Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday’s Obituary

These obituaries belong to my Uncle Dick Dollen. I have been working on his life story for several years. I work a little bit here and a little bit there and most recently connected with his naval buddy, Bob Hall. I scanned the above obituaries years ago and let them rest in my iPhotos.

One of my nagging questions has been, “Where did Uncle Dick go to school?” Earlier research led to the discovery of Dick’s high school years. Dick graduated from The Luther Institute of Chicago in 1950. This was good news, but I continued to wonder about his elementary school years.

I went so far as to map his 1940 residence and search for elementary schools within walking distance. That little exercise provided a possibility but I never followed through. Yesterday I was looking through my iPhoto and stopped to read my uncle’s obituaries.

There was the answer to my question! Uncle Dick attended Jehovah Lutheran Grade School and Luther Institute of ChicagoHis obituary tells of his short nineteen years of life. I know his story quite well and only glanced at the obituaries. Shame on me! The answer to all my questions was in my hand all along.

Lesson learned!


Friday, September 27, 2013

A Little Volunteerism

I began volunteering at my local library today. My community is lucky enough to have a genealogy room. My day was spent rummaging through books, directories, published genealogies, and the computer databases. Doris Lundberg was a professional genealogist who donated her genealogical collection to my library. Her vast collection contains reference materials and genealogies from client work that spans the Midwest and Southern regions of the U.S.

Today reminds me to go outside my geographical area for research. There is a treasure trove waiting for just the right researcher!

Libraries are a great source of free information and my library is not exception. It provides the library version of, Heritage Quest, Newsbank, Newsstand, Chicago Tribune archives, First Search and much, much more. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Facebook is a magnet for opinions. You either like it, hate it, are somewhere in between or never want anything to do with it. I personally have had a love/hate relationship with fb.

I am currently on Facebook. I quit once and, must say, I missed seeing what my “friends” were saying and joined again. Though I rarely post, when I do you will most likely see photos of my puppy or snapshots from vacation.

So, you can only imagine my surprise when I found my uncle’s naval ship on
Facebook! My Uncle Dick enlisted in the Navy on 7 February 1952 and was assigned to the
U.S.S. Washburn as an apprentice seaman. His naval career was short-lived due to a non-combat accident that resulted in his death on 3 October 1952. My brothers, sister and I never had the opportunity to meet our mother’s only sibling.

How did I find it? My nephew Tyler’s on a one-of-a-kind homework assignment. On 2 October 1952, Uncle Dick ended his last letter home from the U.S.S. Washburn with the words “I love you and don’t you ever forget it.” Sadly, he died the following morning just hours after posting the letter.

Through an internet search of the U.S.S. Washburn, my nephew and his mother discovered a new Facebook page dedicated to the ship! Why would the ship have a newly created Facebook page all these years later?

The answer is simple. The U.S.S. Washburn was having a reunion on 19 September 2013 in San Diego and the organizers understood the importance of social media.

My sister contacted the owner of the Facebook page and reunion organizer to ask if anyone remembered our uncle, Richard “Dick” Dollen, and, if so, could they contact us. Veterans are a special group of people and quickly spread the word. Soon, our request was answered.


Two men named Charlie McCorkendale and Bob Hall responded. Yes, they remembered Dick and they remembered his death, as well. Our pulse quickened, not only because of their response, but also because Bob Hall’s name was frequently mentioned in our uncle’s letters. Uncle Dick considered Bob Hall his good friend… and we had just found him.

Bob told us what life was like on the ship for two “new boots” on the Deck Division, including their first cruise, a supply run to Point Barrow Navy Base in Alaska. Once supplies were offloaded (Uncle Dick’s assignment), the U.S.S. Washburn headed into The Long Beach Naval Shipyard for routine maintenance. The shipyard was also the location of our uncle’s fatal accident. Bob explained the circumstance around Dick’s working conditions and his death.

My sister and I never anticipated hearing from our Uncle Dick’s best buddy who kindly answered all our questions. I must say, we are very grateful for Facebook; without it, the connection would have never have been made and our questions would have remained unanswered.

Facebook also provided us with the opportunity to see photos of the ship. We saw where our uncle slept, the deck on which he worked and much, much more. It also provided informational links to Wikipedia, Naval Amphibious Photo Archives, A Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships and the U.S.S. Washburn Commanding Officers.

In this instance, Facebook provided quality genealogical information. The first-hand recollections of two sailors stationed onboard the ship provided consistent information: Charlie McCorkendale rushed to Uncle Dick’s aid and Bob Hall recounted the story of a short friendship and detailed explanation of everything that occurred between boarding the U.S.S. Washburn on Saturday, 24 May 1952 through our uncle’s death on
3 October 1952. The informational links were extremely helpful in learning about the history of the U.S.S. Washburn. It you are interested, please visit the U.S.S. Washburn on Facebook and see the potential of social media.