My suspicions were correct that Gretchen's husband was a military man and confirmed when I found a ship manifest for the ship "General William O. Darby". This was a military transport ship and was also used to transport military families. In 1949 Gretchen and her children were on the "General William O. Darby" and the ship would dock in San Francisco from Honolulu. I was sure it was our Gretchen because it indicated her birth place as Blue Hill, Nebraska. But a new clue emerged as the manifest also showed that all of the children had been born in Washington. So now we had a state to work with which helped narrow down an area to thoroughly research.
After checking numerous sites that I use regularly and not coming up with any additional information I thought - well maybe she is still living! So now what? Oh ya - the white pages - duh. You could have knocked me over with a feather when her name came up and a town in Washington where she lived. But the stupid site would not give me her street address or phone number without paying a fee - and then who knows for sure what you're paying for. So I called Lori and she decided she would pay the fee and find out what was there. Unfortunately the information led no where. But it was worth the try - we now had hope that she was living. Although she would be 97 years old it was still a possibility - after all she was born in Nebraska - and Nebraskans are notorious for living long lives! LOL
Our hopes of finding Gretchen alive were dashed away today when Lori contacted the Seattle, Washington Library and an obituary for Gretchen was located. Gretchen passed away on January 24, 2000 in Washington. It was a very disappointing find and an overwhelming feeling of loss swept across the miles. A few tears were shed for the woman that will not be known to Lori's family. I think Lori and I were wanting her to still be living so badly that we had convinced ourselves that she was. The discovery was kind of like preparing for Christmas and then within hours it's over.
What must be remembered is that from December 31st to January 7th we found an entire family. Tracking down census records, military draft cards, birth certificates, ship manifests and family history. Folks that's 7 days to find such a wealth of information - that in itself is fantastic. We have also made contact with family members that are anxious to share information, photographs and additional family history and that is a blessing. And not only that but I made a new friend and over the course of the search feel a real bond to Lori and her family and that is another blessing to celebrate! Alex Haley said it all in this quote:
""In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage,
to know who we are and where we came from.""
Author: Alex Haley
Author: Alex Haley
Afer chatting with some of the Buntjer family I think that "The Ties That Bind" will join the descendants of this family and many days of joy will be ahead to share!