Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Family of William Bryan and Marie (LEWIS) ROBBINS, Sr.

Source: Robbins, William Bryan Sr. and Marie (Lewis), Family of. Photograph. October 1942. Original photograph in the possession of Joyce Robbins Sanders, Tulsa, Oklahoma. 2008.

I wanted to feature this photo for several reasons. It is the only group photo I know about of the family of my paternal great-grandparent, William "Bryan" ROBBINS, Sr. and Marie LEWIS. In the back row, from left to right, you can see 15-year-old Lloyd "Jack", father Bryan, and 20-year-old William "Bill" Bryan, Jr. The middle row consists of mother Marie, my grandfather Robert "Bob" Lewis (age 22), and 17-year-old Shirley Marie. In front is the "baby" of the family, Joyce, who as you can see was quite a bit younger than her siblings. Joyce's age is not listed for privacy reasons, she being the only one of this family group still living. As I mentioned earlier this week, my granduncle Bill recently passed away, and I've yet to find an obituary online for him (more to come later).

This photograph was taken October 1942 on the Robbins' farm called Five Acres, just outside of Coopersville, Ottawa Co., Michigan. I believe that the photographer was my paternal grandmother, wife of Bob. Furthermore, I am certain this photo was taken because Bob and Bill had just enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War Two (Jack joined the Navy two years later). My grandfather had already received a draft notice, but had gotten it deferred because he was married and my aunt was "on the way." My aunt would have been two months old at this time of this photo. Bob and Bill went down to Kalamazoo to enlist together on 13 October 1942, the day after my grandparents' second anniversary. I have often heard that it was common--from the Civil War days forward--for families to take group photos shortly before their son(s) went off to war so that the son(s) could have a copy to remember their families by, and those at home could have one of their whole, intact, family unit, "just in case." There is a similar photo of father Bryan's family, somewhere in the possession of other relatives, with his parents and siblings shortly before his older brother Lloyd went off to fight in the trenches of Europe during World War One. Bryan had not yet been drafted; Lloyd is wearing his Army uniform.

Now to tell a little about my granduncle Bill, since I'm currently unable to find an online obituary: He was born William Bryan Robbins, Jr. on 22 May 1922 in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon Co., Michigan, the second of five children. As mentioned, he joined up with my grandfather and they served together in the Army Air Force. I believe--but am not certain--he served in the same unit as my grandfather, the 1452nd AAF, Alaska Division, Air Transport Command. I do know they were stationed together in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, where Bill met and married Josephine E. Semple, a Canadian citizen. Bill went on to serve in what later became the U.S. Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. I once heard my grandfather speak with great pride that his brother had attained the highest non-commissioned officer rank in the Air Force. If I heard and understood him correctly, I believe this would be the rank of Chief Master Sergeant.

Uncle Bill and Aunt Jo had a son and a daughter, and at least two grandchildren. Bill was instrumental along with his wife and parents in starting the Reinhart W. Roman American Legion Post 537 and Women Auxiliary in Chester Township, Ottawa Co., Michigan in 1946. He and Jo retired to San Antonio, Bexar Co., Texas. My grandparents and Shirley and Joyce and their husbands also lived or wintered nearby, while Jack and his wife preferred Florida. Ten years and ten days before his own death, Uncle Bill and Aunt Jo were in a terrible collision. It was the day before Jo's 76th birthday, as well as the day before Valentine's Day, and they were going out to eat. As they were making a left-hand turn, an oncoming vehicle hit the passenger side of their automobile, killing Jo and severely injuring Bill. He never fully recovered from his injuries and required some level of care for the rest of his life. Since I'm still waiting to obtain an obituary, I'm not sure if Bill passed away (23 February 2008) in San Antonio or in a community where one of his children was living. I do know that Aunt Jo was buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, and Bill's name was inscribed on the back of her headstone. One of my aunts told me the plan was for Bill to be interred in the same plot as Jo. My grandfather is buried in a nearby section.

As you can see, this is a poorly sketched-out overview of my granduncle's life, and very likely contains errors. I hope to obtain correct and more detailed information to improve this small tribute.

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