It takes patience and perseverance to uncover family histories. This became more real with the recent passing of my dad’s only sister, Eleanora Birau Daly. I’m grateful I was able to spend precious time with her. But I forgot to ask her a few more questions and now it is too late….😢
It is hard to just focus on Earl’s WWII service as I roll out his letters. So let’s expand things for a post. It will help me then zoom back on Earl’s service.
Bill’s parents dates of service and marriage: Earl Lees was inducted on April 29, 1942, in Pittsburgh, PA. He was Honorably Discharged on September 7, 1945. Ruth Lees (nee Brunner) started her Army service on February 1, 1944, and was honorably discharged on February 12, 1946. They met and married after the war on May 10, 1947. Their faces are aglow! And to think they were both serving in World War II just two years prior!
Bill’s dad, Earl, was the oldest of three sons. At the time the United States entered the war, on 12/7/1941, Earl was 25 years old. We don’t know much about his life before the war. Just a few interesting tidbits. He shared how his hard life was after his father asked him to move out, upon graduation from High School. He told us he hopped on trains, and traveled out west, looking for work. Some details are in hiseulogy, posted here. He was asked to come back home and help care for his father, diagnosed with oral cancer. More later.
Debbie’s dad, Lawrence Rijnovan, enlisted on December 11, 1942, and was honorably discharged on May 19, 1944. He was 18 at the outbreak of the war and was 19 when he enlisted. Her parents married on August 12, 1944. Lawrence had a brother 18 months older. Their mom remarried years later, then had her only daughter, Eleanora. More later.
Bill’s mom, Ruth, was 20 and Aunt Posey was 19 at the outbreak of the war. She and her sister attended nursing school upon graduating from High School. They became Registered Nurses and then went to work in the same hospital. They were both Supervisors in the hospital when they volunteered to join the Army. They said they were a “package” deal so to make a long story short, they served together! She was about to turn 23 when she was officially registered. Her sister was a year younger.
With these dates now as our framework, we need a review of WWII. Especially now putting their ages into perspective.
“Earl Lees was born in Pittsburgh on January 30, 1916, to the late William and Elizabeth Smith Lees. Earl lived a long and blessed life … 80 years, one month, and 16 days (2/16/1996). Today we are here to remember, honor, and give to him our respect.
“He is survived by his wife of nearly 49 years (Ruth) Brunner Lees, two sons, David (Linda) of Tallmadge, OH, William (Debra) of Fredericksburg, VA; and four grandchildren: Rebecca, Matthew, Rachel, and Jessica.
“Earl Lees began his adult life at age 18 upon graduating from high school during the depression years. There was no work in this area, so he left Irwin and went west, to begin his second education in the school of hard knocks. Hopping freight trains, he made stops in Idaho, where he worked at digging potatoes, to the State of Washington, where he worked on apple farms, to California, where he threshed rye and wheat, all just to eat, to sustain life.
“He was back in Irwin three years later due to his father’s ill health. After several odd jobs, he found work at Westinghouse Electric Corporation where he worked until being drafted by the Army in 1941.
“Earl was off then to war in the United States Army where he served his country in the Ninth Infantry Division, 60th Regiment, 2nd Battalion. General George Patton was his General. Earl again went through hard times spending two- and one-half years overseas in Europe fighting for his country. His Army duty took him throughout and across Europe-where he ended up in Germany. He once went three days without water in the deserts of Northern Africa. , · • .· ,
“Earl did not talk about World War II. He gladly served his country, but the memories of war were anything but pleasant to him. He received the Purple Heart Medal after being wounded in Europe. He came home to Irwin, back to his lifelong job at Westinghouse, and soon met his love, whom he married in May of 1947.
“Mr. & Mrs. Earl Lees were soul mates. They made decisions together as a team. They were together to the end. Ruth by her personal care during his long illness added a couple of years to his life by her skillful nursing.
“Earl Lees was not a flashy man, nor very talkative He was a man who excelled at the ordinary things of life. A meat and potatoes kind of man. He lived for God, his wife. and his family, friends, neighbors, and his job. Earl was loyal to all these l ‘ve mentioned.
“He was a man you could set your clock by. In forty years at Westinghouse, he was never late. He was home at 3:55 PM, supper was at 5:00 pm. His sons knew to be at the supper table at 5:00 for meat and potatoes! Earl was very dependable, predictable, and always faithful. He always had a smile. During deep snow days, the boys were awakened early to clear the driveway so that he could be at work on time.
“Earl had no enemies because he was always good to people. His yard was the best-groomed yard in Sheridan Terrace (made the local paper). He would pay his sons to pick dandelions from his yard. He made time to help his neighbors. He was not a complainer, nor did he speak badly of anyone.
“He would do for anyone and expect nothing in return. He mowed their yards, cleaned off their snow, raked their leaves.Earl Lees was a humble, sweet-spirited, God-fearing man. He shared his garden vegetables, cared for his elderly neighbors. When asked, “What do I owe you?” his answer was … “Pass it on.” That was his motto in life: “If I’ve helped you, pass it on … now you help someone.”
“A man with a song or melody, a happy man, a positive person, gentle and kind and very honest. He cared for the neighborhood children and always had a word or comment for them. To the boy down the street named Spear, he’d say: “Shake, Spear.” If you said “hey”, he’d say, “hey is for horses.” If you would say “Wait a minute,” he would respond with”Weight broke the wagon.” If you would say, “open the door” it was “Influenza” etc. So many quips!
“In earlier years he brought the Cub Scouts to Irwin. His sons cherish the memories of the things they did together. For years and years, he taught Adult Bible Classes and was an elder of his church, and serving in church repairs.
“Along more personal matters:
“Earl Lees loved his wife and family. He gave them stability. He taught them to work for a living. He gave precious memories to his grandchildren. After receiving the news of cancer, there was a family trip, where he became as a child. At the age of 79 He took a family trip to Washington D.C., MD., and NJ. All his family was present. He made that vacation a time to be remembered for the rest of their lives. He played with his grandchildren, teased them, sang to them skipped with them.
“Rebecca remembers her grandfather teaching her how to ride a bike. Jessica remembers Grandpa skipping with her. Encouraging her to be a happy child
“He was a wonderful example of what a man should be as a husband, father, grandparent, friend, and neighbor. He sang the cadence: “You had a good home but you left .. left, right, left.”
Earl has left.
Earl is not dead,
He is just away (He left)
With a cheery smile and a wave of the hand
He has left us for another land
Think of him still as the same
He is not dead – He just left us and went away.
Eulogy written by and service officiated by life long Pastor and friend of David and Linda Lees: Terry Schmelzenbach. He also ministered to Bill and I in our reconciliation process. And he served as Pastor for Ruth Brunner’s service. More later…
As we researched Earl Lees’ WWII service, we long for more information about him. In digging through old records, we found his eulogy. This actually fills in a few blanks. What was his life like before WWII? We only knew a few details.
Digging into online records, we found some interesting facts: Earl’s grandfather was named Samuel, He was born in 1854 and died in 1932. Samuel was married to Elizabeth Watts Lees, who lived from 1863 to 1932, both were from Northern Ireland. They had 10 children. Four of their sons immigrated to the United States. Earl’s father, William, arrived first, in 1906 at the age of 25. Joseph Lees arrived at age 23 (born around 1890) and Matthew Lees, was 20 (born around 1892-93). These two brother’s arrived on the Caledonia, from Londonderry, Ireland on May 12, 1913. At the time of immigration, their last place of residence was Magherafelt, Ireland. We couldn’t find any information online about the fourth brother, Joseph. David and Bill recall their dad drove them to his home in the Philadelphia area-but no one was home.
Earl’s father, William, was born August 8, 1881, in Londonderry County, Northern Ireland, UK. He died on December 30, 1938, in Irwin in the care of Earl and Samuel. Bill just learned a few years ago his grandfather’s name was William. Did Earl name his second son after his dad we wonder? Looking at all the family records, this is a common practice. Bill only recalls his dad telling him his middle name, Douglas, was in honor of General Douglas MacArthur. Bill’s youngest grandson’s middle name is Douglas, in honor of Bill!
Earl’s mother Elizabeth Smyth Lees was born in 1884 in Northern Ireland and died in 1918 in Pittsburgh – during the flu pandemic. We couldn’t find her immigration info or their marriage date. At the time of her death, she left three surviving sons. Their ages at the time: Sam was 9, John (Jack) was 7 and Earl was 2. We know their baby brother also died in 1918 of the flu. Earl RARELY spoke of his childhood.
Earl did not share any memories of his stepmother, Marian Telfer Lees. She was born on September 11, 1879, in Muirkirk, East Ayrshire, Scotland. She died August 14, 1931 (aged 51), in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. We don’t know when she married Earl’s father. They did not have any children. She brought a niece and a nephew into the marriage. No other information is known. But yet, we have this precious picture of Earl with his step mother, her niece, nephew and another unknown relative. We wonder why his dad, William, wasn’t in the picture. Was he the photographer? Or like his grandson, Bill, he hates having his picture taken!
Earl’s oldest brother was Samuel William Lees, Sr. born September 22, 1909, in Pennsylvania. He died on February 19, 1983, at the age of 73. He died in Elyria, Lorraine county, Ohio, and is buried in Ridge Hill Memorial Park, Amherst, OH. He married Edythe Harriett Kleckner about 1935. They had three children. We don’t know when he moved to Ohio, but their dad was living with him at the time of his death.
John (Jack) Lees was the second oldest brother, born September 11, 1911 in Pittsburgh, PA. He died 3/31/1974 and is buried in Irwin Union Cemetery. He never married.
As we read Earl’s letters home, he is writing to his brother Sam. He references Sambo, Sam’s son, and his daughter, Barbara. We only have 17 letters from his two years plus in the Army. Are their other letters stuffed in an attic somewhere? As we write and share this information, we do hope to learn more. But alas, there are no surviving relatives from this era.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.
We live in a wonderful neighborhood. Just one component is the Veterans Organization Cresswind (VOC). I had no idea what they do to promote patriotism and honor deceased veterans until May 2021. Our youngest grandson was with us for two weeks. He LOVES being a helper. He saw a group putting up flags at our neighborhood entrance. He offered to help. And that started a fantastic journey of discovery for us as he was then invited to be a part of their Memorial Day event.
Here are a few slide shows followed by a video that captures the tone of this wonderful event:
I asked why they picked Bryce. They said they want to help young people learn about Patriotism as we honor our freedoms in this country.
Such a proud Grandma moment. Bonnie is the Veteran, the one who asked for his help and she gave him his job!
The reward for his cooperation was a …. cupcake!
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage!”
Both my husband and I are so honored to have parents who served during WWII. Bill is doubly honored as both his mom and dad served. Not together, but met soon after returning home. I started this blog with a tribute to my dad, click here. I’ve written a tribute to Bill’s amazing momhere and shared her WWII letters here.
This is the first of a multi-part series as I plan to write about the actual service of all three of our WWII vets. Our neighborhood has an active Veterans Association. As such, twice a year, they hold patriotic ceremonies to honor the service and memories of the loved ones of our residents. This blog is a result of our desire to honor Bill’s parents and my dad. We are starting will Earl Lees. He was a remarkable man and I was privileged to know and love him as my father-in-law for 21 years until he passed. His life story is very interesting and worthy to spend time writing about. However, there are many gaps, but we know enough for God to be glorified in his life.
Stay tuned for pictures/videos of this wonderful event. The first time I attended, our youngest grandson, Bryce was here. He helped put up flags around our entranceway. He was subsequently invited to be a special guest at the Memorial Day ceremony.
“Today, we honor and celebrate Dr. King, a giant of the civil rights movement whose nonviolent resistance to the injustices of his era — racial segregation, employment discrimination, and the denial of the right to vote — enlightened our Nation and the world.”
“In the face of tumult and upheaval, Dr. King reminded us to always meet anger with compassion in order to truly ‘heal the hurts, right the wrongs and change society.’ It is with this same spirit of forgiveness that we come together to bind the wounds of past injustice by lifting up one another regardless of race, gender, creed, or religion, and rising to the first principles enshrined in our founding documents.”
“As a student of nonviolence, Dr. King called on us not to ‘satisfy the thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.’ In the national effort to achieve freedom and equality, and in this shared love of country, we must endeavor with all our might to meet the promissory notes endowed to us by our Founding Fathers, as Dr. King fervently wished.”
“With the same dream, faith, and hope championed by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we recommit to upholding his legacy and meeting our sacred obligation to protect the unalienable rights of all Americans.”
The president released the above proclamation for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.
AS THE LORD LEADS, PRAY WITH US…
• For President Trump as he reminds the nation of Dr. King’s approach of compassion and forgiveness.
• For God to work through the president’s reminder to bring calm and unity.
• For Americans to return to a sense of familial love and the cooperative founding vision of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
CONTINUE WITH US IN PRAYER:
Pray for the president and his administration.
Pray for all elected officials in Congress.
Pray for God’s continued protection and blessing upon the United States of America.
Pray for your neighbors and fellow Americans.
Pray for peace and understanding with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
What a glorious anniversary it is! I just have to shout out to our Lord and Savior for this wonderful couple, Bill’s brother, David, and his lovely wife, Linda. Linda is actually more than a sister-in-law to me. I need a blog post just on what a positive influence she’s had on my walk with the Lord. But for today, I need to share how much their marriage has helped us and SO MANY others!
I’ve talked about them several times in past blog posts. Particularly when Bill was facing heart disease as writtenabout here. Click to read the whole blog, or at least, read this paragraph:
“Thankfully, Bill’s brother and his wife are both in the health care field and are very experienced with this issue. They knew about the test, so they wanted the results. They live states away, but thankfully, only a phone call away. They began to mentor us. First, they are strong Christians and helped us in our divorce and remarriage by their prayers and counsel. So everything was bathed in prayer. They gave us some great tips and suggestions while Bill had to make a health decision.” AND as in every bit of advice they have given us over these 45 years, it was rock solid. Bill today is enjoying excellent health! We also married 45 years ago, so they have been in my life for 45 years from today forward.
Or when we spent one of the most meaningful Memorial Day weekends with them, written about here. Best part of that blog post, which I would HIGHLY recommend reading, is their picture at the event:
They not only probably helped saved Bill’s life – or at least helped him enjoy a longer and healthier life – they helped restore our marriage. You can readabout it here or read the most important except below. Had it not been for Linda’s fervent prayers, I’m pretty sure I would not be writing this post about my dear brother-in-law and his wife! Our lives would have been a mess and no telling where we’d be spiritually. This paragraph was after we were well into the divorce process:
“I dove into God’s Word and also into a book recommended by my sister-in-law, Love Life for EVERY Married Couple: How to fall in love, stay in love, rekindle your love by Ed Wheat, MD and Gloria Perkins. (This is the Biblical marriage manual and is the BEST book ever written for marriages, taken straight from the Bible! In my next post, I will share the five types of love needed in every marriage!) Linda pleaded with us to read it before our divorce was final. Bill did and he tried to get me to read it. But I was not ready, until we finally lived apart.”
But today, I just want to share a little about them and their marriage. Or maybe you are getting the “picture” of this happily ever after couple! I am imagining Linda cringe as she would read this. She would say, “but OH WE HAD TOUGH TIMES!” Yes, they did and they are open to share – how they got through them by God’s Grace! And how they made their marriage better and better and better! But of course, there was pain in suffering along the way. In fact, what marriage hasn’t had tough times? The secret is what do you do to get through the tough times? Not only is their pathway to the Lord but that became our pathway after we remarried!
David and Linda have been dedicated Christians, parents and health care professionals. They have enjoyed many great hobbies, have traveled to many wonderful places and have now entered into their “golden” years as retirees.
There is only one little twist to this ideal couple. And I am sharing this for you to join us in prayer! On June 2, 2020, just two months shy of their official retirement, a CT scan revealed David had stage 4, Peritoneal Carcinomatosis (PC) which originated in the appendix. This is an extremely rare form of cancer. (Actually the scan showed the doctor more testing was needed.)
PCis a late stage manifestation of several gastrointestinal malignancies including appendiceal, colorectal, and gastric cancer. In PC, tumors metastasize to and deposit on the peritoneal surface and often leave patients with only palliative treatment options.
by JRW McMullen Mar 22, 2017
David was in essence told to get his affairs in order, he only had a few months to live. WE ALL WERE DEVASTATED!!! But as people of faith, we all bowed to the Lord and prayed for His divine intervention. And to make a long story short, HE HAS DELIVERED!!! It was a miraculous surgical option and he is thriving. It had been our prayer he would live until we could see him again. It was VERY hard to travel to see them, with all the concerns over COVID and the fact we had our two grandsons living with us, to make the trip to Missouri to be with them. But here we are on Christmas Day, 2020!
Just a few more pictures to commemorate their 45 years together, including all their children and grandchildren! They have enjoyed a rich life and we all pray they have many more years to continue to serve our Lord and Savior. Amongst their hobbies, his are hunting, fishing and anything outdoors with family while hers are rug hooking, painting, crafts, daily Bible study and anything outdoors with family. Together they love to hike, camp, bike ride, be with their children and grandchildren and anything outdoors! Click for a slideshow:
Let me close with my favorite memory of their marriage. Just know that Linda and I are very close so we have no secrets. We know the good, the bad and the ugly! A few years ago, she shared how they had a couple over for dinner. They ministered and mentored SO MANY couples and individuals over their 45 years, they can’t be counted. Anyway, there was a couple who knew them well and saw them in both good and bad times. The wife confessed how she wished she had a marriage like theirs! She never saw them fight or be disrespectful to each other. We know they’ve had tough times behind closed doors, but no one saw them. Well, except maybe their children-and even then, I doubt they could recall any “fighting.”
They have been GREAT examples to their three adult children. All of them became Christians and serve the Lord in some way. They are proud grandparents of seven. But it’s not been all joy and happiness as there has been serious pain along the way. But they can honestly say, they will continue to Praise and Worship our Lord and Savior all the days of their lives!
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV
(For more information on what this verse means, here is one resource. David and Linda don’t want to waste their pain, the are praying the Lord will use his illness and their suffering for HIS Glory!)
Nothing tugs at our heart strings more than a child in need! One of my nieces, Rachel, has been a good friend to Clara’s mom, Lori since 2007. They met in Mexico while serving as teachers after college. Eventually, both accepted teaching positions in Colorado Springs. And then both went on to have three children each. Eventually, as is common in our culture, both of their families moved apart but they are “virtually” connected!
Clara turns 11 on March 26, 2020. Rachel’s mom, my dear sister-in-law Linda, has been kept up to date on Clara’s life since meeting her a few years ago. Linda has a memory of seeing Clara, her little sister Ana Cecilia and Linda’s grand daughter, Hadassah, running and playing on their farm. No one suspected an unknown and undiagnosable disease was lurking in both Clara and Ana Cecilia. Continue reading →
What a kind and unsolicited compliment to be told by a close family member, she knows I am constantly praying for her and her family. Actually, I need to tell you more about her, she is my sister-in-law, married to my husband’s only sibling. I wasn’t always known to pray – in fact, she started praying for my spiritual life soon after we met! Now talk about a person who prays. But Linda Lees not only prays, she fasts as the Lord leadswhen there is a crisis or critical event with any of her family members or friends lives. I can say she has had more influence on my spiritual life than anyone else. And in her blog post “The Fast” I learned how to take on a 72 hour fast.
I wanted to share my latest effort in seeking out answers to my undiagnosed health issues. I write this for those of you who may also be encountering an unwanted chronic health condition. As a nurse I also feel like the safest thing to say, at this point, is that if you attempt fasting for health reasons that you need to do so after consulting your physician.
As a christian, fasting has been something that I have done at times when I have had a heavy heart about some situation that needs divine intervention. I have NEVER fasted for my own needs but only for the needs of family and friends. I have always fasted in secret and later have shared the amazing answers that I have received after God has intervened. I have been a little conflicted about sharing this part of my search for healing because I believe strongly…
I’ve missed blogging, both on this blog and on our Travel Adventure site. I usually say these posts are more for me – as a diary of where my life was going, where it went and where it needs to be (this site is more for where it needs to be). As I am aging, I see more and more the need to have these events documented somehow. I am so sad I never blogged about all of our motorcycle adventures (many were pre-blog days) nor do I have a good journal of our early years in Florida (2004-2011). I started a few journal entries to keep our daughter informed of those times – but until I actually began blogging, those memories are now about lost except on some digital and paper photos “somewhere.” Continue reading →