rook). 
     If  Edna had stayed in college, the competition might have become even more intense, but after earning her teaching certificate from Hanover College, she headed back home to New Marion, Indiana, where she accepted a teaching position in the school she had attended as a teen. 

5/23/36  Hayward wedding
Rev. Hughes,Evert, Harold,  Edna,
Inez Snedeker
     It was while visiting some friends in Chicago one weekend that she agreed to go on a blind date and met Harold Hayward,  thus changing her life - and his - forever.  After their wedding at her parents' farm, they returned to Chicago where they raised their three daughters and had full and productive lives.
     In the meantime, Evert earned advanced degrees from Hanover College, DePauw University and Indiana University and, for the next five years, combined his knowledge of the Spanish language with his teaching skills  while traveling through Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.  (Years later, in response to his daughter's question about why he had been in Nicaragua, he answered with his usual dry sense of humor that he had planned to“become a banana king”. ) 
 But all plans came to a screeching halt on December 7, 1941 when Japanese bombers released their bombs on an unsuspecting and unprepared populace. Within months of that world-changing event, Fred and Queen closed down their farm and moved to Chicago to work in the war industries while Evert signed up for the Army Signal Corps, Paul enlisted in the Army Air Corps (although he eventually had to drop out because of health problems),  Carthel joined the Coast Guard and Edna's husband, Harold, became heavily involved in Civil Defense activities in Chicago. 
November 14, 1942

      Despite all the fear and anxiety blanketing the nation, love still bloomed.  Shortly after Evert arrived in Chicago for basic training, his  brother, Carthel, arranged a blind date for him with Evelyn Sylvester, a friend and co-worker of  Carthel's girlfriend, Lorraine Bouver. With the country gearing up for war, there was no time for long romances so Evert and Evelyn married only five months after meeting, thus beating  Carthel and Lorraine to the altar by a week.  
      However, their honeymoon had to wait, thanks to his being shipped out to Australia where he joined the 419th Signal Company (Aviation) which had been charged with protecting and maintaining  a radio station installed near the town of Archerfield.  This station had been converted into a radio teletype system and was desperately needed in order to coordinate the efforts of the Fifth Air Force.
             Recently, Evert and Evelyn's daughter discovered his separation papers which had been packed away and, although she always did think her dad was a hero, she discovered that the United States had officially declared him one. Those papers revealed that he had earned combat medals for his actions during battles in New Guinea, Bismark, the Archipelago, Southern Philippines, Luzon and China. In addition, he had earned a Good Conduct Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon, a Unit Citation, a Philippine Liberation Ribbon with a  star, and 3 overseas service bars (Despite rumors to the contrary there is no evidence that he was ever a prisoner of war.)
Evert, Paul, Carthel in Chicago

      What a relief and joy it must have been when, in 1945, Fred and Queen learned that their "boys" had survived the war and were coming home. A year later, in 1946, the family almost doubled its size when Evert and Evelyn had their first child, a boy; Edna and Harold had their third baby girl, and Carthel and Lorraine welcomed a little girl. (Paul didn't marry until 1961 when Helen Camp Duncan , a widow with two sons, came into his life.  A year later they added a boy to the family).
    During the years following the war:    

      Family farm in Indiana
       Artist: Queen Franklin
            * Fred and Queen  returned to New Marion to re-open their farm which had fallen into disrepair,  Soon Queen discovered that despite having arthritic hands, she could hold a paint brush, and soon became a very well known artist who was featured in a number of art shows. Fred and Queen eventually sold the farm and  moved to Indianapolis to be closer to their family.  Fred died in 1967 at age 86 and Queen in 1998 at age 107.

           * Evert and Evelyn also returned to Indiana where he stepped back into the teaching career he had begun in the South Pacific.  Within a few short years, he became principal in a high school and then district superintendent of schools in Ripley County, where he unexpectedly became (in)famous for firing a beloved Milan High School basketball coach and replacing him with a young, unknown and fairly inexperienced coach (who justified Evert's decision by taking the team to a surprising state championship.)  Ironically, by that time he and Evelyn had moved their 3 children back to Indianapolis, where he not only accepted an offer to become  administrator of the Indiana State Teachers' Association but also became a highly successful real estate broker.  Evert died in Florida in 2004 at age 91 and Evelyn died back in Indiana in 2013 at age 99.

           *   Edna, who had also been educated to be a teacher, taught only briefly before marrying Harold and having three daughters who benefited greatly from her teaching skills.  But she did attain her insurance broker's license, learned how to type on a manual typewriter and worked hand in hand with her husband in building a successful insurance business around the corner from Carthel's real estate office on the North side of Chicago.  Edna died in 2004 at age 90 and Harold died in 1993 at age 78.

            *   After leaving Purdue, Paul worked as an audio engineer for several well known radio and television programs which included  "Don McNeill's Breakfast Club",  a long running morning variety show originating in Chicago.  After returning to Indianapolis, he not only started writing music, but  bought a small plane in which he would often show off the city to his guests or buzz the farm so that someone would pick him up at the nearby airport.  At age 43, he married Helen Duncan, a widow with two sons, and a few years later, they added another boy to the family.  Paul died in 1997 at age 89.

          *  Shortly after being  released from the Coast Guard  in San Diego, Carthel and Lorraine returned to Chicago where he discovered that he had a talent for real estate sales.  Like his brother, Paul, he also developed a love of flying and, after earning his instructor's license, was listed in "Who's Who in American Aviation" .  He and Lorraine were thrilled when their daughter was born after the war ended, but their marriage eventually fell apart and he spent the rest of his life in Florida with his wife, NoVelle.    Carthel died in 2016 at age 95.  

           It's not surprising to anyone knowing their history, that after all their children had been raised and they had retired from their successful careers, Evert, Edna, Paul and Carthel did what they had done all their lives -  little by little they sold their homes in the north and migrated  to Venice, Florida, where the weather was warm all year long and the beaches yielded beautiful sea shells. 

      Queen at age 106
      Enjoying Carthel's house in Florida
          Never wanting to be left behind, Queen, at age 100, finally convinced her family to move her to Florida too.  She never regretted making the move.  For several years she lived in a modular home until after Harold died, when she went to live with Edna.  She especially enjoyed bowling until her "kids" made her retire from the sport after she turned 103.  She lived a full life until dying in 1998 at age 107 with all her children by her side. 

          Even in death, Evert and Edna remained close - and competitive -  with Evert dying in 2004 at age 91 after an automobile accident on the way to visit Edna in the hospital, and Edna, who never could imagine a world without her brother, died just four months later at age 90.  Their "baby brothers" lived on for a few more years until Paul died at age 88 in 2007 and Carthel turned 95 before he died in 2006.  What a family!  The world just doesn't seem the same without them!!

      Hayward wedding day 5/23/1936
      Front from left: Evert, Paul, Carthel
      Back row: Harold, Edna, Queen, Fred

       Special thanks to Evert's daughter who - in response to my plea -  searched through old boxes and found long forgotten stories about Evert's service in the Army Signal Corps. Thanks also to my late mom who kept the family alive by her stewardship of the huge photo album she eventually passed on to me, and my grandmother, Queen, who loved to tell family stories even when no one wanted to hear them.
      Fred & Queen Franklin's 50th anniversary celebration 3/29 1961
      Paul, Edna, Fred, Queen, Evert, Carthel