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“Home is the Hunter – Home from the Hills”
This phrase from Robert Louis Stevenson’s eight-line poem “Requiem” is inscribed on my dad’s headstone. FDW, as we affectionately called him, was born Floyd Duane Williams on June 12, 1919 and was known as Duane during most of his life.
That is until he acquired the acronym, FDW, as his moniker that we, his four kids bestowed when we were adults. (Stay tuned for the story.) He signed letters, papers, etc. as F. Duane Williams.
Born in Ames, Iowa to Floyd and Clara Williams, his father was an inspector for the US Postal Service and his mother – a girl raised on a cattle ranch in Sheridan, Wyoming, was a housewife as they moved to Grand Island, Nebraska and then Washington D.C. when his dad was transferred.
As you can see by these photos, Dad was a photogenic toddler and a tyke as a little kid.
Why am I dedicating a blog post(s) to my Dad (also my mom, Frannie)? Those who follow Thebeerchaser, know that periodically I select an individual or group that may or may not have anything to do with beer or bars to feature as my Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter. The criteria is that they have made a contribution to society and have an interesting story.
They have included veterans and war heroes, authors, athletes, media personalities, academicians, lawyers and groups such as the 1967 Oregon State Giant Killer Football Team and the crew of the USS Constitution.
Twice, I have featured my own family – Janet my wife – the only Beerchaser-of-the-Year and my brother Retired Navy Captain Rick Williams — Beerchaser-of-the Quarter | Thebeerchaser, for his outstanding career in the US Navy. (Click on the links to view the posts.)
For a complete list of the BOQ’s for the last ten years, check out the following link: https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/12/13/beerchasers-of-the-quarter-who-what-why/
The pandemic, however, has been a time for reflection as well as going through old files and photos. It made me realize what an impact my Dad and Mom had on the lives of our family and their communities. The heartache of losing both of them at a young age (54 and 62 respectively) was offset, to some extent, by the fact that our memories of them are images of of vitality and humanity which characterized both of their lives and their marriage.
So in some of the next few posts, I’m going to relate the story of this remarkable man and woman.
Flashing Forward a Bit
After the family moved to Oregon in 1962, Dad was constantly captivated by Oregon’s natural beauty and adopted the phrase “spirit of high adventure” when we explored the coast, the Cascades and especially Central and Eastern Oregon.
As far as the pursuit of wild game, he went hunting only a few times with friends who were carpet dealers from John Day on his sales territory for Mohawk Carpets. I went with him on one of these ventures when I was in high school and as we were walked along the streams and through the forest, he would explain the geological formations – not the best strategy for bagging a deer.
Dad also was perpetually on the hunt for additional knowledge and creative approaches whether it be science – especially the environment – history or politics. And from the time he attended college at George Washington University until the time of his death – far too soon at the age of 55 – he stalked the fair and virtuous course of action.
Often this pursuit in civic and community work was time consuming and arduous including tirelessly working to pass school levy and bond elections in Oregon City.
And speaking of George Washington University, it was there that he joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) fraternity and he met Don Wilburn, who became his best friend and after whom I’m named. After graduation, Don was commissioned in the Army Air Corps and was killed in WW II when his plane crashed. And both my younger brother, Rick and I kept the SAE legacy going at Oregon State University.
Another great SAE connection which proved to be fortuitous for our family, occurred shortly after Dad moved to Oregon in 1962 before the rest of the family moved out West. He needed an attorney for family and business and picked a young lawyer from Oregon City. By coincidence that lawyer, Don Bowerman, also happened to be an SAE from Oregon State University.
Don had (and is still practicing) an outstanding career as a trial lawyer and in professional activities including serving as officer in local and Oregon State Bar and member of the Board of Governors and Chairman of the Professional Liability Fund of the Oregon State Bar. He is a Fellow in the International Academy of Trial Lawyers, a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, and a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates.
He has been a great friend and advocate for the family. Recently, when we were reminiscing about my Dad, I remembered how FDW helped the SAE’s when I was at OSU including getting them a great deal on new carpet for the House.
Don stated, “Your Dad was the most effective and enthusiastic OSU/SAE alum on the planet.” (It’s this kind of effusive understatement which made me enjoy working with lawyers for thirty-five years during my career!)
Early Career and Frances Barry
Dad moved to New York City and started work for American Airlines in Manhattan. His first meeting with my mom, Frannie (Frances Barry), was essentially a collision in their office building. She was carrying some papers coming out a door that he was going in and they collided with papers flying everywhere.
He asked her for a date and the rest is history. They married in 1943 in the Church of St. Kevin in Flushing, New York – she the youngest of five girls in a Catholic family who resided in Bayside, Long Island. Her parents had immigrated from Poland. Dad was required to take classes so they could get married in the church and his theological discussions/debates with the priest lengthened the class time considerably.
Not to be maudlin in this post, but the inscription on my Mom’s gravestone is “She Walks in Beauty.” It’s from Lord Byron’s poem of the same name and the last stanza is apt:
The poem conveys the experience of encountering sublime beauty in another person. One can see Frannie’s physical beauty from the photos, but her entire persona radiated warmth and kindness.
She walks in beauty.
New York Life and Civic Activism
The young couple established their home in Merrick, Long Island where Lynne was born in 1946 and Don in 1948. Dad loved Big Band music and they danced to the Glenn Miller Band at the Glen Island Casino: (*External photo attribution at the end of the post)
“One of the most enchanting dining-and-dancing rendezvous in this part of the country is the Glen Island Casino, overlooking Long Island Sound at New Rochelle. For many years the handsome two-story structure, perched majestically among the stately trees that dress the small island, has issued its yearly call to romance, and the youngsters and oldsters have responded with almost equal enthusiasm.”
They became friends with Paula Kelly and the Modernaires who performed there.
From reviewing papers and records in his files, it was here that FDW started his civic activism which continued through the remainder of his life. And he was not just involved, he was usually looked to as a leader in these endeavors.
I could find no details, but based on the letterhead below from the files, Dad was the Treasurer of the “Assessed Valuation Protest Committee of the Eastern Queens Civic Council.”
As another example, he was President of the newly formed “Lost Community Civic Association” that was evidently formed over issues of government boundaries and jurisdiction. According to an article in the January 16, 1947 edition of the Long Island Daily Press (founded in 1821 and published until 1977):
“(The group) reported that they were slightly confused by the fact that their mail comes from the New Hyde Park Post Office, police protection from Bayside Precinct and fire protection from Queens Village.”
The problem was also covered in the November 29, 1946 edition of the Queens County Times (Published from 1913 until 1975 and which you could procure for two cents in 1946….) which quoted Dad and reported:
“The similarity of ‘crying in the wilderness’ may be pessimistic to many of Queen’s County residents, in a borough of over a million population. But, to the families who have established their homes in a snug corner of Queens fringing on the border of Nassau County, it almost is like an ‘island’ apart: confused as to its community status.”
Queens, the largest borough of the City of New York, is adjacent to the borough of Brooklyn on the western end of Long Island.
Dad was quoted in the Long Island Daily Press article:
“We’ve spent months trying to dope out where we are…what this section is called. We haven’t been able to find out anything so we might as well face it. We’re lost! We will keep the name for a year. By that time, we may have a better name.”
Well, evidently FDW was wrong and while I could not find details on the history, the name stuck. According to the current list of civic organizations for New York City, “The Lost Community Civic Association holds its meetings on the second Wednesday of the month, excluding July and August.”
There is also a small triangular park named “The Lost Community Civic Association Triangle” still maintained by the City of New York City Parks Department.
The family, now with two kids, moved to Media, Pennsylvania – a suburb of Philadelphia in 1949, when I was one. Dad went to work as a sales rep. for Bigelow Carpets and our brother, Garry was born in 1950.
7313 Miami Ave. Madeira, Ohio
We moved to Madeira, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati on May 4, 1952. I know that date because we took an American Airlines flight. Because it was my birthday, I got to sit on the lap of the lead stewardess as we landed in Cincy. (I figured that lovely young woman is now in her mid nineties if she is still alive!)
Stay tuned for the impact FDW had on his family and community in Ohio in the next segment.
External Photo Attribution
*1 Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Glen_Island_Casino_jeh.jpg) Licensed and made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. Author: Jim.henderson 14 July, 2011.
*3 Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain – (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paula_Kelly_(singer)#:~:text=By%20CBS%20Radio/CBS%20Photo%20-) This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in the United States between 1926 and 1977, inclusive, without a copyright notice. Source: CBS Radio 1951.