Saturday, 9 June 2007

Ruth Ernestine Haviland

Ruth Ernestine Haviland would have been one hundred years old today. She was a woman of many facets...bookkeeper, WAC, homemaker, poet. To me, she was "Mom."

Born on 9 June 1907 at the family home in Arlington, Massachusetts, Ruth was the third child of Arthur William and Mary Jane (Gilfedder) Haviland. The year of her birth marked the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Arlington (originally called Menotomy, known as West Cambridge until its incorporation and renamed Arlington in 1867); Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States; Denton True "Cy" Young was the manager of the Boston Red Sox (a name they adopted in that same year); and Fenway Park would not be built for another three years.

Ruth's early childhood was marked by the premature death of her father (a lineman for New England Telephone) in 1913, the result of a work-related accident. Although Ruth was only 6 when he died, she had fond memories of the time spent with him and often spoke of going camping or taking a cruise on the "Emily F." Arthur's death was a devastating blow to the family, as he was so young (32) and had left behind five children under the age of 10 for his wife to raise.

Upon the advice of a lawyer, Ruth's mother purchased land and built a home for the family in nearby Belmont, on the corner of Orchard and Beech Streets. Incorporated into the design of the home was space for a small dry goods store which allowed Mary to earn a living while keeping an eye on her active brood. It supported the family well until such time as the new "super markets" began to appear. However, by that time, the older Haviland children were working outside the home, allowing Mary to "retire."

Ruth was the middle child of five - four girls and one boy. She loved music, sports and poetry, yet earned a living as a bookkeeper (like her grandfather.) When her mother purchased an upright grand piano, Ruth and her sister, Ethel, learned to play. Both of them would continue to "tinkle the ivories" into their later years. Her favorite was "The Robin's Return," which she would play whenever she was happy. Even into her 80's, Ruth would play her favorite songs on the piano - from memory!

Outside the home, Ruth was involved in the YMCA's Vagabond Club. Located in Boston, the club was comprised of a group of young adults interested in the stage. They presented plays and other entertainment to the community, including dance numbers. She also learned to drive an automobile when it was not common for women to drive. Her mother (an adventurer) just couldn't get the hang of it, so Ruth stepped up and got her license.

It was while Ruth was working for the E. B. Blaisdel Slate Company that World War II began. The economic conditions of the time forced the company to close, leaving Ruth without employment. About that time, Ruth read an article in the newspaper about the Army recruiting women. Being patriotic and wanting to do something, she enlisted in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC - the name was changed later in 1943 to Women's Army Corps.)

Reading her letters to her mother over the course of her service, it's plain to see that this was one of the happiest times of Ruth's life. While stationed at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, Ruth developed friendships which lasted throughout her life. Her job in the Judge Advocate General's Office (JAG) kept her busy, but she took advantage of her furlough time to attend the theatre and shop for family in the stores of Chicago.

After World War II that Ruth met a young, handsome sailor, Frank Donovan. Because of their age difference (10 years), Ruth delayed saying "yes" to Frank's proposal of marriage, but he was persistent and they were married in 1950.

Both Ruth and Frank loved children, but would not be able to have any of their own, so they decided to adopt. I was the lucky child they chose. As a mother, Ruth was devoted and loving. Although they had the opportunity to adopt another child, they must have decided that I was enough of a handful!

Baseball was Ruth's favorite sport. She would follow the Red Sox games almost as intently as her brother, gritting her teeth with intensity when the Sox were at bat, urging the Sox to hit a home run to win the game. She was fortunate to go to see Ted Williams' last game at Fenway Park, thrilled to have witnessed that little piece of baseball history. Neither she nor her brother would live to see the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004, but I believe that they were cheering from the bleachers in the sky.

Ruth passed away in 2000, having lived a full and interesting life. On this 100th anniversary of her birthday, she is remembered with love.

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Wednesday, 6 June 2007

D-Day Salute

Today is D-Day, so I thought it appropriate to salute those members of the Family Harvest family who served in the service of their country.

Although not directly related to me, our family includes Fiorello Casale, Purple Heart recipient, who was at Omaha Beach on D-Day.

Fiorello was born in Palestrina, Italy, in 1910 and immigrated to the United States in 1927 at age 17 on the S.S. Presidente Wilson. His parents had preceeded him across the Atlantic and had settled in Lynn, Massachusetts, a center for shoe manufacturing. Fiorello found work in a shoe factory to help support the family, which had grown to seven siblings by the 1930 U.S. Census.

Six months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Fiorello enlisted in the U.S. Army as a Private with the 175th Infantry 29th Division under the command of Colonel Paul R. Goode. He was 31 years of age, older than most of the soldiers at that time.

On 6 June 1944, during the Allied force invasion at Omaha Beach, the 175th was held offshore in Corps reserve, coming ashore on 7 June, securing the bluff tops. Two days later, they seized Isigny, then crossed the Elle River, advancing slowly toward St. Lo while fighting bitterly in the Norman hedgerows. It is during this march that Fiorello was struck and died.

Fiorello is buried in Saint Laurent (Permanent Cemetery), Saint Laurent, France.

Although this post is in honor of Fiorello Casale, he was not the only member of the Family Harvest Family to serve his country during World War II:

U.S. Navy
Frank J. Donovan (SC-982)
John L. Donovan (CL-9 "Richmond")

U.S. Army
Ruth E. Haviland (Fort Sheridan, Illinois)

Civilian Service
George L. Donovan (Boston Navy Yard)
Ellen F. Donovan (Boston Navy Yard)

In Memory Of Those Who Served.

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