HaintBlue4

Tragedy on the Homefront

The United States Navy regrets to inform you…Holman-1-1

When we see military markers and the date of death falls within a specific war, we often assume that the serviceman or woman died in battle. Albert Andy Holmans is one of the exceptions that prove that isn’t always the case.

Holman-218-year-old Albert was an aviation radioman, third class in the United States Naval Air Force. He was one of five officers and enlisted men killed in a PBY Catalina bomber that crashed and burned as it attempted to take off near San Diego Bay. Six other members of the crew were rescued.

PBY5ACatalina_01

The Catalina PBY is the most famous Navy long-range patrol
bomber, reconnaissance and rescue boat of World War II.

When searching through old newspapers within a two week period of this crash, I was shocked to find numerous accounts of bomber crashes on home soil. It’s heartbreaking to think that the families of these victims probably felt relatively secure abut their loved ones safety since they had not departed for “action.”What a shock it must have been.

Albert was the youngest son of Charles Albert Holmans and Marion Palmer. His father died from appendicitis when Albert was only three years old.

According to a family member, his mother was unable to financially care for the children, so they were split up. Douglas, Pearl and James traveled by train to Fort Worth to live at the Masonic Home and School of Texas. The two older brothers, Charles and William (Bill) were “too old” to live at the Masonic home, so they “made it on their own.”

masonic-homeMasonic School Home, Fort Worth, Texas

Because he was so small, Albert was sent to live with his widowed, maternal grandmother Marion Moore, and his uncle John Palmer.

All five boys served in the armed forces during World War II.

Albert was survived by his mother, Mrs. James McBride of Houston; his grandmother, Mrs M. More of Dickinson; a sister, Mrs Pearl Dement of Columbus Ohio; four brothers (Charles, William, DouglasBecause and James) and his uncle John Palmer of Dickinson and other aunts and uncles.Fairview

Of the family of six children, the surviving five went on to live productive lives and have families of their own. Quite impressive considering the Holmansrough start the endured.

Fairview

Albert rests in the serene Fairview Cemetery of League City, Texas. His poignant epitaph reads, “My loves goes with you and my soul awaits to join you.”

Holmans

One wonders if his mother, who missed precious years with her youngest child, chose the inscription.

HaintBlue4

Saving a Crumbling History

coroner

There are many facets to saving the history held within cemeteries; not all of them chiseled in stone.

During a cemetery workday when volunteers were busily cleaning gravestones and picking up trash, I went into one of the old buildings on site to ask a question of one of the men in charge. A new friend greeted me with a handful of crumbling papers and a horrified look on his face. “Look at this! They’re everywhere.”

Sure enough, the original sexton records for the cemetery were scattered across the floor and heaped in a corner. Unfortunately, they had obviously been there through hurricane flood waters, insect and rodent feeding frenzies, and currently had paint cans and scrap wood laying on them. The disintegrating bits of paper had seen better days.

coroner-aMost of the scraps were smaller than a fingernail with only a letter or two visible. I carefully lifted the partial and mostly full pages and stacked them for removal. The heartbreaking realization was that only a few could be retrieved. And yes, even those that I picked up were extremely fragile, and covered in feces. But they HAD to be saved!

It will take quite a while, even with the little stack rescued, to gently separate and scan the papers, transcribe the information, and store the originals in an archival manner.

The exciting thing that I have noticed about the few that I have looked closely at, is that there seems to be no other record of the burial.

The set of cemeteries these records are from is quite unique. I am very familiar with them because I am currently writing a book about them called “Galveston’s Broadway Cemeteries” for Arcadia Press. It is due out in July 2015, so I am still finalizing research.

Appearing as one large, two-city-block cemetery, it is actually seven distinct cemetery that have been through a number of grade raisings…therefore losing the location many of the burials.

Using a variety of records, including transcriptions over the years, old photos, plot maps from different sextons and additional “treasures” of information like these slips of paper, we can more fully understand the history of our cemeteries and reconstruct who is at rest there.

coroner-7PLEASE NOTE: I AM WORKING WITH THE CITY, WHO OWNS THE CEMETERY, TO RESTORE RECORDS. If you are not working directly with the owner of the cemetery, please notify the correct authorities of your discovery for permission to remove (even temporarily) any paperwork from a cemetery.

So while transcribing the grave markers in graveyards and cemeteries is vital to saving there history, there are other sources I hope you’ll consider including in your research…and OF COURSE share the results with others!

Let me know what surprises you have found in cemetery research!