Big Band Singer Alice Lucille Wydman, a.k.a. “Alice Mann”

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Corning, New York native Alice Lucille Wydman — daughter of Frank Errold and Alice “Allie” (Agett) Wydman — was a well-known professional big band singer of the 1930s, ’40s and early ’50s. She got her break during the depths of the Great Depression when hired as a vocalist by WESG-AM Radio in Elmira.

She then was recruited to join a big band led by William Bissett. A native of St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, he went by “Bissett” in Europe but in the United States used the stage name “Billy Bishop.” She traveled to Toronto’s Royal York Hotel to join Bishop and the band in the summer of 1934 and then made plans to accept an engagement in London. English labor regulations forbade her from performing, so while Billy performed in London’s Savoy Hotel, she toured with Jack Hylton in Paris and Berlin and throughout the European continent. She also toured with Freddy Gardner.

Alice and Billy fell in love in London, were married in Corning in August 1937, and then sailed back to London. Over the next 15 years, they “traveled the world,” said the Elmira (NY) Star Gazette. Among their top hits were Never in a Million Years, In a Little French Casino and There’s a Lull in My Life. Dennis Day also sang with the band at one time.

The couple was contracted to play in the Café de Paris for the month of August 1939. Once the month closed out, their plan was to return to the United States to care for their aging parents. But World War II broke out in Europe with the German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, and overseas travel bans forced them to change plans. More >>>

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D-Day Memorial – June 6, 2019

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More than 10 cousins in the extended Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor clan took part in the D-Day invasion of France on June 6, 1944 and in following days. One was a nurse in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps. Two were brothers. One was captured and held as a POW. One died of his wounds. One was shot down and killed 4 days later.

We seek on this page to identify their names and honor their memory on a permanent page on the Minerd.com website so they will not be forgotten and so that more names can be added in the future when additional research is done.

Lorraine (McKnight) Barrows – family of Frank Trevor McKnight of Fayette County, PA – joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Corps (WAAC) and shipped overseas to England. Her first assignment was in a telephone switchboard operation in six underground floors of the Selfridges department store in London, working with a team of operators for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s London headquarters. She was part of the D-Day invasion and among 36 women who landed on Utah Beach. After arriving in Normandy, France, she and her fellow WAACs slept in tents for three weeks.

George DeLong – family of Mary Jane (Pring) McCollough of Shawnee, OK – landed in France on D-day plus eight. Was one of the first Americans to enter Cherbourg where more than 6,000 Germans were held as prisoners of war.

Blair Eugene King – family of Bertha (Ream) Conn of Confluence, PA – served with the 325th Glider Infantry as part of the 82nd Airborne Division, and took part in the D-Day invasion.

Howard Philip Lepley – family of Elizabeth (Sturtz) Comp of Buffalo Mills, PA – crew member of the B-24 bomber “Little Sheppard,”of the 714th Bomber Squadron, 448th Bomber Group, shot down over Evreux, France on June 10, 1944, just four days after D-Day. Howard and four other crewmen were killed in the action. His body was recovered and buried in Europe.

Charles William McClain – family of Margaret (Hoye) McClain of Smithfield, PA – “was wounded shortly after the first outfit of paratroopers landed in Normandy,” said a newspaper. “Returning to England, young McClain recovered in a base hospital and returned to duty. Several weeks later he was fatally wounded in the leg.” He succumbed to his wounds on Oct. 6, 1944, in Holland. His remains were not returned home for five years.

Glenn Ellsworth McKnight – family of William Stewart McKnight of Dawson, PA – was part of the Army’s assault at Omaha Beach, and later saw action at the Battle of the Bulge. Was wounded and received the Purple Heart medal.

Thomas Minerd – family of Thomas Minerd of Smithfield, PA – was a member of the 79th Infantry Division of Patch’s Seventh Army, a unit commended “for making the fastest progress (1800 yards in 72 hours) of any infantry division in warfare,” said a newspaper. “Also awarded a citation for their skill near Strasbourg, the unit was the first to cross the Seine River and the Belgium border. First stationed in England, he participated in the D-Day invasion and fought in the battle for Cherbourg. Moving on across France, he fought in several battles under General Patton.”

William Byron Minerd – family of Thomas Minerd of Smithfield, PA – was shipped overseas in February 1942 and “spent seven months at secret bases,” said a newspaper. “He later spent 19 months in Belgium Congo, Africa, after which he was sent to England until D-Day, when he participated in the invasion.”

Donald Leroy Plants – family of Ollie Margaret (Miner) Plants of Ashtabula, OH – was an “amphibious engineer” involved in the landing at Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge, and was captured as a prisoner of war. Guest speaker at our 1998 national family reunion.

Charles E. Shipley – family of Mary Todd (Jennings) Shipley of Ohiopyle, PA – was a member of the 4th Signal Company, 4th Infantry Division and took part in the invasion at Normandy and in liberating Paris, for which he earned a French Jubilee of Liberty Medal.

Minor Fay White – family of Charles Minor White of Wichita, KS – “served as engineer-pilot of the C-47 veteran, ‘Nina Mae,’ which was the lead plane on a number of important missions for paratroop-drops in the European theater,” including at Normandy, France on D-Day in June 1944, said the Wichita Eagle. He also took part part in the invasions of Sicily and Italy. Killed in a crash of a C-124 airplane during the Korean War.

Minerd.com Photo of the Month: Bobby “Uke” Henshaw, the Mimic and Ukulele Player

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Born in Wheeling, WV, Charles “Robert” Henshaw grew up in Ohio and became a noted vaudeville entertainer who made a name for himself in national and international circles. The trade magazine Box Office credits him with having “introduced the ukulele to England and then toured Europe with it…”Variety once called him a “vaudevillian known for his prowess on the ukulele” and the New York Clipper dubbed him “The Human Ukulele.”

In several bit parts, Bobby appeared in some now-obscure Hollywood films between 1935 and 1950. The first, Variety,  (1935), features the trials and tribulations of running a music hall. He also appeared in Oh, You Beautiful Doll (1949), Beyond the Forest (1949), The Set Up (1949) and Return of the Frontiersman (1950).

Bobby also performed on early television broadcasts, and an effort is being made to learn more about these early performances. For example, in September 1938, he performed comedy on BBC Television in London in the half-hour program Cabaret. Also on the show were his second wife, entertainer Doris Harding. Then during World War II, he and his troupe of USO performers toured far-flung military outposts, where the “boys sure need entertainment at the bases,” he wrote in a 1943 letter in The Billboard. “Sometimes we play where they are isolated for six and eight months, and it is a pleasure to hear them laugh.”

His third wife, singer Nadeen (Andrews) Paschal, used the stage name “Deane Janis.” She starred with Columbia Records and performed with the Hal Kemp Orchestra in the early 1930s in clubs from Los Angeles to New York to Miami. Among her more popular recorded songs were “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and “Remember My Forgotten Man” (1933). She also was the vocalist circa 1933-1935 for the Camel Caravan Radio Show, sponsored by Camel Cigarettes, airing on CBS-Radio.

Bobby was featured in the Minerd.com “Photo of the Month” in December 2008 and Deane in December 2010. Be sure to see Bobby’s Online Museum of Paper Artifacts on this website.

Re-Marking a Legacy in Stone

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The new and the old

In the winter of 1787, Pennsylvania-German immigrant Johannes “Heinrich” Junghen died on his farm in Bucks County at the age of 70. His remains were placed into repose in the burying ground of what became Keller’s Lutheran Church Cemetery or St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, eight miles east of the town of Perkasie.

A small sandstone marker was placed on the grave, with his name and dates of birth and death inscribed in his native German in precise capital lettering perfectly aligned.

At the time of his death, Heinrich had been in America for about 26 years, a little more than a quarter of a century. He owned a farm of 118 acres which straddled Bedminster and Haycock Townships in Bucks County, not far from the plantations in Tinicum and Nockamixon Townships owned by his brother Herman. As a mark of his loyalty to his new country, Heinrich signed an oath of allegiance to the newly formed United States of America during the Revolutionary War.

Some 38 years after Heinrich’s death, in 1825, his widow Catharina (Scherer) Youngken passed away and was placed into repose in the same cemetery, about 50 yards away, with her inscription written in English.

And so their markers sat, upright, visible and legible to anyone who came. They remained in place for decades, then for centuries, strong and solid. The stones remained a mute and rare reminder that this husband-and-wife existed even as their living legacy of nine children fanned out to points west and produced 60 known grandchildren and untold numbers of great-grandchildren who made unique marks upon Americana.

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The volunteer installation team at work

As their adopted nation was plunged into Civil War, more than 140 of their direct descendants and spouses are known to have taken up arms. The Junghens’ stones stood, motionless, as the nation evolved into Reconstruction, World War, Great Depression, world wars redux, the Sexual Revolution, the moon landing, Watergate, Music TV, The Internet, smart phones, The Donald and much, much more.

More than 15 of his direct descendants married into the Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor family prior to the Second World War.

And their offspring visited at times to pay respects. In 1937, Heinrich and Catherine were written about in a national Younkin family newspaper published by a double great-great-great-great-grandson.

In April 1977, at the request of her father Joseph Warren Thomas III – of the family of Michael Ansell Firestone – Philadelphia art student Deborah Thomas drove to Keller’s, photographed Heinrich’s marker and wrote out the German lettering on the grave inscription. She mailed them to her father, who in turn sent a copy to Loree (Morrison) Cross in Anderson, Indiana, of the family of Indiana pioneer Isaac Younkin.

Some 167 years after Catharina’s death, in 1992, Donna (Younkin) Logan — of the family of Aaron Schrock Younkin — and Loretta (Adams) Kelldorf — of the Col. John C. Younkin branch — visited the cemetery and videotaped their tour. (It was Donna’s second visit, the first of which she made with her father.)

In 2008, descendants Linda Marker (of the Frederick J. Younkin line) and Everett and Christine Sechler (of the Rev. Herman Younkin branch) paid their respects and captured images of the markers in higher resolution and quality. Others came on their own and quietly felt the spiritual connection, among them Barbara (Younkin) Park, of the line of Devil Jake Younkin, and Jill Younkin of the families of Weasel Jake Younkin and Frederick J. Younkin. No doubt there have been others.

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Kneeling, L-R: Susan Moon, Jill Younkin. Standing, L-R:
Mark Miner, Nancy Koontz, Linda Marker, Laurel Piersel,
Barbara Park, Everett Sechler, Thomas Bitner, Randolph Henry

For cousin Everett Sechler, the experience of their legacy was profound, but also his recognition of the deterioration that time and the elements have wrought. He saw that the stone listed strongly to one side and that it was heavily chipped in places. He envisioned a time someday when the lettering would vanish into oblivion and with it the tangible evidence of the man’s existence and German heritage.

And so as treasurer of the Junghen-Younkin Reunion, Everett inspired a team of cousin volunteers to take a bold step. At the July 2018 reunion, attendees voted to proceed with installation of a second marker, to be placed next to but without disturbing the original. Arrangements were made, funding authorized, and on May 7, 2019, the new marker was installed by a group of 11 cousins who traveled from three states to be part of the experience. In addition to Everett and his wife Christine, the team included Thomas Bitner, Randall Henry, Nancy Koontz, Linda Marker, Susan (Younkin) Moon, Barbara Park, Laurel (Sanner) Piersel and Jill Younkin in addition to the author of this post.

As Everett wrote in an email to the group, it was the “fulfillment of a duty that has been needed to be done for future generations.”

The new stone itself measures 12 inches by 24 inches, weighs 150 lbs. and, appropriately, was quarried in Pennsylvania.

It was a humbling honor to be part of the team and to be asked to write the inscription for the marker. It’s also been my privilege to write a biography of the immigrant Junghens and post it on my website, helping propel their story with new communications technology further into the future where hopefully others will find meaning and inspiration.

Social media and the web will continue to educate an estimated quarter-of-a-million Younkin offspring alive today that these immigrants are responsible in part for every single one of our lives.

Maria (Mensch) Gaumer at the Spinning Wheel

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Born in 1827 in rural Berks County, PA, Maria Mensch married blacksmith, coal miner and farmer Benjamin Charles Gaumer and made a longtime home in the neighboring Lehigh Church community of Alburtis, Lehigh County.

As with many housewives of the era, she learned the art of spinning and clothes-making and is seen here at her wheel. Her hair is pulled back tightly, following the style of the era, and she wears what appears to be a more formal dress. The date is not known.

When she was an infant, of an age of about a month-and-a-half, Maria received Christian baptism on June 10, 1827 by the hand of Rev. C. Herman. A godparent stood at the ceremony, the unmarried Magdalena Unterkoble. A record of the event was written, in German script, on a special hand-colored certificate known as a taufschein, which may be viewed on the Gaumers’ biography.

Maria and Benjamin produced these eight known children – William Gaumer, Henry “Benjamin” Gaumer, Christiana Helfrich, Elvenia H. “Ella” Hopkins, James Henry Gaumer, Maria L. “Maryan” Wenner, Hannah R. Gaumer and Laura Elizabeth Sigfried.

Very little more about Maria’s life is known.

In January 1905, the 75-year-old Maria slipped on ice and fractured her hip while on her way to attend services at the Lehigh Church, a short distance from their home. Sadly, she died the following month, on Feb. 6, 1905, at the age of 77. She passed “after an illness of four weeks,” said the Allentown Morning Call. Funeral services were held at Lehigh Church, with Rev. C.E. Sandt preaching the sermon.

This wonderful image graciously has been shared by Maria and Benjamin’s great-great-great grandson, David Helfrich.

You may view an enlarged version of this photograph which is the May 2019 “Photo of the Month” on Minerd.com.

Minerd.com’s Recommended News Stories and Blog Posts Since Sept. 2018

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So much of what we know about culture, science and humanity seems to be in constant upheaval, from the burning of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris to the first photographic images of black holes in deep space to the Roman Catholic Church’s ongoing revelations of child abuse.

Here’s my list of news articles and blog posts which have impressed me most since September 2018, all originally posted on the “Favorite Links” page of my award-winning website, Minerd.com. These stories cover important issues in our society and track how our collective heritage shapes how we live today and perceive our existence

More than just reporting on the who, what and when, these articles go deeper into the how and why of issues.

All have some connection to my primary interests in Americana, culture, art, science, technology, faith, journalism and history/genealogy … as well as regional Pittsburgh, the epicenter of the extended Minerd-Minard-Miner-Minor family’s growth and development since 1791.

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris Catches Fire” – New York Times, April 15, 2019
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wins Pulitzer Prize for Tree of Life coverage” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 15, 2019
How to make sense of the black hole image, according to 2 astrophysicists” – Vox, April 22, 2019
Why hasn’t evolution dealt with the inefficiency of ageing?” – by Jordan Pennells, Aeon, April 10, 2019
An Ancient Human Species Is Discovered in a Philippine Cave” – New York Times, April 10, 2019
Christine Davis digs into Pittsburgh’s underground” – Pittsburgh Business Times, April 5, 2019
How ‘Good Design’ Failed Us” – Nikil Saval, The New Yorker, April 3, 2019
A Search Underway for Thousands of Books Looted Almost Four Centuries Ago” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, April 2019
How the Most Precise Bombing Run of WWII Saved Florence’s Masterpieces” – by Ian M. Shank, Art & Object, March 11, 2019
Pittsburgh recognized as starting point for Lewis and Clark expedition” – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 10, 2019
Met Relinquishes Looted Coffin to Authorities” – Art & Object, Feb. 21, 2019
The Collector Who Got Away: Karl Lagerfeld” – by Rebecca Rego Barry, Fine Books & Collections, Feb. 19, 2019
The Lab Discovering DNA in Old Books” – by Suarah Zhang, The Atlantic, Feb. 19, 2019
The Huntington Acquires Papers of F. Marion Crawford, Popular 19th-Century American Novelist” – Fine Books & Collections, Feb. 8, 2019
Library of Congress Receives Major Grant to Support National Book Preservation Plan” – Fine Books & Collections, Feb. 7, 2019
First Amendment Protects Negative Comments on Government Official’s Facebook Page” – by Michele J. Mintz, Fox Rothschild LLP, Feb. 7, 2019
Welcome to the age of ‘surveillance capitalism’” – by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, Feb. 6, 2019
Man vs. machine: Super Bowl ads show a growing anxiety” – by the Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 6, 2019
A DNA test would explain my lost African ancestry. Or so I thought.” – by Sandy Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 3, 2019
Defense lawyers in Carnegie Library rare book theft case seek specifics from DA” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Feb. 1, 2019
2018 – It Was a Very Good Year (for Books and Paper at Auction)” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, February 2019
After a 20 Year Wait, Books Are Again Entering the Public Domain” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, February 2019
Newseum Soon to be in the Past Tense” – By Bruce McKinney, Rare Book Monthly, February 2019
Ten trends shaping the Internet of Things business landscape” – by Eric Lamarre and Brett May, McKinsey & Co., January 2019
The Baumans, Sellers of Really, Really Rare Books” – New York Times, Jan. 30, 2019
Stone Facsimile of the Declaration of Independence Sold for $975,000 at Sotheby’s” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 28, 2019
Library and Archives Canada Acquires Rare Book Once Belonging to Adolf Hitler” – Fine Books & Collections, Jan. 25, 2019
Geneticists have begun using old bones to make sweeping claims about the distant past. Here’s why it’s making some scholars uneasy.” – New York Times, Jan. 21, 2019
A Book Lover’s Haven Turns 100” – New York Times, Jan. 17, 2019
Hamilton’s Trip to Pittsburgh” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jan. 13, 2019
Medieval woman’s hidden art career revealed by blue teeth” – Associated Press News, Jan. 9, 2019
Audrey Geisel, Dr. Seuss’ Widow and Keeper, Dies at 97” – New York Times, Dec. 24, 2018
Bottleneck at Printers Has Derailed Some Holiday Book Sales” – New York Times, Dec. 24, 2018
The 18 Media Grinches of 2018” – by Jim Rutenberg, New York Times, Dec. 24, 2018
The Family History DNA Can’t Reveal” – by Kaitlyn Greenidge, New York Times, Dec. 20, 2018
About the Jewish mourners’ prayer on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette front page” – by David M. Shribman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Nov. 2, 2018
Where Is the New Book Collector? How About on the New Social Media” – by Michael Stillman, Rare Book Monthly, Nov. 2018
Remembering the Victims: A Look At the 11 Lives Taken During Saturday’s Massacre” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Oct. 29, 2018
A Massacre in the Heart of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” – by Bari Weiss, New York Times, Oct. 28, 2018
Americans Are Losing Trust in the News Media” – Investor’s Business Daily, Oct. 4, 2018
A Smarter World: How AI, The IoT And 5G Will Make All The Difference” – Forbes Magazine, Sept. 21, 2018

Pennsylvania German Expert Preston Albert Barba on His Annual Voyage to Europe

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Muhlenberg College professor Dr. Preston Albert Barba (right) — of the family of Jesse and Elizabeth (Baer) Fegley — passes time aboard the S.S. Bremen in 1925 during one of his 40 annual research trips to Europe. His writings provide a remarkable window into the German behaviors and cultural values which our people brought to Pennsylvania, passed down among some generations in the eastern portion of the state but lost by those migrating westward to the Pittsburgh region and beyond.

Preston taught at Muhlenberg for nearly three decades until retirement in 1951. He founded Der Deutsche Verein — “The German Club” — open to students where “the speaking of German is done as much as possible,” said the 1926 Muhlenberg yearbook Ciarla. “German songs are quite in vogue and speeches on various interesting and educational topics are given by different members throughout the year.”

Among his books was They Came to Emmaus, 1939, considered the standard history of the Lehigh County community. For 34 years, he edited a weekly column in the Allentown Morning Call, entitled ” ‘S Pennsylvanisch Deitsch Eck,” considered the “authoritative … recounting the history, customs, and traditions of the Pennsylvania German.” His wife Eleanor was an artist who illustrated many of his articles and was a traveling companion. When he died in 1971, the Morning Call said he was “one of the foremost authorities on the life, literature and lore of the Pennsylvania Germans.”

In this image, he sits with Mrs. Nagle and Professor Lambert. He appears to be ready to take a bite of a snack from the box he’s holding. Or is he laughing?