Monday, December 07, 2009

My mother’s Pearl Harbor recollections

The Destroyer Shaw is hit by a Japanese bomb on December 7, 1941.

Today is the 68th anniversary of "The Day of Infamy” – the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

Mom was telling me this morning that she remembers the day as if it happened yesterday. She was 16 years old having just celebrated her birthday a few weeks before. She and my grandparents had just returned from church services and my grandfather turned on the radio and heard the horrible news. He was already upset that there was a war in Europe which began September 1, 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland. And now it looked like the United States was taking on two different enemies. He was a World War I vet and knew first hand the horrors of war having been seriously wounded in France.

In 1995, we toured Pearl Harbor including the USS Arizona Memorial.

It’s amazing how some events are permanently seared into our memory. For me, it’s the Kennedy Assassination, the Challenger explosion and September 11th.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Marlene Cornelius

I received sad news recently that the wife of my second cousin, Dennis Cornelius, passed away in October. Dennis’s wife’s name was Marlene and she had battled cancer for a long time. Here is her story.

Dennis is the son of Ford and Lou Cornelius (Ford and my dad were first cousins). He lives in Rockford, Illinois and is the only Cornelius relative that I know of who lives close to me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

USS Admiral Hugh Rodman

In going through some of my dad’s papers the other day, I found a couple of yellowed newspaper clippings containing news about my father’s return to the States after the war ended. According to the newspaper accounts, he returned to New York on the Navy transport vessel USS Admiral Hugh Rodman.

Although the newspaper clippings are not dated, it appears he left Okinawa on April 19, 1946. It is not clear when the Rodman actually arrived in New York.

Dad began his tour of duty when he left the United States on February 14, 1945 and was in Hawaii, the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands and arrived on Okinawa on June 7, 1945 where he was stationed for the remainder of the war. After the Japanese surrender, he spent a few days in Tokyo in November 1945.

Here is a photo I found in Wikipedia that I saved on my Flickr site:

The history of the Rodman is interesting. It was named after Admiral Hugh Rodman (1859 – 1940) -- a naval officer who was at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. He was later Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPAC) in July 1919 and retired from the service in 1923. The ship itself was launched in February 1945 and was commissioned in July 1945. It served in the Navy for a year and then was recommissioned as an Army vessel (the USAT General Maurice Rose) in August 1946. The ship was eventually decommissioned in June 1970 and was scrapped in 1997.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Short biography of Henry P. Cornelius

Last summer I posted about my visit to the gravesite of my third great grandfather, Henry P. Cornelius. Today I was going through some of my father’s mementos and found a photocopy that my uncle Eldon sent him that contained a short biography of Henry. The book was entitled: Portrait and Biographical Album Champaign County, Illinois. It contains “…full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county.” [Note: I guess if you were not included in the book, you must not be very important!] The book was published in 1887 by Chapman Brothers of Chicago. This is what the book says about Henry:
During the early settlement of Central Illinois there came from Kentucky a hardy band of pioneers. That state not only took the lead as to the time of sending its sturdy sons and devoted daughters to settle in the beautiful woodlands which skirted the broad prairies of this section, but in the number of its pioneers it excels all other states. It was characteristic Kentucky hospitality that won for the pioneers such an enduring reputation in this respect, and made life on the frontier happy. We have as our subject one of these veteran Kentucky pioneers who, although not an early settler of Champaign County, is a pioneer of this part of the state. He now lives in Brown Township, where he is the proprietor of a good homestead of Section 16, and employs the greater part of his time superintending the cultivation of 160 acres of improved land. He took up his abode here in 1882, and although not classed among the pioneers of this township, has by his age, experience and most excellent personal qualities, secured the respect and esteem of all who know him. His head has been whitened by the frosts of eighty-one winters, yet he possesses in a marked degree the energy of character which distinguishes him in his youth. Mr. Cornelius was born within seven miles of Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky on March 16, 1806, and is the son of John and Martha (Profitt) Cornelius, the former a native of North Carolina and the latter of Virginia. After marriage they commenced their life together in Christian County, Kentucky where they reared a family and spent the remainder of their days. The children of the parental family who grew up on the farm in the above county were eight, four of whom are now living. The subject of our sketch removed to Tazewell County, Illinois in 1836 and lived there over forty-five years. He first located in Hittle’s Grove Township, where he lived until the spring of 1877, and from there removed to Minier, where he lived five years, and thence removed to Brown Township, this county, locating upon his present farm. Mr. Cornelius was first married, in his native county in Kentucky, July 17, 1828, to Miss Mary Quissenberry, who was of Southern birth and parentage, her father and mother being natives of Virginia, of which she was also a native. Of this marriage there were born nine children, whom they named as follows: John H.; Edward, deceased; Nancy A.; Gustavus, deceased; Agnes, deceased; Lin; Jesse, deceased; Mary and Levi. The wife and mother, while the family were living in Hittle’s Grove Township, folded her hands for her final rest in 1845. The second wife of our subject, to whom he was married in McLean County, Illinois, in July, 1847, was Miss Catherine Quissenberry, also a native of Christian County, Kentucky, born July 20, 1826. Mrs. Catherine Cornelius became the mother of eight children, all of whom are living, namely, Ann, James, Charles, Millard, Laura, George M., Ida and Julia. Mr. Cornelius is greatly opposed to the manufacture and sale of spirituous liquors, and in voting upholds the principles of the Republican Party.
You just don’t find writing like this anymore! By the way, I bolded the name of Henry's son Jesse Cornelius who was my second great grandfather.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Cornelius Family Farm

For years and years, there has been a photograph hanging in our finished basement. It’s an aerial photo taken of my grandparents’ farm in Perkins County, Nebraska sometime in the late ‘50s or very early ‘60s.. The farm site was originally settled by my great grandfather, William Seborn Cornelius, in 1910. He settled a total of three farms in the area. In about 1918, he turned over the farms to his three sons—one of which was my grandfather. My grandparents were married April 4, 1922 and settled on one of the other farms located about 3/4 of a mile north of this farm. My dad was born there on February 8, 1924 and his younger sister, Elaine, a year later on August 12, 1925.

I’m not certain of the date, but my grandparents and the two kids moved to this farm and it is the farm on which my dad spent his boyhood. The rest of my father’s siblings were born on this farm beginning with Eldon on November 1, 1927.

My grandparents ran the farm through the mid-‘60s, but my grandfather started cutting back on his farming once the boys grew up and married. My uncle Lowell was the last of the boys to get married in 1957.

As a young boy, I would look forward to summer vacation when we would visit my grandparents and spend days walking all over the farmland. For a kid from the city suburbs, it was a treat to go out to the country and play. My favorite building was the hog house because it had a low slanted roof and I could climb on to the roof and look south for miles and miles. I have a lot of fond childhood memories of seeing my grandparents and all my aunts, uncles and cousins.

Here is the original black and white photo.
For fun, I also “aged” the photo by applying a sepia tint.

In 1965, my grandmother suffered a stroke and my grandfather turned over the farming to his sons and spent his remaining days caring for my grandmother and for the house. He passed away in August 1968 and my grandmother in March 1969.

After their deaths, the farm remained in the family, but the house and buildings were rented out to tenants. Sadly--over time—the condition of the buildings deteriorated and the decision was made to burn down most of the structures. Today, only the granary is still there. Because of my dad’s declining health, he never saw how the farm looked. The two photos below were taken in January 2002 after he passed away and we buried him in Madrid.

This is the granary and is the only original farm structure still on-site.
This is approximately where the barn and the chicken house stood.

After my dad passed away, I brought the photo over to my house and displayed it in my den. The original frame was starting to show it’s age and so I removed it from the frame to eventually put it in a nicer frame. Since I had it out, my brother-in-law arranged to have it scanned by a commercial scanner (the original photo is 11 x 14) and so now I have a digital copy.

Happily, the land still remains in the family and my cousins farm the land. Hopefully it will always remain in the Cornelius family.

Here’s a Google Map inset showing the location:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Harry Truman

This morning my mother was telling me about a book review that she heard about on the radio. The book was about Harry Truman.

She said: "Did I ever tell you that Dad knew Harry Truman?" I told her that -- no -- that little family tidbit was withheld from me.

Apparently my grandfather -- Edward Kostal -- knew Harry Truman from their days in France with the American Expeditionary Force. Truman was an Army captain; my grandfather was a private. We don't know if my grandfather served in his unit or was otherwise aware of him. He apparently did not make much of an impression upon my grandfather as he told my mother that he did not like him and that Truman "would not amount to much!"

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Halloween 1990

Here is a picture I took of Lisa and her kids the night they went "Trick or Treating" in 1990. At that time, Lisa and I had been dating for about eight months and were married in August 1992.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

My fourth great grandparents

I was surprised recently to check my inbox and see photos taken of the headstones of my fourth great grandparents – John and Patcey Cornelius. For a long time, I’ve known they were buried in Kentucky, specifically the Cornelius Family Cemetery in Christian County. John and Patcey are the parents of Henry Cornelius whose grave I visited last summer.

About a year ago, I joined the Find A Grave community. I enjoy the site – not just for morbid curiosity – but also as a genealogy research tool. You can go on Find A Grave, look for a cemetery listing and request photos of a friend or loved on who is interred there. That’s what I did with John and Patcey…and a kind soul sent me the photos.

Both lived long lives – especially considering the times they live in. John was born on May 20, 1776, a month and a half before the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th and 219 years to the day before my son Kevin was born!

Here is the memorial page for John and for Patcey and the photos themselves.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Happy 150th!

My mom reminded me that today is the 150th birthday of my great grandmother, Maria Rogers.


I wrote about her back in March 2005.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Worth reading

I regularly bookmark items of note using the service Delicious. The most recent five bookmarks appear in the “Worth Reading” box in the left sidebar, but you can see all of my bookmarks -- tagged according to category — via my Delicious page. These are bookmarks of pages that I find interesting including news items and Internet-related stories.

You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cattle mutilation story

I recently came across a cassette recording of a telephone conversation that my dad and his brother, Eldon Cornelius, had in 1975. Uncle Eldon had farmed in the Madrid area for many, many years. One day in September 1975, he came across a dead cow in his pasture that had been thoroughly mutilated. He told my dad the story and my dad wanted to record the conversation. They agreed upon a date and time to talk.

The conversation took place on October 28, 1975 and lasted for about 65 minutes.

My recollection was that Dad made several copies of the conversation and arranged to give a copy to Dr. Allen Hynek of Northwestern University. Dr. Hynek was one of the best-known UFO researchers at the time and had studied other incidents of cattle mutilation. As far as I know, there was no follow-up with Dr. Hynek and the tape was never returned. He died in 1986.

Anyway, I found the cassette tape in a box and figured out how to hook up my old tape recorder to my PC. The transfer went fine and I burned a few CDs, including one for Eldon who is now retired and living in North Platte, Nebraska.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cornelius Cemetery, Christian County, KY

I found a website the other day that contains information about a number of my direct ancestors. It’s a cemetery website for the Cornelius Cemetery near Sinking Fork in western Kentucky. My fourth great-grandparents – John and Martha “Patcey” Cornelius – are interred there.

What was also interesting are the names of some of the other relatives. On this page, I found  a Woodrow Wilson Cornelius and a Chester Arthur Cornelius – the latter apparently named after President Chester A. Arthur.

What was really interesting was a John Wilkes Cornelius. John was born in 1875 -- ten years after the Lincoln Assassination -- and passed away in 1876 after only six months of life.

Here is the link: Cornelius Cemetery Christian County, KY.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Military photos

I recently came across a cache of photos that my father took in 1945 while in Okinawa. I have scanned several of the photos and have created a Flickr set to contain these photos. I will be adding more photos as time permits.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Class of 1958

In the interest of fairness, I present my 1958 kindergarten class photo for comment! Earlier I posted my dad’s 1942 high school class picture so I thought I should provide some “transparency.”

I’m the well-dressed young lad in the far left of the top row!

Class of 1942

I recently came across a class photo for my father’s high school. He graduated in 1942 from Madrid High School. Dad is in the top row, third from the right.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


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