In Memory of Sgt. Warren Earl Zickafoose (1922-1945) of Fayette County, West Virginia

Warren Earl ZICKAFOOSE was born 24 February 1922 in Nallen, Fayette County, West Virginia, to Joseph Elmer ZICKAFOOSE and Eva Myrtle HEDRICK. He was the fourth of eight children.

Warren Earl ZICKAFOOSE; World War II Young American Patriots, 1941-1945; : accessed 28 April 2017

After graduating from Nuttall High School, Warren was an employee of Ford, Bacon, and Davis in Dunbar. On 7 March 1942, he married Pauline Alice RAMSEY, daughter of Jarrett Theodore RAMSEY and Louie Ann CAVENDISH, in Russell, Greenup County, Kentucky.

On 29 December 1942 he entered the U.S. Army and received his training at Camp Hood, Texas; Camp Carson, Colorado; Camp Gruber, Oklahoma; Camp Livingston, Louisiana; and had desert training in California.

Three weeks after he entered the U.S. Army his wife Pauline gave birth to a baby girl.

Sgt. ZICKAFOOSE was attached to Company C of the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion and was sent to Europe in August 1944 arriving at Cherbourg, France, on 15 September 1944.

Damaged Sherman tank in the museum at The Mardasson Memorial in Bastogne, Belgium.

The battalion moved to Luxembourg in November and participated in the Battle of the Bulge in December. Sgt. ZICKAFOOSE received the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action in December 1944.

Into January 1945 the 811th was widely scattered as it was attached to many divisions. In February and March, they supported operations against the Siegfriedstellung (Siegfried Line).

In late March the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion advanced to the Rhine River crossing it on 30 March.

Every day of World War II, a 3 1/4 by 7-inch Morning Report was issued. These are the events recorded for the first few days of April 1945.

1 April 1945:
Station: WH 2384 Melgerhausen Germany
Organization: C 811th TD Bn (Battalion) FA (Field Artillery) TD (Tank Destroyer)
No change (in personnel)
Record of Events: Left WH Schwarzenborn, Germany enroute to Wh 2384 Melgerhause, Germany. Arrived destination.
4 officers were present for duty.
118 enlisted men were present for duty and 6 were absent.
Clem J. HUX WOJG USA (Warrant Office Junior Grade)

2 April 1945:
Station: WH 2290 Grexhagen, Germany (Guxhagen)
Organization: C 811th TD Bn FA TD
No change (in personnel)
Record of Events: Left WH 2384 Melgerhausen, Germany enroute to WH 2290 Grexhagen Guxhagen, Germany. Arrived destination.
4 officers were present for duty.
118 enlisted men were present for duty and 6 were absent.

3 April 1945:
Station: WH 2290 Guxhagen, Germany
Organization: C 811th TD Bn FA TD
Three men were absent from duty due to sickness: Tec 5 Howard C. Kerns (SN 35692008); Tec 4 Thomas J. Donnelly (SN 32288320), and Pfc Johnny P. Garcia (SN 39286737). All were transferred to Evac Hospital. The first two were non-battle casualties in the line of duty. The third was non-battle casualty, not in the line of duty [acute alcholism (sic)].
4 officers were present for duty.
115 enlisted men were present for duty and 6 were absent.

In early April the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion supported the 80th Infantry Division when Kassel was captured. Sgt. Warren Earl ZICKAFOOSE was killed in action on 3 April 1945 only a day before Kassel was captured.

4 April 1945:
Station: WH 2699 Crumbach, Germany
Organization: C 811th TD Bn FA TD
Cpl Ernest A. Corrado (SN 35765502) was reduced to Pvt per Special CMO # 1 Headquarters 811th Tank Destroyer effective 31 March 1945.
Record of Events: Left WH 2290 Guxhagen, Germany enroute to WH 2699 Crumbach, Germany. Arrived destination. Distance traveled 6 miles.
4 officers were present for duty.
115 enlisted men were present for duty and 6 were absent.

5 April 1945:
Station: WH 2699 Crumbach, Germany
Organization: C 811th TD Bn FA TD
Pfc Harold W. McNatt (SN 3941540) was promoted to Cpl effective 5 April 1945. Pvt Finis Craft (SN 35426452) was promoted to Tec 5 effective 5 April 1945. Pvt. Thomas J. Heitzman (SN 67134753) change in duty effective 5 April 1945. Pvt. Robert L. Sansbury (SN 35817099) change in duty effective 5 April 1945.
Pvt. Carl W. Rhoades (SN 35240303) and Tec 5 Robert L. Tidwell, both enlisted men, were lightly wounded in action, battle casualties in line of duty on 3 April 1945. The 305th Medical Battalion transferred him to Evac Hospital. He was dropped from assignment effective 27 March 1945.
Pvt. Alex M. Sandler (SN 39422544) was Lightly Injured in Action, battle casualty in line of duty on 3 April 1945. The 305th Med Bn transferred him to Evac Hospital. He was dropped from assignment effective 27 March 1945.
Sgt. Warren E. Zickafoose (SN 35645379) was Killed in Action, battle casualty in line of duty on 3 April 1945.
Record of Events: All casualties occurred in Germany.
4 officers were present for duty.
111 enlisted men were present for duty and 6 were absent.

Mrs. Pauline ZICKAFOOSE was informed by the war department of the death of her husband, Sgt. ZICKAFOOSE in May 1945. She remarried two years later.

Sunday Register (Raleigh Register, Beckley, West Virginia); May 13, 1945 (

Sgt. ZICKAFOOSE’s body was returned to American soil in 1948. He was buried in End of the Trail Cemetery in Clintonville on Sunday, 19 December 1948. The service was held by Rev. M. J. Painter and Rev. John Bragg. Military rites were conducted by the Ansted American Legion Post at the grave.

His father applied for a military marker in a month later, on 18 January 1949.

( : accessed 28 April 2017)
( : accessed 28 April 2017)

Sgt. Warren Earl ZICKAFOOSE’s name is engraved on the West Virginia Veterans Memorial. As well as the Purple Heart Medal, he received three Battle Stars, a Silver Star (posthumous), and the Presidential Unit Citation.

UPDATE (31 May 2017): More information from the MilitaryTimes Hall of Valor about the Silver Star Medal Sgt. Warren Earl ZICKAFOOSE received posthumously.

Silver Star medal

General Orders: Headquarters, 80th Infantry Division, General Orders No. 131 (May 20, 1945)
Action Date: April 4, 1945 (sic, April 3, 1945)
Battalion: 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion
Division: 80th Infantry Division

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Sergeant Warren E. Zickafoose (ASN: 35645379), United States Army, for gallantry in action while serving with the 811th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 80th Infantry Division in connection with military operations against an enemy of the United States on 4 April 1945 in Germany. On that date, while supporting infantry troops in holding Vollmarshausen, Germany, Sergeant Zickafoose, a gun commander of a tank destroyer, observed four enemy tanks approaching the town. Realizing that he was outnumbered he nevertheless elected to move into a firing position to prevent the enemy from overrunning the infantry. By taking up an advantageous position he repelled the attack, although his destroyer received a direct hit which mortally wounded him. The courage, aggressive leadership, and supreme devotion to duty as displayed by Sergeant Zickafoose was in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Warren Earl ZICKAFOOSE was my 4th cousin 2 times removed through our common ancestor, James SIMS (1754-1845) and my 5th cousin 1 time removed through our common ancestors, (the same) James SIMS and his first wife Phebe. His daughter, who is still living, is my aunt by marriage and her four sons are my first cousins.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

The Extinction of the PREISEN Family Name †

We’ gruss stinn haut ons Fraen, Mäner, de’ vill em d’Hemecht mat gemacht — de’ grad we’ an de grusse Länner, hirt Léwen vir si agesât.

As the story of the Thomas PREISER and Anna Maria SCHRANTZ family of Diekirch was coming together, I attended a conference in Walferdange on the subject of Luxembourgish Family Names.

logo_klengThe lecture was organized by my local genealogy association Prof. Dr. Peter GILLES explained in his lecture the procedure and results of several years of research. The project was supported by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) from 2009-2012 at the University of Luxembourg. The 2600 most frequent family names were published in Luxemburger Familiennamenbuch by Cristian Kollmann, Peter Gilles and Claire Muller in 2016. I have a copy of the book and mentioned it in my post How a Surname Had Me Spiraling Down a Rabbit Hole.

The PREISEN surname is unusual and, with the evolution of surnames on my mind, I wanted to add an unexpected end to this family’s story.

When Thomas, the father of this family, was baptized in 1753 his surname was spelled PREISER. When he married in 1779, the record showed the spelling PREUSEN. When his children were born between 1779 and 1799, PREISEN and PREUSEN were seen on the baptismal records. When Thomas died in 1801, PREUSEN was the spelling used by all of his children. By 1880, the descendants had gone back to using the PREISEN spelling.

The three sons of Thomas and Anna Maria who married, each had 8 to 9 children but only one son each. Peter and Joseph’s sons both lived to the age of 80 but never married.

Anton’s son had a son who had a son who had a son…

Anton was the only son of Thomas and Anna Maria who continued the male line, the line which kept the surname alive. Anton had a son:

  • Philippe (1822-1883) who had a son
  • Michel (1852-1945) who had a son
  • Michel Philippe (1889-1975) who had a son
  • Jean Pierre Christophe (1915-1944), known as Jempy to the family and friends.

There were no other male descendants other than Anton’s son, grandson, great-grandson, and great-great-grandson. Jempy was the last male PREISEN in the line.

Luxemburger Wort. 16 September 1944. page 4, colum 2. online|issue:789672|article:DTL304|query:preisen thillen

Jempy died at the age of 28 years as the result of an accident. What terrible “accident” took his life?

Tageblatt. 18 September 1944. page 4, column 1. online|issue:725642|article:DTL52|query:preisen jempy

Diekirch – Jempy  Preisen † . The city of Diekirch has endured four years the Nazi tyranny and oppression with a strong heart and unflinching will. No wonder the day of our deliverance, September 11th, was a day of joy, enthusiasm, and rejoicing. Unfortunately, the victorious goddess demanded a sacrificial prize in the person of the 28-year-old Jempy PREISEN from Diekirch. This member of the Luxemburgish Freedom Organization was shot by a cowardly national traitor during the cleansing of our city. Jempy was always a noble friend to us all, animated by an ardent patriotism; it was rightly said of him: How tall stand today the women and men who did so much for our homeland — who like those from other large countries, put their lives on the line. The general interest of the town and the surrounding region of Diekirch may be a quiet consolation for the respectable PREISEN-THILLEN family, who have now sacrificed their only son and heir for the homeland. Jempy Preisen has entered into the long series of heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the liberty of Luxembourg; his memory will always be honored.

The underlined part is the translation of the quote used at the beginning of this post.

In 1880 the Luxembourg census had 9 persons enumerated with the surname PREISEN, a name no longer found in the telephone book in 2009. The last living male person to carry the surname PREISEN, Jempy’s father, died in 1975, nearly 200 hundred years after Thomas and Anna Maria started their family.

The Story is Not All Sadness

For those of you who have read the first part of this story, Thomas and Anna Maria’s story is not all sadness. Marie’s children lived short lives and Elizabeth had two stillborn daughters, but the other five children each had between seven and a dozen children. There were some who did not live to adulthood and others who chose to not marry, but the rest married and continued their lines although not with the PREISEN name.

One of these was my children’s 4th great-grandmother Margaretha PREISEN.


Her line went full circle when her granddaughter Elise FABER married François MEDER (half 3rd cousins) and had eleven children. In yesterday’s post I mentioned this unusual discovery which may have been a bit hard to follow. Amy Cohen of Brotman: A Family Journey suggested doing a chart (above, click to enlarge) to help “decipher your sentence about the sixth great-grandparents…” Does this make it easier?


© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Old Photographs Saved From Trash Can ~ #89 Everett Isaac LILLIE (1915-1944)

At one point, while doing these posts, I had to develop a system to keep track of the photographs which had been used in posts and those which still needed to be shared and written about. I keep my cousin Joe Rooney’s original scans with his naming system in a folder. Copies with my own naming/numbering system are in my Genealogy folder – where I keep all images, documents, etc. with unique MRINs. I also created a temporary folder: !NOT USED old photos. As it contains copies, I can easily delete each photograph as it is featured in a post.

There are very few photos left in the temporary folder. As I was looking  through it in preparation for a new post I noticed something about this young man.

unkmanovercoatbrickwallThe man is not identified on the back of the photo. He is wearing an overcoat and hat with a cigarette in his right hand and holding a bag in his left. The location it was taken at is familiar. The brick wall behind him is not straight. There are two and a half bricks and then the wall juts out at a tiny angle. The same as in the photos below.

Click on photo to view post!
Click on photo to view post!








It is in front of the apartment Samuel Royalty “Roy” LILLIE (1895-1979) rented at 2122 Marantette St. in Detroit, Michigan. The address is known from photographs taken about 1930 when the house number was still on the building. It is also the address at which Roy, his mother Florence, his brother Raymond, and his sister Ruth lived when the census was taken in 1930 and 1940.

In the next photograph, we see Florence with her sons Roy and Raymond on the right and a young man in uniform on the left. This young man, holding a cigarette in his right hand, is Everett Isaac LILLIE. The cigarette is what made me take a closer look at the unidentified man in the photo at the top of this post and all photos of Everett.

lilliefloroyraymondandmaybeeverettOn Memorial Day 2015 I wrote about Everett Isaac LILLIE (1915-1944), son of Reese Gentry LILLY (1892-1965) and Dovie DEEN (1894-1918). Everett’s grandparents were Isaac Spencer LILLIE (1872-1932) and Florence ROYALTY (1868-1946).

Everett with his aunt Ruth Joanna LILLIE (1907-1986)
Ruth and Everett posing with an unidentified woman.

Everett married before going to Europe to fight during World War II leaving a pregnant wife. No marriage record has been found for them and she remains unknown. Note: The unidentified woman above is older and cannot be his wife.

In Everett’s 1944 obituary his wife and daughter are mentioned as living in New Jersey but were not named. He never knew his daughter Patricia M. LILLIE (1944-2012) who was born two months after his death. She was seen as Patricia M. KENNEDY when she married Ronald R. GHAGAN (d. 1985) in 1976 in South Windsor, Hartford, Connecticut. It is not known if she had children, grandchildren of Everett Isaac LILLIE who died serving his country.


More about this collection, how it came to be in my possession,
and links to previous posts in the series can be found here.

Please contact me!
Are you related to a person mentioned in this post? Send an email to
openingdoorsinbrickwalls @ or message me on my Facebook page
Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

© 2017, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.














Tuesday’s Child’s Family Heirlooms: Bomi’s Spéngelskrich Amulette

My grandmother Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE married Nicolas WILDINGER, a German whose family had been living in Luxembourg since the first World War, on the 26th of July 1935. A month later she made a declaration to preserve her Luxembourgish nationality. In May 1936 her only child was born. When her daughter was five years old Marcelle’s husband died of tuberculosis. She had at least one offer of marriage but remained a widow from 1941 until her death in 2005 at the age of 95 years, 7 months, 10 days.

Bomi, as her grandchildren called her, was a fearless female during World War II (1939-1945). On May 10th, 1940, the German Wehrmacht invaded Luxembourg. On the eve of this invasion the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and his government decided to go into exile. From abroad, they lead the resistance against the Nazi regime in Luxembourg. Grand Duchess Charlotte followed the government and eventually moved to London, the headquarters of the allies. Thanks to her, the resistance movement in Luxembourg developed strongly.

Bomi’s Spéngelskrich Amulette, a Family Heirloom

Amulette from WWII 1 front
Bomi’s Spéngelskrich or
“War of the Pins” amulette
(front view)
Amulette from WWII 2 back
Bomi’s Spéngelskrich or
“War of the Pins” amulette
(back view)

The people of Luxembourg had their own ways to resist the German occupation of their country during World War II. They used passive resistance. They refused to speak German and participated in the Spéngelskrich or the “War of the Pins.” The people wore badges, pinned to their coats or jackets, which bore patriotic emblems such as the Red Lion or the head of Grand Duchess Charlotte, cut from a coin. My Bomi, Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE, wore this amulette, a profile of the Grand Duchesse with the initial C for Charlotte, on a chain around her neck until her death in 2005. This family heirloom is now in the possession of my mother.

Resistance Amulette

This post was adapted from a previous post. After publishing it in March 2014 I learned Bomi owned several of these and gave one to her oldest great-granddaughter C. who did not know there was a story behind the amulette she owned until she read my post. This is one of the reasons this series of posts on family heirlooms is being written – to tell the stories surrounding the treasures.

Bomi’s Spéngelskrich or
“War of the Pins” amulette
owned by a great-granddaughter


Bomi told us several stories about her life during this time. Once on the evening of January 23rd all of the neighbors met in her house to celebrate the birthday of Grand Duchess Charlotte. The windows were covered so that no light could be seen from the street but the German patrol could hear the celebrating. They knocked on the door and asked what was going on. Bomi told them they were celebrating her birthday. It’s a good thing they didn’t check her identification as her birthday was June 17th. She asked the Germans to join them in a glass of wine. She would laugh when she told us how the Germans raised their glasses to the birthday girl, not knowing that they were toasting the Grand Duchess.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

Jeanne Bryan Insalaco of Everyone Has A Story suggested doing posts on heirlooms in a discussion in the Genealogy Bloggers Facebook group and wrote Now Where Did I Put That? Several bloggers have taken her up on the challenge to write about their heirlooms and we hope more will follow our lead.

Other bloggers doing Family Heirloom stories:

Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks theme for 2015 Week 24 was Heirlooms. Visit her 52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 24 Recap for the links to posts in the comments.

52 Ancestors: #8 The PEFFER-MERTES Family (1866-1995)

Week 8 (Feb 19-25) – Good Deeds. Does this mean a generous ancestor or one you found through land records? You decide :)

Newspaper clipping of the obituary of Maria POLFER-PEFFER from the 18 April 2002 issue of the Luxembourger Wort.

Maria POLFER-PEFFER, daughter of Francis PEFFER and granddaughter of Nicolas PEFFER and Maria MERTES, is the person in this family who stands out for her good deeds which resulted in her being interned and deported. What good deeds did she perform? She was a part of the resistance movement in Luxembourg during World War II. The Résistance worked in secrecy against the German occupation of the country. They helped political refugees and those being conscripted into the German forces. They printed patriotic leaflets and flyers by hand or machine to encourage the people of Luxembourg and promote patriotic spirit. More about the Luxembourg Resistance and Luxembourg in World War II.

Maria was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance, a medal awarded to civilians for distinguished services to Luxembourg during World War II. She was a member of the Conseil national de la Résistance, a member of the central committee of the LPPD (League for Luxembourgish Political Prisoners and Deportees), an umbrella group of the Resistance groups, and President of the Bettembourg section of the  LPPD.

Yesterday, 22 February 2015, was the Nationalen Dag vun der Resistenz, National Day of the Resistance in Luxembourg. In 1997 the Conseil national de la Résistance made the decision to have an annual remembrance day on the Sunday in February closest to the 25th. A day to remember all those involved in the Résistance and who lost their lives while interned and deported. Especially remembered are the 23 members of the Résistance who were shot in the Hinzerter Bësch 71 years ago on 25 Februar 1944, as well as the victims killed during the general strike in September 1942 on Hinzert, a German concentration camp located in Germany, 30 km from the Luxembourg border.

The PEFFER-MERTES Family (1866-1995)

Early on in my research I knew that my husband’s great-grandparents Nicolas PEFFER and Maria MERTES had three children. I personally knew two of the daughters, Bom and Tattes, and the only son’s daughter Maria POLFER-PEFFER.

On 29 November 2000 I received a telephone call from the son of a third, at that time unknown daughter. He found me through my GEDCOM file at RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project. I still have the notes I scribbled while on the phone with him.

I always wondered why this couple did not have children during the first five years they were married. They married in 1894 and, being Catholic, birth control was not an option or even available. Last month when I began taking a new look at this family, checking for them in the census, I nearly missed looking for birth records for more children.

I found Nicolas and Maria in the 1895 census as newlyweds, I thought, enjoying their second year of marriage, and in 1900 with their 5 week old son Franz. No other children!

1895 Luxembourg Census, household of Nicolas PEFFER and his wife Maria MERTES.[1]
1900 Luxembourg Census, household of Nicolas PEFFER and his wife Maria MERTES with their son Franz.[2]
Records are very well kept in Luxembourg, however, for this time period, they did not include the cause of death on the civil death record. This has often bothered me as I’ve found many death records for children. I wondered if this family may have also had a child who died young.

So back to the birth and death records I went. What did I find? Nicolas and Maria had 4 children before Franz came along and all four died young.  Eight months, two months, two weeks, and less than a month. That is how long Maria’s babies lived.

The next three children were born in 1900, 1902, and 1904 followed by the youngest in 1910. These were the 4 children that I knew about and they all lived to marry and have children. Could there also be more children, siblings of my husband’s Bom, born between 1905-1909?

My husband’s grandmother Suzanne, known to him as Bom, was their youngest child. She was not born in Moestroff where all the other children were born. Her father, a shepherd (Hirt), had moved with his family to Wecker sometime after 1904 and before Suzanne’s birth in 1910.  Not finding any other children in Moestroff I looked in Biwer, the commune that Wecker belongs to. And I found another child’s birth and death records. A son born in 1907 died in his fourth month. Maria was 35 years old and still young enough to have more children.

I did not find any more records in the communes of Biwer or Bettendorf. The family may have lived in other towns however the census is only available until 1900 at FamilySearch and in any case only browable making it impraticable to search all areas. Without a lead to a town I would have to check through the Luxembourg Civil Registration database which would mean browsing through 767,518 images or at least checking the Tables Décennales (ten year lists of births, marriages and deaths) for the time period 1905-1922 of each of the 145 communes. Perhaps one day the records for Luxembourg at FamilySearch will be searchable, until then….

I know that Maria carried nine children to term, gave birth to them, and cared for them. Maria and Nicolas buried five of these children between 1895-1907.

Maria saw three of her grown children marry and held two of her grandchildren before she died in 1929 at the age of 54. Only her youngest daughter Suzanne would marry after her death. Her widower Nicolas died at the age of 75 on the 31st of December 1941.

I don’t have a copy of his death record. I have three sources for his death – that should be proof enough. On the other hand, the three sources have conflicting information.

  1. Photocopy of the 1866 birth record No. 11 located in the birth register of Bettendorf at the town hall. This record includes the annotation in the left margin of his death on 31 December 1941 in Moestroff as well as the location of the death record, No. 1 in the 1942 death register. This birth record was obtained in 1995.[3]
  2. Digital image of the birth record located in the Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg, microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1993 at the Archives in Luxembourg. This record includes an annotation in the left margin indicating that he died in Moestroff, no date, and the death record is No. 11 from 1942.[4]
  3. Digital image of the marriage record of Nicolas PEFFER and Maria MERTES located in the Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg, microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1993 at the Archives in Luxembourg. This record includes an annotation in the left margin made by the Landessippenamt. At the time of Nicolas’ death the civil records offices in Luxembourg were in the hands of the Germans. The official of the Landessippenamt wrote that Nicolas died on 31 February 1866 and that the death is recorded in the 1941 Sterbebuch (death register) as record No. 1. The annotation on the marriage record was made on 10 August 1941.[5]

1. Annotation on the photocopy of the original birth record in Bettendorf.[3]
2. Annotation on the digital copy of duplicate of original birth record in the archives.[4]
3. Annotation on the digital copy of the duplicate of the original marriage record in the archives.[5]







I believe that the first record is the most reliable. If the protocol was followed the civil registrar would have issued the death record, recorded it in the death register or Sterbebuch in Bettendorf, made a duplicate to be lodged in the Courts of Justice in Diekirch and Luxembourg City, and included the annotation to the original birth record which was housed in Bettendorf. The duplicate sent to the Courts of Justice would have been the source for the annotation made on the records 2. and 3. which were later digitized.

Now on my to-do list is a visit to the Bettendorf town hall to acquire copies of the records that are not available online for 1923 and later and specifically for a copy of the death record of Nicolas PEFFER.

Three Generations in a Photographic Series

Maria and Nicolas PEFFER-MERTES’ children were quite close as can be seen by this series of photos taken in the latter part of 1956 of two of their daughters and a daughter-in-law with their daughters/daughter-in-law and the grandchildren.

3generationsLeft to right: Baby B. with her mother Maria PEFFER and grandmother (Maria’s mother) Mrs. Francis PEFFER; Baby M. with her mother E. and grandmother (E.’s mother-in-law) Marguerite “Tattes” PEFFER; Baby E. (my husband) with his mother Marie Françoise “Maisy” KREMER and grandmother Suzanne “Bom” PEFFER.

granddaughters and great-grandchildrenLeft to right: Maria with her daughter B.; E. with her daughter M.; and my mother-in-law Maisy with my husband E.

grandmothers with babiesHere the grandmothers switched places. Left to right: Marguerite PEFFER with her granddaughter M., Francis PEFFER’s wife with her granddaughter B., and Suzanne PEFFER with her grandson E.

Who Were They, Nicolas PEFFER and Maria MERTES?

Nicolas PEFFER, my husband’s great-grandfather, was the third child of seven known children of Nicolas PEFFER Sr. ( or “der Ältere“) and Marie ZWANK. His father Nicolas b. 1833  had a younger brother also named Nicolas b. 1836 who was known as Nicolas Jr.

Nicolas PEFFER was born 9 February 1866 in Moestroff, Commune of Bettendorf, District of Diekirch, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. His parents were both 32 years old when he was born. His father Nicolas was a day laborer.[6]

Maria MERTES, my husband’s great-grandmother, was the oldest of seven children of Michel MERTES and Margaretha RUCKERT. She had 13 known siblings as her father had six children with his first wife. It was the second marriage for her mother as well but the first marriage lasted only 6 months, due to the death of the groom, and there were no children.

Maria MERTES was born 14 February 1875 in Strassen, District of Luxembourg, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Her father was 38 and her mother was 28 years old.[7]

The Marriage of Maria and Nicolas

As with all of our ancestors I wondered how Maria MERTES and Nicolas PEFFER met. They were not born and raised in the same town or even the same community. What brought them together? I can only guess and by studying their marriage record I found a connection and reason why Nicolas would meet a young lady named Maria from Strassen.

Before I get to the actual marriage let’s take a look at the witnesses of the marriage. Two of the witnesses were listed as relatives:

    • Nicolas REITER, Maurer, 39 years old, living in Moestroff. cousin of the groom
    • Mathias GLODT, Taglöhner, 26 years old, living in Strassen, cousin of the groom

The Reiter connection is easy: Nicolas’ paternal aunt Marguerite PEFFER married Jean REITER and Nicolas REITER was their son. Census listings for Marguerite show that another one of her sons, Jean married Maria GLODT of Strassen. Mathias GLODT was Maria’s brother. This would not make him a cousin to Nicolas PEFFER. Further research led to the marriage of Mathias GLODT to Marie REITER, a daughter of Marguerite PEFFER and cousin of Nicolas PEFFER. So Mathias was a cousin-in-law!

Could this be the answer to how Nicolas PEFFER met Maria MERTES? In 1890 Nicolas PEFFER’s cousins Jean and Maria REITER were marrying the GLODT siblings Maria and Mathias.[8],[9] In May 1890 when Maria married Mathias her brothers Jean and Nicolas were present and named as witnesses. Both of these men were masons (Maurer), the same occupation as Nicolas PEFFER.

At six o’clock in the evening on the 19th of February 1894, Nicolas and Maria were married in Strassen. Nicolas was 28, worked as a mason and lived in Moestroff. Nicolas’ parents were both deceased as were his grandparents. Maria was 19, underage, did not work and lived in Strassen. She had recently returned to Strassen after living in Livange in the commune of Roeser. Both of her parents were present and agreeable to the marriage. The banns had been read in Bettendorf and in Roeser, both of the communes that the bride and groom lived in prior to their marriage, on the 4th and the 11th of February, both Sundays.[10]

The Children of Maria and Nicolas

Nicolas and Maria lived in Moestroff following their marriage. Maria was pregnant when the couple married. This may be an explanation for her recently having lived in Livange. She may have been working there, was dismissed for being pregnant and unmarried, and returned home to her parents. She gave birth to their son Johann on 12 June 1894, four months after the marriage.[11] Maria was pregnant with her second child when Johann died on 10 February 1895.[12] The first wedding anniversary was not a happy occasion with their mourning the death of their first child.

Daughter Margaretha was born on 11 August 1895[13] and lived a little less than two months, dying on 1 October 1895.[14] In 1895 when they were enumerated on the census they had been married 22 months. There is no field on the Luxembourg census for the number of children born and the number of children living as seen on the 1900 and 1910 U.S. Federal Census.

On 8 February 1897 their son Jacques, most likely named after both of the parents’ maternal grandfathers, was born.[15] They may have raised their glasses on the 19th to celebrate their third anniversary and their son’s birth but days later little Jacques died on 23 February 1897.[16]

Their fourth child Wilhelm was born 4 March 1899[17] and died less than a month later on 1 April 1899.[18] So much heartbreak and loss.

Finally, on 26 October 1900[19] a son, François, was born – the first child who would survive infancy. The pattern of their lives was changing. On 2 August 1902[20] their second daughter, named the same as their first Margaretha, was born followed by Maria on 15 September 1904.[21] These children were healthy and striving.

During all this time Nicolas’ occupation was seen as Maurer or mason on the birth and death records of his children. After 1904 his occupation changed. In 1907 Nicolas and his wife Maria were living in Wecker in the commune of Wecker. Nicolas’ occupation was seen as Hirt or shepherd. On 9 August 1907 their son Nicolas was born.[22] How sad it must have been for both of the parents, especially to Nicolas, to have to report the death of their son Nicolas, named after his father, on 21 November 1907.[23]

Maria and Nicolas’ little family of five was not complete until Suzanne PEFFER was born on 18 February 1910 in Wecker.[24] Nicolas was still a shepherd. How many years of Suzanne’s childhood were spent in Wecker is not known. The family of six was back in Moestroff by the time Suzanne’s oldest siblings began to marry.

Nicolas and Maria’s oldest child François, also known as Francis, PEFFER was most likely the first to marry. I have not done research on his marriage, however, believe that the marriage took place 1928 or earlier as his daughter Maria PEFFER was born about 1928 (she was 74 when she died on 16 April 2002).

Maria PEFFER was the first of the daughters to marry. She married Louis LONGATTE (1904-1996) on 2 May 1928 in Bettendorf. This date of marriage has not been confirmed with a marriage record.

A year later Marguerite PEFFER married Jean REUTER (1903-?) on 10 February 1929 in Bettendorf. This date of marriage has not been confirmed with a marriage record.

Maria MERTES, the mother of this family, died 6 August 1929 in Moestroff. Her date of death was found on the marriage record of her youngest daughter Suzanne PEFFER who married Franz “Fritz” KREMER (1905-1972) on 7 January 1931 in Bettendorf.[25]

In 1931, when Suzanne married, her 64 years old father Nicolas was once again seen in the occupation of mason (Maurer). During World War II (1 Sep 1939-14 Aug 1945) Nicolas PEFFER died on 31 December 1941 in Moestroff[3], [4], [5] as discussed earlier in this post.

Daughter Maria LONGATTE-PEFFER was the first to pass away after the death of the parents. Her son André, also known as Ender, said his mother died of cancer at the age of 40. He also said she died in 1956. There is some discrepancy in his statements as she was born in 1904 and not in 1916. It is my understanding that André was her only child. His father remarried to a French woman.[26]

The three remaining PEFFER children lived longer lives.

  • François “Francis” PEFFER died 20 July 1974 in Ettelbrück at the age of 74.[19]
  • Suzanne KREMER-PEFFER died 13 June 1987 in Moestroff at the age of 77.[24]
  • Marguerite “Tattes” REUTER-PEFFER died 27 June 1995 in Esch-sur-Alzette at the age of 92.[20]

[1] Luxembourg, Volkszählungen 1843-1900 (images), FamilySearch, (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Bettendorf > 1895 > image 695 of 810. Peffer-Mertes household No. 3. (,345878001 : accessed 26 December 2014).
[2] Ibid, Bettendorf > 1900 > image 743 of 793. Peffer-Mertes household No. 32. ( : accessed 14 January 2015).
[3] Zivilstandes der Gemeinde Bettendorf im Kanton Diekirch, Großerzogtum Luxemburg, Photocopy of the 1866 Birth Record No. 11 obtained in 1995 from the town hall of Bettendorf
[4] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg), Bettendorf > Naissances 1828-1890 Mariages 1800-1816 > image 783 of 1507. 1866 Birth Record No. 11. ( : accessed 01 Apr 2013).
[5] Ibid, Strassen > Naissances, mariages, décès 1891-1894 > image 65 of 117. 1894 Marriage Record No. 3. ( : accessed 01 Apr 2013).
[6] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances 1828-1890 Mariages 1800-1816 > image 783 of 1507. 1866 Birth Record No. 11. ( : accessed 01 Apr 2013).
[7] Ibid, Strassen > Naissances, mariages 1796-1823, 1850-1890 > image 645 of 1464. 1875 Birth Record No. 11. ( : accessed 01 Apr 2013).
[8] Ibid, Strassen > Naissances, mariages 1796-1823, 1850-1890 > image 1458 of 1464. “.” 1890 Marriage Record No. 11. (,130573201 : accessed 20 February 2015).
[9] Ibid, Bettendorf > Mariages 1817-1890 Décès 1800-1859 > image 841 of 1494. 1890 Marriage Record No. 9. (,129729901 : accessed 20 February 2015),.
[10] Ibid, Strassen > Naissances, mariages, décès 1891-1894 > image 65 of 117. 1894 Marriage Record No. 3. ( : accessed 01 Apr 2013).
[11] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances, mariages, décès 1882-1894 > image 59 of 155. 1894 Birth Record No. 25. (,130263301 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[12] Ibid, Bettendorf > Décès 1895-1923 > image 4 of 389. 1895 Death Record No. 10. (,129623802 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[13] Ibid, Bettendorf > Tables décennales 1893-1902 > image 8 of 29. NOTE: The records for 1895 are missing on FamilySearch as of 15 Jan 2015. This entry was found in the Tables décennales 1893-1902.(,129745501 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[14] Ibid, Bettendorf > Décès 1895-1923 > image 14 of 389. 1895 Death Record No. 52. (,129623802 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[15] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances 1896-1923 Mariages 1895-1923 > image 25 of 777. 1897 Birth Record No. 10. (,130150302 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[16] Ibid, Bettendorf > Décès 1895-1923 > image 36 of 389. 1897 Death Record No. 4. (,129623802 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[17] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances 1896-1923 Mariages 1895-1923 > image 60 of 777. 1899 Birth Record No. 14. (,130150302 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[18] Ibid, Bettendorf > Décès 1895-1923 > image 62 of 389. 1899 Death Record No. 6. (,129623802 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[19] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances 1896-1923 Mariages 1895-1923 > image 87 of 777. 1900 Birth Record No. 49; includes annotation of death. (,130150302 : accessed 27 December 2014).
[20] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances 1896-1923 Mariages 1895-1923 > image 121 of 777. 1902 Birth Record No. 47; includes annotation of death. (,130150302 : accessed 27 December 2014),.
[21] Ibid, Bettendorf > Naissances 1896-1923 Mariages 1895-1923 > image 157 of 777. 1904 Birth Record No. 39. (,130150302 : accessed 27 December 2014).
[22] Ibid, Biwer > Naissances 1895-1923 > image 146 of 293. 1907 Birth Record No. 23. (,129648901 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[23] Ibid, Biwer > Décès 1895-1923 > image 95 of 216. 1907 Death Record No. 22. (,129623802 : accessed 15 January 2015).
[24] Ibid, Biwer > Naissances 1895-1923 > image 176 of 293. 1910 Birth Record No. 9; includes annotation of death. (,129648901 : accessed 27 December 2014).
[25] Zivilstandes der Gemeinde Bettendorf im Kanton Diekirch, Großerzogtum Luxemburg, Heiratsurkunde No. 1 Kremer Franz mit Peffer Susanna. Mothers of the bride and groom were deceased at the time of the marriage and their dates of death are listed on this record.
[26] Telephone conversation between Cathy Meder-Dempsey and Mr. André Longatte on 29 November 2000.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Nicolas PEFFER
Parents: Nicolas PEFFER and Marie ZWANK
Spouse: Maria MERTES
Parents of spouse: Michel MERTES and Margaretha RUCKERT
Whereabouts: Moestroff and Strassen, Luxembourg
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: husband’s great-grandparents

1. Nicolas PEFFER
2. Suzanne PEFFER
3. Marie Françoise “Maisy” KREMER
4. Cathy’s husband

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.

52 Ancestors: #4 The Plumber/Tinsmith and the Seamstress

Week 4, Closest to your birthdayNot too much to think about here. What ancestor has the birthday closest to yours? (I mean in terms of month and day, not the year ;) )

I checked all my ancestors and none were born on the same day as I was. Since name days were at one time more commonly celebrated in Luxembourg than birthdays and I knew that my grandmother Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE’s name day, January 31, was very close to my birthday, January 14, she fit the bill. If she hadn’t, I still would have written about her and her husband this week!

Marcelle and Nicolas’ monogram on their wedding announcement.


Nicolas WILDINGER who was born in Mettendorf,  Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, on 25 August 1906, the third and youngest child of Johann WILDINGER and Katharina PÖPPELREITER.[1],[2]

Nicolas ca. 1909

When Nicolas was 8 years old times were getting harder and harder for his father Johann, a builder. In July 1914 the family moved to Echternach and Johann found a job as a builder in Wasserbillig.

1909 Birth Record No. 41 [3]
Maria Marcelle FOURNELLE was born at 7 o’clock in the morning on the 17 June 1909 in the house called Mühlenacht (Millenoacht in Luxembourgish) in Echternach. Her father Johann Joseph FOURNELLE, 38, a rose breeder (Rosenzuchter), was the informant for the birth of the child born to his wife Catharina FRANTZ, 36 and without an occupation. Peter STEINMETZ and Mathias PRIM were witnesses and Rudolf BRIMMEYR was the mayor and official who recorded the birth.

Marcelle ca. 1917

 Nicolas and Marcelle Become a Couple and Marry

Marcelle and Nicolas in the 1930s.

At 7 o’clock on the evening of 26 July 1935 Mathias SCHAFFNER, the mayor of Echternach, married Nicolas, a plumber (Klempner), and Marcelle, without occupation. Nicolas was 28 and Marcelle was 26. Nicolas’ mother Catharina PÖPPELREITER and Marcelle’s father Johann Joseph FOURNELLE were present and agreeable to the marriage.

Nicolas’ father had been dead 11 years and Marcelle’s mother a little over a year. The marriage banns had been read on Sunday the 7th of July. A marriage contract was signed on the day of the marriage in the presence of the notary Julius REDING in Echternach.

There were no other witnesses present at the marriage and the record was signed by the bride and groom, their parents, and the mayor.

It is interesting to note that Nicolas’ mother signed as Mrs. Wildinger (Frau Wildinger) which is unusual as women in Luxembourg normally sign all legal documents with their maiden name. In the margin, the death of the groom, who predeceased the bride, was recorded. Below this is the official stamp and the date that the copy of this record was obtained from the records office at the city hall.

MRIN01117 1935 Nicolas Wildinger and Maria Marcelle Fournelle marriage 13
1935 Marriage Record No. 13 [4]
As is the case with all bridal couples in Luxembourg, Nicolas and Marcelle were presented with a Family Book.

MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 1 MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 2 MRIN01117 1935 Fournelle-Wildinger Family Book 3The Couple Marry in a Religious Ceremony

1935 Announcement of Marriage sent out by the parents of the bride and groom.

Nicolas and Marcelle’s parents sent out announcements of the religious marriage of their children who were married in the strictest privacy in the St. Willibrod Basilica Echternach the following day. The witnesses were Nicolas’ brother who signed P. WILDINGER and Marcelle’s father who signed J. FOURNELLE. Jean Pierre KAYSER, the priest, made an entry in the couple’s Family Book to show that the religious ceremony had been performed on 27 July 1935 in Echternach.

Marcelle did not take her husband Nicolas’ German nationality when they married. She made a declaration on 20 August 1935 to conserve her Luxembourg nationality. This was published in the Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg No. 48 on 23 June 1936.[5]

Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg No. 48.
Mardi, 23 juin 1936.
Page 612
Relevé des Luxembourgeoises de naissance qui ont fait en 1935 la déclaration pour conserver la nationalité luxembourgeoise.
I . Déclaration prévue par l’art. 24 n° 3 de la loi du 23 avril 1934.
Noms et prénoms: Fournelle Marie-Marcelle, épouse Wildinger, Nicolas
Résidence: Echternach
Lieu et date de naissance: Echternach 17. 6. 1909
Date de la déclaration: 20. 8. 1935

Nicolas and Marcelle Become Parents

Ten months later Nicolas and Marcelle’s only daughter was born. Seen here with her father on the front step of their house (left) and playing with her dog on wheels in front of their house (below).

1938 ca. Nic. Wildinger with daughter Josette
Nicolas with his daughter on the front doorstep of their house.
010 Papa (back) et Josette (front)
Nicolas playing with his daughter (front) and another little girl in front of their house.

Nicolas, Plumber and Tinsmith

Nicolas was a master plumber and had his own business. In the 1930s he worked on the gutter of the hospital in Echternach. Little did he know that by the beginning of the next decade he would be a patient in this hospital and it would be the place of his death.

1930s Nicolas Wildinger far right
Nicolas WILDINGER (far right) working as a tinsmith, fixing the gutter of the hospital in Echternach in the 1930s.
Front view of the “Spidol” or Hospice Civil as it is known today. Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

Nicolas WILDINGER advertised his plumbing (sanitary installations) and tinsmith business on this Sphinx Sanitary Ware ashtray.

MRIN01117 Nicolas Wildinger de Sphinx collage
Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

Marcelle Becomes a Widow

Nicolas, diagnosed with tuberculosis, did not have many years to play with his young daughterOn 10 May 1940 German troops marched into and occupied Luxembourg. The Germans insisted on the people of Luxembourg changing their names to the German equivalent of their French-sounding names. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE became Maria Marzella WILDINGER (née FOURNELLE). She signed the death record of her husband Nicolas with this name when she reported his death on 25 October 1941. Nicolas died at 9:40 on the evening of the 24th of October in the Bürgerhospital at Oberhoveleck 2, in Echternach. The civil servant who filled out the death record knew (as noted on the record) Marcelle who said that she was present at the time of her husband’s death. Also seen on the record is the date of marriage of the deceased as well as the number and location of the marriage record. This was cross-referenced in the margin of the marriage record as seen above.

MRIN01117 1941 Nicolas Wildinger death
1941 Death Record No. 49 [6]

Life Continues in German Occupied Luxembourg

Amulette from WWII 1 front
Spéngelskrich or “War of the Pins” amulet

As mentioned earlier, German troops marched into and occupied Luxembourg on 10 May 1940. Nicolas’ widow Marcelle would have been a wonderful subject for last week’s theme – a tough woman. I wrote a short piece on her last year: Fearless Females: Bomi’s Resistance Amulette. This was one of the most interesting times during her life. Please take a few minutes to read more about my grandmother and her Spéngelskrich amulet.

In memory of the evacuation of the city of Echternach on 6 October 1944. Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

On 6 October 1944, the Germans occupying Echternach announced that the people of Echternach must leave the town at 11:00 in the morning. Everyone was to take the same route towards Osweiler where they were met by American soldiers waiting to move into Echternach. The people of Echternach continued their journey on foot pulling wagons with their belongings or in wagons pulled by horses to Bech. Marcelle WILDINGER-FOURNELLE was traveling with her 8 years old daughter and her 73 years old father Joseph FOURNELLE. They remained in Bech a week or two. From there, families moved on to places where they had relatives or friends in other parts of Luxembourg. Marcelle, her daughter, and her father were in Helmdange for a short period of time and then joined a family who had relatives in the Lorentzweiler area.

Echternach in Ruins But No Longer Occupied by Germans

“During the Battle of the Bulge Dec. 1944 this place was heroically defended by soldiers of E-Comp. 12th Regt. 4th U.S. Inf. Div. Their sacrifice delayed the enemy advance and contributed to the final victory we shall remember.” Photo used with permission © Egon Meder.

They stayed in Lorentzweiler until May of 1945 when they returned to Echternach, a town that lay in ruins. The living room of Marcelle’s home became a reading room for the American officer in Echternach. Diagonally across the street is a plaque commemorating the soldiers.

May 20th was Pentecost and on May 22nd, the following Tuesday, the famous annual religious procession through the streets of Echternach took place. The basilica had been destroyed by the Germans on the 26th of December 1944 so the procession ended in the Peter and Paul Church (alten Pfarrkirche). Marcelle’s daughter and the other children her age had missed making their First Communion on the Sunday after Easter as they had not yet returned to Echternach on the 8th of April. They had to wait until 22 July 1945 to receive the sacrament in the Peter and Paul Church instead of in the basilica which had to be rebuilt. The rebuilding was finally finished on 20 September 1953.

Marcelle, Works as a Seamstress and Runs a B & B

Marcelle with her daughter, ca. 1942.

Life continued after the war. Marcelle worked from home as a seamstress. Later she supplemented her tiny income by taking in tourists. When her husband was still living he had installed sinks in every one of the 6 bedrooms in the house. She would serve breakfast in the living room that had once served as a meeting place for neighbors during the German occupation and later as the reading room for the American officers.

In  1957 her daughter married an American G.I. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY stationed at Bitburg A.F.B. in Germany. Marcelle had only her elderly father living with her when the young couple moved to the United States. Although she was only 31 years old at the time of her husband’s death she had never remarried. In 1958, a month after the birth of her first grandchild, her father died. She saw her daughter only when her son-in-law was stationed in Europe.

1975-01-21 Granddaddy, Grandma, Mom, Bomi
Fred and Myrtle DEMPSEY, the day after their 52nd wedding anniversary, with Marcelle FOURNELLE and her daughter at the construction site of the New River Bridge in West Virginia.

Marcelle made one trip to America to visit her recently widowed daughter and her son-in-law’s parents, Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY and Myrtle Hazel ROOP. Her daughter returned to Echternach with her children to be near her mother that year.

1971-05-020 Luxembourg
Marcelle Fournelle in 1971.

Twenty-five Lost Years

And this is where the story becomes difficult and maybe biased as it is from my point of view. Marcelle, my Bomi, had become a very independent woman and had always been set in her ways. It was not easy for her to have her widowed daughter and five children in her home. And it was not easy for her daughter and her children to live with a woman who was used to getting her own way. Although there was plenty of room in the house her daughter made the decision to move into a home of her own.

Bomi cut ties between us, my mother and I, because we had met men we were interested in. I wonder if she may have regretted never having remarried. Bomi, my grandmother and godmother, was a very stubborn woman. My mother and I had no contact with her for 25 years. And we married the men who were indirectly the reason for her refusing to speak to us.

One of my brothers, who had remained in contact with Bomi, was in the military and stationed in Germany in the late 1990s. When he knew that he was to be transferred Stateside he sat down with Bomi. He explained that since she was now over 90 she would have to forget her pride and, after he left, accept help from her daughter and grandchildren who lived in Echternach. She loved him dearly, her favorite grandchild. She said that she would if her daughter would.

Making Up For Lost Time

On Thursdays, my mother and I met at the supermarket while doing our shopping. One day Bomi was with her. I came in through the back, they came in through the front, and we met inside. I had been expecting this meeting and my heart was pounding. And what does she say to me after 25 years? “Cathy, I see you won the supermarket contest, 121 bottles of wine. Congratulations!”

What? She had seen a sign in the supermarket with a list of winners when they came in. I had no idea that I had won but it broke the ice. We would meet like this every Thursday, sometimes going back to her house for a few minutes.

Christmas Eve 2001
Christmas Eve 2001

But she did not come to our house until my husband got up the courage to visit her on his own. And he did a good job of pulling her into a plot – removing most of the animosity between them. She loved playing jokes on people. They plotted on surprising us, my Mom and I, by Bomi’s coming to dinner on Christmas Eve at our house. It worked and I believe my husband earned her respect, the respect she should have shown him when they first met.

My children got to know their great-grandmother who they called Bomi-Bomi since my mother was already their Bomi. They loved listening to her tell the stories from the “old days.”

In 2004 Bomi was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. When she had to be hospitalized the headstrong woman did not make it easy for the nurses caring for her. As she needed full-time care she was put on the waiting list of the nursing home  “Am Schleeschen” in Echternach. It is interesting to note how the home got its name – since it is part of her past. During World War II when the Germans occupied Echternach they had their offices in the old building of the present complex. Christian Stock who performed the duties of mayor (Amtsbürgermeister) proudly said “Das ist mein Schlösschen” or This is my castle.” This reminded me of a story Bomi told us. One night she helped three men hang the Luxembourgish flag on the gates of Stock’s Schlösschen during the German occupation – a grave offense if they had been caught. She would never divulge the men’s names even after they had all passed away.

Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE died in her sleep on 24 January 2005 in the nursing home “Am Schleeschen” in Echternach, where she had been a resident for only a few days, at the age of 95 years, 7 months, 10 days.

MRIN01117 Fournelle grave
FOURNELLE family grave
MRIN01117 Wildinger grave
WILDINGER family grave









[1] 1935 Marriage Record No. 13, photocopy of original page in the marriage book at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 21 Jun 1996.
[2] Commune d’Echternach Nr. 13/1935, Wildinger-Fournelle Family Book. This is an official document given to the bride and groom at the time of their civil marriage. It is used to record births, christenings, and deaths of children as well as the death of one or the other spouse. Scanned copy of the original, in possession of their daughter.
[3] Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1793-1923 (images), FamilySearch, Echternach > Naissances 1903-1923 Mariages 1895-1905 > image 176 of 604. “1909 Birth Record No. 41.” ( : accessed 15 January 2015), (original records at Luxembourg National Archives, Plateau du Saint-Esprit, Luxembourg).
[4] 1935 Marriage Record No. 13, photocopy of original page in the marriage book at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 21 Jun 1996.
[5] Mémorial du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, No. 48, pg. 260, 23 June 1936. Online : accessed 23 Jan 2015.
[6] 1941 Death Record No. 49, photocopy of original page in the death register at the records office at the city hall in Echternach obtained 10 July 1996.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE
Parents: Jean Joseph FOURNELLE and Catharina FRANTZ
Spouse: Nicolas WILDINGER
Parents of spouse: Johann WILDINGER and Katharina Pöppelreiter
Children: Living (one)
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: Maternal Grandmother

1. Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE
2. Mom
3. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.

52 Ancestors: #1 The MEDER-KREMER Family (1926-1996)

Week 1, Fresh startSeems appropriate for the beginning of the year. What ancestor had a fresh start? What ancestor has been so confusing to research that you’d like to have a fresh start?

I had all my families picked and scheduled for the entire year before the themes were announced for the first five weeks. The proposed theme for Week #1 is Start fresh. That definitely works for me. I’m starting fresh with my husband’s parents. I got out an old box of photos and notebooks that haven’t been looked through since I packed them away and went digital. This is going to help me get a fresh start on scanning the things that have been neglected.

The MEDER-KREMER Family (1926-1996)

MRIN04646 Maisy and Marcel Meder-Kremer
Maisy and Marcel Meder-Kremer

MRIN04646 1935 ca. Marcel Meder communionMarcel MEDER was born on 26 September 1926 in Diekirch, the son of Jean-Pierre MEDER and Catherine SCHWARTZ. He had one older brother. He was baptized on 10 October 1926 in Diekirch.[1] At left is a photo of him from his First Communion. I have no record of when this took place however this sacrament is typically received between the ages of seven and nine. He was confirmed about 1938 in Diekirch. Children are confirmed around the age of 12 years in Luxembourg. The date of confirmation is not listed on the baptismal certificate obtained for his religious marriage but it was noted that he was confirmed.

MRIN04646 1940 ca. Maisy Kremer communionMarie Françoise KREMER, also known as Maisy, was born on 29 August 1931 in Rumelange, the daughter of Franz KREMER and Susanne PEFFER. She had one younger brother. Maisy was baptized on 13 September 1931 in Rumelange.[2] At left is a photo of her from her First Communion, most likely ca. 1940. She was confirmed on 29 August 1943 in Diekirch. Maisy claimed that she was a twin and that her brother died at birth. I spoke with the records office in Rumelange and they could not find any record of a birth, stillbirth, or death of a child born at the time that Maisy was born. It is very unlikely that Maisy’s mother gave birth in two places.

MRIN04646 1943 ca. Marcel MederDuring World War II when the German army occupied Luxembourg Marcel was still going to school and wanted to become a teacher. The young people who were not yet of age to join the army were required to join the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth). At first this was voluntary but later it was forced. Those who did not join were not allowed to continue in school or start an apprenticeship. Marcel refused to join, was kicked out of school, and forced to work for a German farmer. He kept all the correspondence that went on between him and the German authorities and his Wehrpass (service book). These will be featured in a later blogpost.

MRIN04646 1948 ca. Marcel Meder in militaryBy the time that World War II was over Marcel was too old or no longer wanted to go back to school. He worked for a while for a farmer in Bettendorf (above) before joining the Luxembourgish army. At right he is the middle soldier in the front row.

MRIN04646 1950 ca. Maisy KremerWhile Marcel was working  in Bettendorf he met and fell in love with Maisy who lived in the neighboring village. While he was doing his military service they saw each other only on Sundays. To make the time between their meetings shorter they would send each other cards and short notes. January 16th is St. Marcel’s day and in 1950 Maisy sent Marcel a card wishing him a Happy Name Day.

After finishing his military service Marcel began working for the post office. In the meantime Marcel and Maisy continued to see each other until they set a date for their marriage.

The civil marriage ceremony was performed on Friday, 6 June 1952 by Pierre Straus, mayor of the commune of Bettendorf, in the canton of Diekirch, in the district of Diekirch, in the Grand Duché of Luxembourg. A commune is the basic administrative division in Luxembourg. Within the hierarchy of administrative subdivisions, communes come directly below cantons, which are in turn directly below districts. Similar to town, county, state in the United States.

Following the ceremony the couple was presented with a Family Book which they were required to present to the records office when a child was born or when either of the spouses died. Ten children could be entered in the book that Maisy and Marcel received.

MRIN04646 1952-06-02 Marcel Meder and Maisy Kremer family book 1MRIN04646 1952-06-02 Marcel Meder and Maisy Kremer family book 2




The book number (7) is also the number of the record in the marriage register of the town. This register is so large that I was not able to scan the photocopy they made for me at the records office with my printer/scanner. I will have to work on “knitting” two scans together or may have to try getting a good photograph of the sheet. Marriage records for Luxembourg are online at FamilySearch however the cut off year is presently 1923 for Bettendorf.

The religious marriage ceremony was performed Saturday, 7 June 1952 in the church of Moestroff, part of the commune of Bettendorf.[3]

MRIN04646 1952-06-02 Marcel Meder and Maisy Kremer wedding 1MRIN04646 1952-06-02 Marcel Meder and Maisy Kremer wedding 2


The Wedding Portrait

MRIN04646 1952-06-02 Marcel Meder and Maisy Kremer weddingMarried Life

MRIN04646 1952-06-10 Maisy Kremer at homeMarcel was a resident of Diekirch from the time of his birth until his marriage in 1952, except for the time that he was forced to work for the Germans and lived on a farm in Germany. Maisy who had been born in Rumelange when her father was working there, lived most of her life in Moestroff. From 7 June 1952 until 16 October 1953 Marcel and Maisy lived in Moestroff in the home of the bride’s  parents.

At left Maisy is seen in the upstairs bedroom window of her parents’ home. The home was very small and living conditions were a bit difficult for the young married couple.

MRIN04646 1954 ca. Marcel Meder at work in EchternachOn 14 October 1953 Marcel and Maisy moved from her parents’ home in Moestroff to Echternach where Marcel worked for the post office (Employé des postes et télécommunications) first as a telephone operator (front left) and then as a mailman (below). He rode a motorcycle on his route through the neighboring villages of Osweiler, Dickweiler, Girst and the farms in between until, for health reasons, he put in a request for a car.

MRIN04646 1960 ca. Marcel Meder

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. ~ inscription found on the General Post Office in New York City at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street.[4]

Marcel and Maisy lived in an apartment for a short time before renting a house. They rented out a spare bedroom during the tourist season, a common practice during those days. The tourist season in Echternach begins when tourists and pilgrims come to watch or participate in the dancing procession on the Tuesday after Pentecost. This hopping procession of Echternach was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

MRIN04646 1956 Maisy Meder-Kremer with her son and godparents
Maisy with her son and his godparents, her mother-in-law and her father.

Marcel and Maisy’s first child, a son, was born in 1956. Nine years later, when they had nearly given up hope of having another child, a daughter was born. Both births are recorded in the Family Book that they received when they married. Also recorded were the baptisms and first vaccinations of the children.

Finally in 1970 Marcel and Maisy were able to buy a home, two doors away from the place they had rented and kept fixed up for a decade and a half believing that the owner would sell to them.

Marcel enjoyed working in the garden and fixing things around the house. He loved to play ninepin bowling with his colleagues from work who nicknamed him Max. Maisy worked part time at the local supermarket and delighted in cooking Luxembourgish specialities on holidays for guests. When at home she would always wear an apron, a dress-length sleeveless smock buttoned down the front with pockets. She canned the produce from their garden, put up sauerkraut, made jams and jellies storing them in the basement along the potatoes from their garden which were kept in a special bin.

In 1977 Maisy was especially proud of having lost a lot of weight over a year’s time and it wasn’t hard to get her to pose for a picture on their Silver Wedding Anniversary.

MRIN04646 1977 Marcel and Maisy Meder-Kremer 35th anniversary
In 1977 Maisy and Marcel celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary.

MRIN04646 1952-06-02 Marcel Meder and Maisy Kremer family book 3Maisy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984 while I was expecting her first grandchild. A loving grandmother to her grandson, she was given a clean bill of health early in the year of 1986. Later in the year when I was expecting her second grandchild she began having back pain. Her house doctor prescribed this and that but did not consider her medical history. Finally after being rushed by ambulance to the hospital for a second time, the family was told that the cancer had spread to her liver and there was no hope for recovery. She died on 31 August 1986 in Luxembourg City. Marcel once again took out the Family Book that they had received when they married and had her death recorded on the second page (left).

Marcel did not take her death very well. He had been retired only a short time. They had hopes of travelling, something they had never had time or money to do. Marcel had to learn to do all the things that his wife had taken care of all the years that he worked. Washing, ironing, cleaning, and cooking. He even learned to make the liver pâté that his wife had always made. He had often helped Maisy grind the bacon, meat and liver, cut the shallots, and chop parsley but no written recipe was left, so he tweaked it until it tasted like hers.

In the beginning I would visit him everyday with the children until we established a ritual of his coming by with the daily newspaper. He would stay about a half hour, talking and playing with the grandchildren. As they became older they would run next door to visit with their Bopa or he would watch them playing in front of the house from his living room window.

When I began researching our family history in 1995 my father-in-law Marcel was the one who helped me read the old handwriting in the documents that I obtained from the records offices I visited in different towns in Luxembourg. He liked seeing the old handwriting since it reminded him of the days when he would deliver letters that had been written by an older person in the old handwriting. Marcel had his parents’ Family Book and showed it to me one day. The genealogist in me noticed that the first child was born when the couple was married only eight months. The first thing he said was that must be a mistake. So I asked him when his brother’s birthday was and we saw that it was correct in the book. He shrugged his shoulders and went on to another subject.

Nearly ten years after the death of his wife, Marcel was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach in May 1996. He had his stomach removed and learned to consume small portions of the foods that he was allowed to eat. He appeared well and was positive about the treatment he had just started. One Sunday morning 4 August 1996 his shutters remained closed longer than usual and his son found him dead in his bed of heart failure.

Although I knew Maisy ten years and Marcel twenty years I don’t have the memories of them that their children do. The pictures and the records should make up for what I don’t know but there were no photo albums with memories of the years before I met them, only a box of miscellaneous photos that weren’t dated or labelled.

[1] Extractume Libro Baptizatorum, Ecclesia Parochialis Diekirch, Diocesis Luxemburgensis; Certificate of baptism with addendum concerning the sacrament of confirmation; the date of confirmation was not listed on this certificate obtained for the religious marriage.
[2] Extractum e Libro Baptizatorum, Ecclesia Parochialis Rümelingen, Diocesis Luxemburgensis; Certificate of baptism with addendum concerning confirmation, (baptismal records of the church of Rumelange)
[3] Commune de Bettendorf Nr. 7/1952, Meder-Kremer Family Book, This is an official document given to the bride and groom at the time of their civil marriage. It is used to record births, christenings, and deaths of children as well as the death of one or the other spouse.

© 2015 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

52ancestors-2015This is my weekly entry for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge:
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. It was so successful in 2014 that genealogists wanted to continue or join in on the fun in 2015. Be sure to check out the other great posts by visiting Amy’s blog No Story Too Small where she’ll be posting the weekly recap on Thurdays and allowing all participants to leave a link to their post(s) in the comments.

The World War II Exploits of Eugene N. DEMPSEY

Gene was my 1st cousin once removed. We may have also been 5th cousins once removed, sharing Susannah [–?–] DEMPSEY as an ancestor. Susannah’s husband, whoever he may have been, is not the DEMPSEY who passed his surname on to both Gene and me. I’ll leave it at that as it’s another story for another day.

Eugene Noble DEMPSEY, 86, of Ansted, passed away Friday, May 11, 2001, at Hidden Valley Nursing Home in Oak Hill, Fayette County, West Virginia. Gene, as he was known by his family and friends, was born August 23, 1914, in Ansted, and was the son of the late Oscar and Fannie NOBLE DEMPSEY. He was a retired electrician from Alloy Union Carbide, a member of Ansted Masonic Lodge, VFW of Fayetteville, American Legion of Fayetteville, CCC Alumni, and Hopewell Baptist Church of Hopewell.

On January 8, 2001, four months before his death, Gene wrote me a letter giving his permission to use his World War II story on my now obsolete website. On the 13th anniversary of his death I would like to once again share his memories of this world war.

The World War II Exploits of Eugene N. DEMPSEY

By Eugene N. Dempsey

The notice containing the “Greetings” from the White Bearded Uncle came to EUGENE NOBLE DEMPSEY in December 1943. After completing his physical examination at Huntington, West Virginia, he was inducted into the U.S. Army in that same month. Following induction Gene was granted a three week furlough for the purpose of placing his personal and business affairs in order before being sent to Fort Thomas, Kentucky for processing, classification and assignment to a military unit.

In the processing for the military service stage, numerous papers were filled out where such questions concerning the individual’s education, previous military service, work experience, and special skills were required to be answered. Although Gene had previous service in the Infantry branch of the U.S. Army (1933-36), he avoided reassignment to this combat arm because of one seemingly innocent question he answered on his personnel questionnaire regarding his work experience. Here he indicated that he had worked for a short time as a brakeman on an electric motor propelled train which moves coal cars in and about the coal mine. Since at this very moment in time the U.S. Army was in the process of organizing railway operating battalions to be assigned to the newly created Transportation Corps, classification officers had been alerted and directed to assign any newly inducted personnel with experience on railroads to these units. The Transportation Corps is that branch of the Army that is assigned the responsibility for the movement of personnel and materiel over land, sea and in the air. During World War II, this was to and from the European, African, Middle East theater of operations as well as the far flung bases and battlefields of the Pacific.

In January 1944, following five days of classification and processing at Fort Thomas, Kentucky, Eugene N. Dempsey was sent to Camp Plusha, New Orleans, Louisiana. He spent three weeks there in basic training before he and several others were moved to an abandoned U.S. Army Air Force Base on Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans where they continued basic training for three more weeks. In February 1944, after they had completed their SIX weeks of basic training, the group was given a farewell party and dance on the campus of Tulane University in New Orleans before being reassigned to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for seventeen weeks of technical training on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Gene was assigned to the Alexander to Monroe, Louisiana Division of the Missouri Pacific where he trained under the regular civilian train crew to be a railway brakeman.

About the middle of June 1944, Gene Dempsey completed his seventeen weeks of on-the-job training as a brakeman on the Missouri Pacific Railroad and was reassigned to Camp Reynolds, Pennsylvania. He was given a seventeen (17) day delay en route before he was to report to his new station on 17 July 1944. After spending several days at Camp Reynolds, Gene and his contingent were moved by troop train via Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany down the Hudson River to West Point. Then they moved on to Camp Shanks near New York City, the Port of Embarkment for Europe, where they arrived on 22 July 1944. On this day Gene and his contingent became part of a larger group of 15,000 military personnel who boarded the British ship QUEEN MARY in New York harbor from which they departed for the United Kingdom on 23 July 1944. To hopefully avoid German submarines who were prowling the waters of the North Atlantic, the QUEEN MARY with Eugene N. Dempsey and its cargo of other soldiers proceeded to take a zigzag course across the Atlantic. Five (5) days later, on 28 July 1944, the majestic Queen arrived at Glasgow, Scotland.

On the evening of 29 July 1944, Gene Dempsey and his railway buddies left Scotland on a British troop train. They rode through the night in complete darkness, the use of lights of any kind only being an invitation to the German Luftwaffe to bomb and strafe the moving train. (Gott strafe England – God punish England, German propaganda slogan during World War I.) On a cold and rainy morning, they arrived at Doddington Park near Liverpool, England on 30 July 1944. Gene, along with the other military railway unassigned replacements, remained at Doddington Park until 4 September 1944 before being moved to Delmar Park, England. There they remained for only eight (8) days before being stationed at Tidworth Barracks a permanent British Army Base about ninety (90) kilometers south of London. Also stationed here was the 9th U.S. Armored Division and many other military units. On 4 December 1944, Eugene N. Dempsey and other replacements departed for Southampton, England where they were to cross the choppy waters of the English Channel on a L.S.T. arriving in Le Havre, France on 6 December 1944. In Le Havre Gene was to lose his duffel bag which, after thirty-eight (38) years, is still missing and has now been dropped from an AWOL status to that of a deserter.

On 9 December 1944, Eugene Dempsey and several other railway replacements were moved to Ballan Court, near Paris, France, where they remained for eighteen (18) days and where they observed a Christmas that was everything but the usually delightful holidays spent in the States. Many of the replacements, including Gene, were overcome with a bad case of diarrhea. This is an extremely dreadful and distressing malady when one must hike through deep snow to the nearest Straddle Trench, which serves as an outhouse when the army is in the field. At that time, the Labor Unions were not strong enough to require that the U.S. Army provide “Comfort Stations” for their troops in the field. It should be remembered that under these conditions certain tender extremities which are exposed to a low chill factor only add to the pathetic predicament. Even under these unpleasant circumstances, soldier Dempsey was able to mail a box of souvenirs back to West Virginia. Included in this parcel post package was a German steel helmet, which Gene still has.

During December of 1944, the front line combat units were fighting the fierce and bloody Battle of the Bulge (and Cousin Eli Dews was up there with his men pinned down by the grazing fire of the enemy guns). Everyone, including the support units of the Army, was somewhat jittery because the German Army had cracked the lines of the Allies and were rapidly moving toward the English Channel. Under these extremely explosive and unstable conditions, Gene and his group of replacements departed Ballan Court on 27 December 1944. The following day they arrived at Compiègne where the World War I Armistice was signed in a railroad car on 11 November 1918. It was also where Hitler, in June of 1940, added to the humiliation of France by requiring their leaders to meet with him and sign a treaty with Germany during World War II. Here on 28 December 1944 Gene Dempsey’s group was to spend a bitter cold night in tents pitched on a race tract for purebred horses. The following day, 30 December 1944, Gene and his group of replacements were moved by army trucks to Noyon, France a small town several miles northeast of Compiègne. Here Gene and his comrades enjoyed a bath at a public bath house. Here also, Gene Dempsey committed a dishonorable theft when he removed a light bulb from a French Post Office while his buddies engaged the sweet young Postmistress in a conversation of pigeon French. Gene rationalized this shameful act by calling it a “requisition” since the light bulb was removed, he said, from one French government building to another building owned by the same government, that is from the Post Office to the French Army Barracks where they were temporarily quartered.

On 7 January 1945 Eugene Dempsey along with other replacements were moved from Noyon, France to Aulnoye, France where they were assigned to the 716th Railway Operating Battalion. This Battalion was then under strength because several of its members, including the Battalion Commander, were charged and court-martialed with selling to French civilians materials and supplies they were transporting to the troops fighting on the front line. After spending about twenty (20) days at Aulnoye, Gene and his entire Battalion was ordered to Metz, France, where they were quartered in French railway box cars. It was here in Metz that Gene learned of the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he heard a French newsboy cry out the headline on his newspaper “ROOSEVELT EST MORT.” With Metz as their home base, Gene along with other members of the 716th Railway Operating Battalion were sent out in groups on detached service and at this time Gene found himself working in a railroad yard in Maubeuge, France, for several weeks. Nearly every morning while at Maubeuge, Gene observed the heavy bombers of the 8th U.S. Air Force in formations which included several hundreds of planes, along with their fighter escorts, passing over on their way to destroy military targets in Germany.

On or about 10 April 1945 Gene was transferred to Thionville, France, which is located on the Moselle River near the border between France and Germany. The Germans called the town Diedenhofen. It was from here that Gene Dempsey rode a street car to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg, where he bought an ice cream cone – the very first ice cream that he had in over two (2) years.

On 5 May 1945, the day of the German surrender and the end of World War II in Europe – Gene left France with his railroad unit. They headed for Kornwestheim a small town northeast of Stuttgart, Germany, where they arrived on 10 May 1945. In this town there was a large shoe factory (Salimander) where Gene traded a package of Lucky Strike cigarettes for a pair of brown slippers. Gene and his train crew continued to use railway boxcars as their living quarters when they crossed the Rhine River near Mannheim, Germany, where they spent seven days before moving on to Esslingen, Germany, on 17 May 1945 where they moved from their boxcars and commenced to live in buildings. For the next fourteen weeks they were quartered in a schoolhouse in Esslingen which is a city of about 50,000 located about ten miles southeast of Stuttgart, a city of about 700,000. The 100th Infantry Division was also stationed in and about Esslingen at this same time. The 716th Railway Operating Battalion to which Eugene N. Dempsey was assigned operated the electric railway from Stuttgart to Augsberg, Germany, a distance of about 110 miles. It was on one of these runs that “One” Dempsey almost made contact with his cousin, Captain Eli “One” Dews who was a rifle company commander with the 44th Infantry Division. The train on which Gene and his crew were operating had made an emergency stop and was blocking the highway over which elements of the 44th Infantry Division were traveling. They were on their way to France in preparation for being re-deployed through the States before being assigned to the Pacific Theater of Operations to continue the fight against the Japanese. Gene was unable to contact his “Cuz” because Eli was still in Ulm, Germany, a city that his Infantry Regiment captured during the fighting.

It was while the 716th Railway Operating Battalion was stationed in Esslingen that they commenced the project of turning the operations of the German railroads back to their German owners and very shortly Eugene Dempsey found himself driving trucks for the Transportation Corps instead or operating railway trains. The war with Japan ended in August 1945 and it was here in Esslingen in late September of 1945 that re-deployment started to wreck the 716th Railway Operating Battalion. Based upon length of service combat assignments, campaigns, decorations, dependents and other considerations, an individual soldier was assigned “points”. The soldiers with the lowest number of points were being reassigned to other military units all over Europe while those soldiers with the larger number of points were sent back to the States for separation from the service Since Gene Dempsey was in the low point category, his service with the 716th Railway Operating Battalion ended. He was shipped, along with several of his buddies, to Hannover, Germany by troop train. Here in the British Zone of Military Occupation, they were assigned to the 741st Railway Operating Battalion. It is reported their duty assignment at this station was somewhat of a “cake walk” and that these combat characters spent more time loafing and “fraternizing with Frauleins” than they did performing military assignments. However, all of this good stuff came to a screeching halt on 4 November 1945 when Gene and others in his train crew departed Hannover, Germany, for duty assignments at Kassel, Germany. They remained in this city of about 130,000 located approximately 100 miles south of Hannover until 23 November 1945 when they were released from assignment with the 741st Railway Operating Battalion. They were then assigned to the 817th Tank Destroyer Battalion at Fürth, Germany, the town where Henry Kissinger was born. Since Fürth is practically an eastern suburb of Nürnberg, Gene had occasion to be near the Palace of Justice where the Nuremberg Trials of war criminals were taking place.

Eugene Dempsey spent his second Christmas in Europe in the city of Fürth, Germany, and it was here on 18 December 1945 that he had to say farewell to several of his old army buddies. John Shay of Falls River, Massachusetts, who in 1948 supplied him with most of the dates and places used in the preparation of this “after action” report was one of these old army buddies. Since most of his railway buddies were being re-deployed and Gene was left almost alone in strange surroundings he became homesick, dispirited, depressed and extremely melancholic and felt that he needed to do something very soon to overcome this undesirable condition that entered his young life. A solution – take a furlough to England where he at least could be among people who spoke a language he could understand better than he did French and German. Since he felt that he would be re-deployed to the States in the very near future he would be even more depressed if he was in England and “missed the boat” which might return him to the nearest port on the Atlantic coastline of the United States. Gene solicited and received assurances from his first sergeant that there was no possibilities that he would be scheduled for Stateside transportation for several months. Consequently, Gene accepted the 10-day furlough in the United Kingdom which also authorized “necessary travel time.” What a trip!! At 11:59 PM or at 2359 hours on 31 December 1945 he boarded a train in Nürnberg railway station. About daybreak the following morning his train stopped in Strasbourg, France, for breakfast and in the afternoon of 1 January 1946 Gene Dempsey was in Paris, France. Since he had almost unlimited travel time and because things looked VERY interesting in “Gay Parree” ONE decided that there was no great need to hurry on to England. Although there are no witnesses, reportedly he went on a conducted tour of the city where he visited Napoleon’s tomb, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Palais Royal, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Sorbonne and other educational, artistic and cultural works. One reason to wonder about some of these reported uplifts in refinement of this soldier’s party received in Paris is hazy because seven days of the diary is missing and is believed to have been lost at Place Pigalle. Anyway, Gene left Paris and continued on his journey to the United Kingdom on 7 January 1946 only to arrive at Le Havre, France (Camp Lucky Strike) and find that because of rough seas in the Channel there would be no boat train to England for several days. After three days Gene volunteered to ride in the back of an army truck 50 miles up the coast to Dieppe where crossings to England had not been interrupted even though the seas were high. Along with a large number of military personnel Gene boarded a boat for the 67-mile crossing to Newhaven, England and a few hours later a boat load of sea sick soldiers were met by a train which took them to Waterloo Station in London in 30 minutes. From the train station Gene took the subway to the Columbia Hotel and here he was indeed surprised to meet Forrest Scales a fellow worker at the Alloy Plant in Fayette County, West Virginia. Forrest was the very first person with whom he had worked that he had met since he left there when inducted in the army in December 1943. Gene and Forrest reportedly spent the 10-days together and London, England, has never been the same.

On 16 January 1946 Eugene N. Dempsey left London and headed back toward Germany. As he felt he had not received enough culture in Paris while on his way to England, he decided to make another extended visit on the return to soak up more of the esthetic and intellectual excellence of this refined civilization. The exact number of days he devoted to this chore is not known because in Place Pigalle time stands still. Reportedly this, by now, “soldier of fortune seeker” that some would characterize as a “soldier of fun seeker” also spent a few days at his old stomping ground and watering holes in Esslingen, Germany on his return trip. Although written records of these events have been lost or deliberately destroyed, military history will record that he did not return to his unit until 28 January 1946 and his first sergeant was surprised to see him back so soon.

On 10 February 1946, One Dempsey, the nomadic vagabond soldier, was transferred to the 379th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion stationed at Hann Münden, Germany. Here, appropriately, he was assigned to the motor pool as a driver of various purpose army vehicles. This detail as a gasoline cowboy was much preferred over that as a guard on railway supply trains operating from the American Sector of Occupation to the city of Berlin, Germany, which was also being offered as a choice duty assignment. While here Gene was assigned as the driver for a Captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, an Irish national who had never been in the United States. It was while driving for this medical officer that the otherwise unblemished military record of Eugene Dempsey was almost marred, tainted, blemished and tarnished beyond all recognition. One night while they were in Bremen, Germany, this usually circumspect soldier decided to go to a movie – probably a cover story – and placed the army vehicle for which he was responsible for protecting in an unguarded parking lot. Several hours later this red faced soldier returned to find that his vehicle had been stolen – not an unusual happening. The missing vehicle was reported to the military police, the CID and several other military and civilian law enforcement and criminal-investigating agencies but it was never located. Negligence on the part of the custodian-driver of an army vehicle can subject the guilty party to court-martial and could result in his being required to reimburse the Federal government for the depreciated value of the vehicle. This was one hell of an unpleasant predicament for a “lonely” soldier whose primary goal at this point in time was to he assigned to a unit which was scheduled to return to the States for demobilization. After several lengthy investigations and the intervention of several high-ranking officers, Gene was absolved of blame for the lost army vehicle.

It was in March of 1946 that Gene was transferred to the large seaport city of Bremerhaven, Germany, located on the North Sea. Here he was to make contact with the first group of U.S. Marines that he saw during all his travels in Europe. The detail of Marines were guarding the German Liner EUROPA which was anchored in the harbor at Bremerhaven. In addition, it was here on 1 April 1946 – April Fools Day – that One Dempsey received the information for which he had long been waiting. His name had been placed on the roster of those to be returned to the United States and he was placed in the re-deployment pipeline. This pipe line processing can be long and hazardous and often subject to much chaos, commotion, pandemonium, confusion, disorder, disarray and general snafu. Along with a group of others scheduled to return to the States, Gene boarded the boxcars of a troop train and after traveling day and night they arrived in the city of Mannheim on the Rhine River in Southern Germany. Here they were assigned quarters in a tent camp and in order to get to the Post Exchange for “rations” they needed to ride a street car to Heidelberg, Germany located several miles to the southeast. Monotony can become intense when one has nothing to do but lie in the springtime sun for three weeks and that was the occupation which Gene and his fellow re-deployees were doing in Mannheim, Germany during the greater part of April 1946. But, the good news came: “board the box cars boys” and be on your way back to Bremerhaven, Germany on the North Sea was the order which the First Sergeant barked out. Boarding the troop train and riding day and night the rag-tag group arrived at their northern destination where they were moved to a German Luftwaffen hanger which served as their sleeping quarters while waiting ship passage to the States. After about two days here Gene and about 1,500 other soldiers were placed aboard the Victory ship ALHAMBRA for the westward voyage across the Atlantic. They sailed out of the North Sea and into the English Channel where they passed the white Cliffs of Dover before nightfall on the first day of a 10-day trip back to the United States. On the morning of the 10th day the greatest thrill of a lifetime was experienced when they sighted the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. An unexpected but very moving and touching ceremony was given the troops on the Alhambra Victory before they docked at the 84th Street Pier at 11:00 A.M. on 2 May 1946. They were met near the entrance of the harbor by several tug and fire fighting boats which were spraying water in all directions and every ship and boat in the harbor began to sound their horns. As the troops came down the gangplank a band was playing “I Love You Truly”. Another touching scene was to witness a few returning soldiers drop to their knees at the end of the gangplank and kiss the soil of the good old U.S.A.

From New York the returning contingent was loaded aboard a train for the short ride to Fort Kilmer, New Jersey where they were served a meal of T-bone steaks with all the trimmings. The table waiters at Kilmer were German prisoners of war, which had been captured in North Africa and parts of Europe. After two days at Port Kilmer Gene was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland for processing and discharge after over two and one half years of Wartime service nearly 90% of which was spent overseas. For control and administrative purposes Gene was attached to an Ordnance Battalion for the return trip to the States and he was a little apprehensive that this unit might show on his discharge as his “Wartime” assignment. It did not however and his discharge from the service that he received on 6 May 1946 shows that he was a member of the 716th Railway Operating Battalion.

Immediately upon receiving his final pay and separation papers at Fort Meade, Maryland, Eugene N. Dempsey caught a bus to the Union Station in Washington, D.C. where he got a ticket on C&O train No.3 to continue his westward journey to Wonderful West Virginia where he arrived on 7 May 1946.

This brief military history made by One Dempsey shows his contribution to keep the World free for Democracy. How free? How long? It seems somewhat doubtful that this War has ever ended because there was a continuation in Korea and Vietnam and now it has spilled over to Afghanistan and Poland, Central America and the Middle East.

February 1982

© Eugene N. Dempsey

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.