Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A biography about John B Carroll Sr.

John Bernard Carroll Sr, was born on 24 March, 1887 in Philadelphia, PA .

The only thing I recall my father saying about grandfather's childhood, was that the family was poor. Which ultimately led the young John Bernard at 16 to enroll in the U.S. Navy. He had submitted a false birthdate at the time of enrollment ! That enrollment may have have taken place towards 1903 or 1904.
John Bernard, being the eldest son, had taken upon the role of the breadwinner of the Carroll family . This fact had always made me assume that his father, John Joseph was already deceased. ( I only knew through his son’s marriage certificate , that he was deceased before 1919 ). But, he may have been already weakened by his Miner’s asthma, and was unable to assume his job at the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Before the advent of Social Security, this meant being dependant on family for one’s basic needs.
I do not have written records of our grandfather's career, but he had done is entire working life in the U.S. Navy. The 1910 U.S. Census taken in Boston MA, lists him as a crew member of the U.S. Missouri .My father told me how Grandfather participated duting WW1 .During the war, he was on a hospital ship that transported the wounded going from NY Naval base to Brest, France and back. I had even found in an old book at my Mom's house, a ticket stub for a boat passage dating from 1919, in Saint Nazaire, France . Grandfather may have still been in Europe following the end of WW1 .

I had not found a 1920 Census for the family, but the 1930 U.S. Census finds the whole family in Norfolk, VA, where Grandad was based at the Norfolk Naval base.
Our grandfather was also stationed at Honolulu ( where my aunt Virginia was born in 1922), and Great Lakes, IL .Grandfather had also served on the U.S. Arizona before WWII, which is proved by several letters that still. exist in the family.

An anecdote that was told by my father, John B Jr., was that as a young child, his father took him inside a ship ( I don’t remember in which naval yard). My father recalled seeing a furnace, and in front, several men shoveling in tons of coal. My Grandfather said “ look carefully at what you are seeing; this will be that last coal burner in the U.S. fleet “. My father seems to have marked the moment as a turning point between the old and the new U.S Navy.

One exciting event came to Grandfather through the National Geographic society. My grandfather's ship helped an expedition to study seabirds in the 1920's. I do not have the exact year in my memory. At my mother's home in Hawaii , is the copy that my Grandmother kept( Grandfather is seen in a photo throwing food to the birds !).

The character traits that come out through my father's stories are of a man of endless good humor. He loved to joke and laugh. One of the stories that my father told me is forever etched in my memory: During a passage in the Mediterranean sea ( near Palestine), my grandfather was approached by a street peddler. The man was very ambitious; he proposed to sell to Grandfather a piece of dung that dated from " the time of Jesus Christ". This amused my Grandfather so much, that he actually bought one ! Unfortunately, the "relic" burned in a ship’s fire .
It was told to me that My Grandfather and my Grandmother, Mary Agnes Hansen, were neighbors. She was born on 20 January, 1891, in Philadelphia, PA . Mary lived at 2512 Coral Street. She was the daughter of Christian Hansen, a railroader and Catherine Morris, who was born in Ireland. John and Mary were married the 28 October, 1919, in Philadelphia. At the time of our grandparent’s marriage, John Sr. was stationed in Norfolk Naval base, in VA .
John may have had a positive influence on Mary Agnes' family, becuase Mary's brother, William Hansen, also enrolled in the U.S. Navy. But, he did not make a career there. William died on the 3 January, 1930, Philadelphia.
Like her husband, Mary was hard working and entirely devoted to the family. Mary had a more reserved character than her husband, which could be seen as austere. Religion played an important part in Mary’s life, and she was a devout Roman Catholic.She loved playing the piano, especially many of the popular tunes of the day. She also enjoyed to collecting beautiful objects, such as porcelain, figurines and glassware.

Children: John Joseph( a.k.a John Bernard Jr. ) , born in 1920 ( deceased in 1999), Virginia Rose, born in 1922 ( decased in 2006).

The family had moved several times during John Sr's career, to end at San Diego, in the 1930's. This is where the family settled in and where my Dad and his sister finished their schooling.Grandfather served his entire career in the U.S. Navy.He was stationed as U.S Naval station in Coronado Bay, San Diego, before finally retiring from the U.S. Navy .

My grandparents had the joy to watch their daughter Virginia marry Donald F. Jefferds. Then came their first 4 grandchildren: William,(Bill),Kathy,Peg and Patsy, who they doted on with endless love. Grandfather was known as “Grossy” by his grandchildren ( a variation on a German name for Grandfather ), and Grandmother was "Nan Nan ".

Then in the late 50’s, son John Jr. married Kazuko Suzuki, in Japan.My parents settled in San Diego soon after. Unfortunately, it was not my destiny to know my grandfather. But,I had the joy to be with my grandmother at least twice since my parents left San Diego.

The 3 August, 1962, John passed away in San Diego. As for Mary, she passed on the 30 December, 1972 .Both rest at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, CA.

Since the passing of my Aunt Virginia in 2006, many photos and mementos have been revealed to the family. There were also many objects of our Grandmother that have been shared among the children and grandchildren. These include many of Grandmother’s cherished porcelain plates( I have 2 of them), and beautiful sheet music ( of which I have several copies).

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