A Family Mystery – Part II.

Jun 10, 2024 | 1 comment

Eva’s father, Dan Richardson, 1915

Continued from yesterday:
We left my mother and her remaining siblings unable to reach their half-uncle Dan Richardson to notify him of their mother’s (and his half-sister’s) death in 1954.  As far as they knew, he was a Major in the U.S. Army and had served with honor throughout WWII and beyond.  But the Department of Defense and the Department of the Army were non-responsive to their pleas for contact information.

Almost fifty years passed and then Willard’s widow sent me a letter that had come to him from a woman in Austria.  She identified herself as Eva Richardson Legerer and told the most amazing story.  When she was about 50, she had decided to go back to school.  As part of her course work, she took a genealogy class and, to assist her, her mother gave her a small box of papers that her father had left when he died.

At that point, Eva and her sister and brother knew only that their handsome father, Dan Richardson, had been stationed in Vienna just after WWII, had met their mother when he was making a door-to-door search for Displaced Persons, had married her and lived for the rest of his life in Austria.  He never spoke of his American family.  Not a word.

Eva Gaches Richardson, 1915 — Eva Richardson Legerer’s grandmother and my great-grandfather’s second wife.

“He must have been ashamed of us,” I told Eva when we finally met.  “I think he must have been ashamed of us!” was her response.  We will probably never know.

Eva found a letter written by my Uncle Edwin to her father in care of the U.S. War Department — the one telling of his half-sister’s death.  Why had he not responded?  On the other hand, why had he kept the letter?

Eva has come to Oysterville twice over the years and the first time met my mother, though we aren’t sure Mom (who was suffering from dementia)  really understood it all.  Eva’s sister Lina came here once, and .  Nyel and I visited them in Austria and got acquainted with their mother.  It has been at once an enriching and bittersweet experience.  How I wish Dan had been in touch for all those years between….

And now… Eva is tracking down another mystery.  The birth name of her grandmother Eva was Summers.  Her mother and father arrived (from where?) in LaConnor Washington in 1871 — perhaps with Eva or perhaps she was born later.  Her father soon died and her mother married Mr. Gaches who then adopted Eva.

There are still many unanswered questions so the mystery continues.  With Eva’s permission, I’ve put Cuzzin Ralph on the trail — even though he is a ccouain on the other side of my family.  And, he’s already finding new information!  Wow!  I do love a mystery — but finding the answers is the most exciting part of all!


1 Comment

  1. Rosaleen Power

    Hi Sydney, my great grandmother on my dad’s side was named Jessie Summers and came from Newcastle in Northeast England. Married Robert Wood and emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1880s.


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