My dad, Gayland Moore Jr., would have turned 90 this month. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t around to know him on his 20th birthday, but I know what he was doing — serving as a motor machinist’s mate on a 157-foot Landing Craft Infantry somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
Refitted as a gunboat, the LCI 565 saw duty in the Battle of Leyte in October 1944, the Battle of Luzon in January 1945 and the Battle of Okinawa in April 1945 before heading to Hawaii for repairs ahead of the expected invasion of Japan.
I don’t know how often the young sailor got mail, but once a month would be a good guess. That’s because he told me he got the Bangor Daily News about 30 issues at a time — and he read them. The BDN faithfully followed him around during World War II, and he never forgot that.
When Family Ties started 30 years ago this July in the Bangor Daily News, I was wildly excited, and my parents were duly impressed. They never minded the surprise that came with learning some new bit of family information from the newspaper, and never once told me that any disclosure might have been better left unwritten.
Readers who have been with the genealogy column since the beginning remember that Ties ran on Saturdays in those days. I wrote Family Ties for three years, then turned it over to my dear friend Connee Jellison for 10 years.
After a couple of years’ absence, Family Ties came back in May 1999, 15 years ago, on Mondays. Here we are in 2014, with so much new in genealogy. Not to mention my career as a reporter and editor in-between. It’s safe to say that Family Ties changed my life.
Twenty years ago, the BDN kicked into high gear my interest in World War II by publishing my interview with my dad about the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. He passed away in 2002, and of course that story remains one of my all-time favorites.
I heard recently that for every World War II veteran who is alive today, 15 have died. I can believe that. This past year, Nolan Gibbs, Ralph Goss, Troop Greeter Bill Knight and Bud Lyford were among the WWII veterans whose leaving us I mourned.
Ralph Goss used to chat with me in front of the license plate display at Cole Land Transportation Museum in Bangor. Pointing at the older license plates on the top part of the display, he’d tell me how his dad had collected those, and he wanted them to be where people could see them, especially youngsters.
This spring, when I gave tours to students from Dover-Foxcroft and Winterport, it seemed to me that a Star Wars-hologram of Ralph Goss was by my side as I told them about the World War II veteran who wanted those license plates to be in that museum.
For years, I planned to interview Lawrence “Bud” Lyford of Brewer about his service in Germany, where he earned a Purple Heart. When I learned that he and Jean would mark their 70th anniversary on March 18, I finally interviewed Bud on March 6.
Frail and feeling pretty lousy, he rose to the occasion and told me how close he came to being discovered by the Germans in the basement of a house where he had covered himself with a blanket, wounded.
The BDN published the Lyfords’ love story on March 17, and Bud died on April 5. The Brewer City Council passed a resolution in his memory, with tribute from Mayor Jerry Goss, the son of Ralph Goss.
Jerry told how his family had moved to Brewer when he was young, and how much it meant to him to play baseball for five years for the team sponsored by Thompson & Lyford.
Bud was quite an athlete at Brewer High School, the first Brewer football player to be named All-State. He also played for the University of Maine, where he lettered in football and baseball. The resolution in Bud’s memory, with specific mention of his athletic accomplishments, was read by Councilor Joe Ferris, as in 1964-College-World-Series-Joe Ferris. Quite an honor.
Of course, you don’t have to be a reporter to interview a veteran. Just ask any of the tens of thousands of youngsters from Maine schools who have done just that at the Cole Museum. Most of those have been asked by museum founder Galen Cole, 88, if they will remember forever the time spent interviewing a veteran.
They will. How many of them have a military veteran in their family? A good percentage do. Then Galen Cole challenges them to promise that they will interview their own veteran relative within the next year.
Doing just that changed my life. And now that my dad has been gone 12 years, I look back and say that interview was one of the best things I ever did. And how happy it makes me to have that to share with my children and grandchildren.
Happy 125th Birthday, Bangor Daily News. The Moore family has loved you for a long time.
For information on researching family history in Maine, see Genealogy Resources under Family Ties at bangordailynews.com/browse/family-ties. Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.