It took several months, but I finally got the opportunity to visit my newly discovered stepsisters and stepbrother in the St. Louis, Missouri area during a trip to the Show-Me State. We met at a restaurant in Ellisville, Missouri back on April 14 and traded stories about the one person we all had in common—Albert Hersel Pounds (b. 12 Sep 1936, d. 19 Feb 1977).
As I have written in past blog posts, Al was my natural father, yet someone I scarcely knew. He largely disappeared from my life following his divorce from my mother in Springfield, Missouri when I was about three years old. Outside of a few brief phone calls and a hand full of birthday cards in the years following the separation, I barely knew Al existed.
I was aware that Al remarried, but until eighteen months ago I had no idea he helped raise the children of Marie M. Augustine (b. 12 Jun 1930, d. 24 Oct 1995) from her previous marriage. They lived together as a family in Kirkwood, Missouri from 1967 until Al’s death in 1977.
Upon entering the restaurant that evening, I was a little anxious but intensely curious about what lay ahead. Waiting for me at the largest table in a small Italian restaurant was Brenda Pogano, Carol Loehr, Michael St. Onge, and their spouses. After a warm greeting, the evening proceeded to become a memorable one for me.
To kick things off, Michael presented me the flag that was draped over Al’s coffin (picture above, top of post) at his funeral and burial. As a veteran myself, I understand the importance and symbolism of this memento and will treasure it for the rest of my days. Upon returning to El Paso, I purchased a display case and now have it prominently displayed in my home. It’s the least I can do for Al, and fitting from one veteran to another—I think he’d appreciate that. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Michael and his sisters for parting with Al's flag and presenting it to me after 34 years!
Next, Brenda surprised me with a photo of my grandmother, Lora Jane Mills (below)! Prior to this photo, I was aware of my grandmother's maiden name and suspected she was born in Missouri (presumably the bootheel area). I also had determined she passed away before my grandfather. He died in 1961. Then I flipped it over.
The back of the photo shows two dates written in pencil—“Married Name Lora Jane Pounds 1955,” and “Maiden Name Lora Jane Mills 1899”. The year “1899” inscribed on the back probably refers to the year she was born, and I suspect the “1955” indicates when she passed away, but those are guesses at this point. At least these dates give me something to work with in my research, and provide more than I had before.
There is also a “Lary Ponds” poorly written in pencil below Lora Jane’s name on the back of the photo. It appears to be the writing and spelling of child who may have intended to write “Larry Pounds”. Is this another unknown relative?
Brenda also presented me an old copy of Al’s death certificate indicating that his mother, Lora Jane, was born in Missouri (below). A version of Al’s certificate I ordered from the State of Missouri several months back didn’t have that information and spelled Lora Jane’s maiden name as “Mins”. The certificate provided by Brenda lists her name as “Mills”. Brenda’s version of Al’s birth certificate, along with the inscription on the back of the Lora Jane photo helps confirm that “Mins” is an error. I also have a copy of a Missouri death certificate from 1920 for one of Al’s sisters (Helen Louise Pounds) listing her mother as “Mills” which adds extra proof supporting the “Mills” maiden name. It’s important to get the name straight for future research efforts.
Click on Image to Enlarge
Brenda also produced a small pile of photos of Al, Marie and his sisters. The only pictures of Al that I have seen were ones from my Mother’s baby shower in 1960. I was intensely curious to see what he looked like in the years following the divorce. Here are a couple of photos including Al and Marie during Christmas 1967, and then one of Al wrestling a bear, or at least pretending to.
What’s also exciting to me is the photo below of Al’s sisters. I know he came from a large family but I only had a few bits of information about his siblings. While no one could recall the maiden names of Al’s sisters, consensus around the table that evening was that two given names were Mary (second from left) and Marcie or Marcy (far right). There was also talk of a sister named "Kathleen", but no one could recall if she is in this photo. More pieces of the puzzle to work with!
A photo was also provided of Al and a brother named "Dewey" shown below. In this shot, Al is standing to the left, Dewey is in the center, and an unidentified man is standing to the right. It's possible that all three are brothers, since Al's birth certificate above clearly states he had 7 brothers and sisters at the time of his birth to include himself. James and Lora could have given birth to an eighth child, and these photos might be from a family reunion showing all eight children. Both Brenda and Carol mentioned that Al, Marie and the family made a trip to Toledo once to visit Al's immediate family, but they didn't know when and where these photos were snapped. Could these be images of my aunts and uncles taken during that trip? I hope I find out one day.
I was thoroughly captivated throughout the evening by the conversation of life with Al, his second wife Marie and the many family stories circulating around the table. I just sat back and tried to take it all in. As a professional researcher, note taking is my stock and trade. However, I managed to walk away from the dinner meeting with only a few scribbled remarks. I even tried to take a couple of photos of my newfound stepsiblings and friends, but botched that as well. I was so wrapped up in the discussions of the evening that I underestimated how dark the restaurant was. At least that gives me a great excuse to make a trip back to the St. Louis area some day!
In spite of of my inability to produce coherent notes or even a visible photo of the evening, I did take away one fact from the get-together that didn’t require pen, paper or camera to remember. Eventhough Al struggled with his share of medical and personal issues, he nevertheless managed to surround himself with a loving family and to live a happy, productive life during his final ten years. I was even told he had a smile on his face after collapsing to the floor at a wedding while dancing to Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” Despite the best efforts of the bride (she was a nurse) and the other medical professionals in the crowd, he passed away. I do know from Brenda, Carol and Michael that Al loved to dance and was happiest when doing so. I suppose it's fair to say he went out doing what he loved, surrounded by those who loved him. What more could anyone ask for?