Saturday, August 19, 2017

In honor of a young man worthy of remembering

The young man here with a big grin is Gerald Eugene "Gene" Storie, native son of Derby, just 21 when he died  in the line of duty in Germany while in service to his country back in 1945.

His buddy Leonard Supinski's camera didn't quite catch Gene's entire face when the snap was taken and if you look carefully, you'll see why. Someone is standing behind Gene, pinning his arms and forcing him to pose. The grin suggests he really didn't mind --- but resisted a little anyway.

PFC Storie's story is one of considerable poignance --- from beginning to end. I told some of it during October of 2015 in a post entitled Gold Stars and PFC Gerald E. Storie.

I used this photo then, one that can break hearts if you think about it --- so young, so proud, filled with so much potential. The snapshot was taken near the railroad tracks in Derby, maybe by the grandmother who raised him, when  Gene was 19 or 20, not long before he shipped out to the battlefields of Europe. Was the depot nearby? Was he getting ready to board a train that would take him far from home?


I've been thinking quite a bit during the last few days about what those   young men who put their lives on the line during World War II --- and died --- to defeat the Nazi horror would make of Charlottesville and its aftermath,  including America's 21st century reincarnations of a devil these guys knew first-hand.

Up in Brainerd, Minnesota. Jeff Supinski had been digging through a box of World War II memorabilia left behind by his grandfather, Leonard --- including snapshots of many of the young men he served with in Europe.

Among them, was the snapshot of Eugene, partly identified by the note at left on the back: "Storie, driver for truck, drowned while swimming 7/14/45 at Schliersee."

Google turned up that October 2015 Lucas Countyan post about PFC Storie and the connection was made. Jeff very kindly shared scans of the snapshot with me.


Gene's mother, Lucy Hilliard, was only 15 when he was born near Derby. The father was a young man from the neighborhood named Lloyd Storie, at 26 some 11 years her senior. They were not married.

Gene, whose birth was not recorded officially, was born at Derby on May 2, 1924. His biological father,  who otherwise had no role in his life, had married another woman the previous day in Albia and they moved elsewhere.

Lina Hilliard, the baby's grandmother, assumed the role of mother immediately and raised him thereafter --- the only mother he really knew.

Lucy, not too long after Gene's birth, married a farmer in the Weldon neighborhood named Roy Neal, then had four additional children in quick succession. The youngest was only 14 days old when Lucy herself died on Nov. 27, 1935, at the age of 27. Gene was 11 at the time. Three years later, his grandfather, J. Buckson "Buck" Hilliard, died.

Gene continued to make his home with his grandmother and maiden aunts at Derby and graduated from Derby High School with the class of 1942. 

He seems to have moved soon thereafter to the state of Washington where he worked for a time, but was back in Iowa and living at Derby with his grandmother by the summer of 1943 when, on July 13, he enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Dodge. He was called to active duty on August 3 and after more than a year of training and stateside assignments, he was deployed to the European Theater on Oct. 30, 1944.

Assigned to Battery A, 575th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automotive Weapons Battalion, Eugene pushed with his unit during the final Allied offensive into Germany, was promoted to the rank of private first class and no doubt celebrated with his buddies when Germany surrendered.

Then --- on the evening of July 14, 1945, at Schliersee, Germany --- he drowned. I've not been able to find an account of exactly what happened, but the official record states that his death "occurred in the line of duty and was not the result of his own misconduct."

His remains were brought eventually to what is now the Lorraine American Cemetery at St. Avold, France, and interred with those of some 16,000 other Americans lost in the war. But his family was given the option of having his body repatriated to the United States and that mission was accomplished during 1948. 

PFC Gerald E. Storie was re-interred at the Keokuk National Cemetery --- Iowa's only national cemetery --- on Nov. 2, 1948 (Section D, Grave No. 129).

His grandmother lived on until 1960, when she died at the age of 87. His biological father, who contributed nothing to his honorable life other than a surname, died during 1979 in California.

It's our duty to remember Gene and others like him. Their lives of service and sacrifice bring honor to us whether we deserve it or not.


Note: Much of the detail concerning Gene's service --- including the ins and outs of his parentage --- may be found in his Iowa World War II Bonus case file. In order for his grandmother to qualify for the $500 payment offered by the state to beneficiaries, she had to prove that she legally was his next of kin. At the time of Gene's death, no one --- including his second family --- was sure of Lloyd Storie's whereabouts.


John said...

I really enjoy your blog Frank, and look forward to new additions. My uncle was also KIA in WW2 , Wayne Needles. He was from Norwood , and I've often wondered if these kids knew one another . It was such a tragic era .

Jeff supinski said...

Frank, thank you for adding my Grandfather's photo of PFC Storie to this article. My Grandfather would be pleased to have contributed to the memory of a fine young man who sacrificed all for his country.