Sunday, May 26, 2013

Samaritan Sunday (May 26, 2013)

[If you should choose to adopt this prompt to contribute stories of folks who have gone out of their way to lend genealogy-related assistance to others, I would greatly appreciate a mention to Filiopietism Prism whenever you do so.  Thank you!  And please do use the same photograph below to illustrate the prompt and show it is adopted from this blog.  ;-) ]

This week's Samaritan Sunday is about a couple of Good Samaritans who have embarked on a journey to look for a particular unknown person, persons, or family they already know they can help.  And perhaps some reader or readers out there can themselves become part of this journey and form a small band of Good Samaritans to complete the journey and the story . . . 

Fifteen years ago Pamela Gilliland was at an estate sale in Oklahoma when she spotted an old hatbox.  On a whim, she purchased the box for $1.00.  Unbeknownst to Pamela, the hatbox contained about 250 letters from the Harvill brothers of Drumright, Oklahoma to their parents.  At the time, Eural and Robert Harvill were serving in the Army during World War II.  The hatbox also contained photographs, postcards, Christmas cards and an insurance policy. Pamela carefully placed the hatbox and its contents in a closet.

Doug Eaton is an accountant with a law degree and a deep interest in history.  He published a book this past January with essential contribution by Wilma Hawes Connely titled, Letters From Walter: A Personal Look at World War II Through the Eyes of a Young Soldier.   The book was the result of Doug learning about Wilma Connely receiving some long-lost letters written by her brother Walter Hawes, a Staff Sergeant in Italy and North Africa during WWII.  [You can read more about the book and its availability, and about Doug Eaton's background,  here.]   The recovered letters from Walter to his aunt and uncle in Indiana are the basis for the book.  Walter's letters were stored away in his aunt's closet for almost 70 years and his sister never knew about them.  Walter died in 1961 without ever having mentioned his letters.  In 2011 Walter and Wilma's aunt sold her home and moved into a nursing home.  She left behind many unclaimed items and the new owners of the home placed them at the curb for pick-up and disposal.  Among the items was a small box that a curious family member who was driving by spotted and stopped to rummage through.  The letters were discovered and mailed off to Wilma who lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Pamela Gilliland read Letters from Walter and was reminded of the hatbox and letters in her closet. Just a few weeks ago she contacted Doug Eaton, who lives in Tulsa, and these Good Samaritans are now on a journey looking-out for Harvill family members or perhaps a woman who is mentioned repeatedly by one of the brothers.  Read here about these Good Samaritans and the road they are now on looking for particular people they know they can help.  Are you perhaps one of those people -- or do you know someone who might be? 

UPDATE:  After publication of this post, another article appeared about these hatbox letters.  On June 6, 2013, Heather Clark of The Fort Campbell Courier (a publication of the Public Affairs Office of Fort Campbell, an Army base in Kentucky)  posted her story titled, "Hatbox letters mystery: Forgotten notes forge bonds."  See the article here.  
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Photograph of the The Good Samaritan sculpture by Francois-Leon Sicard (1862 - 1934).  The sculpture is located in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.  The photograph is by Marie-Lan Nguyen and has been placed in the public domain by her. See,
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Copyright 2013, John D. Tew
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