Untouched, the box sat in a corner of the attic for years. His daughters were 16 years apart in age, and when he died, the youngest was only 19.
“I never really listened to his stories much, never cared. You know how teenagers are,” daughter Cindy Cucovecki said. And they had paid little attention to the box.
The soldier’s father had meticulously chronicled William Carl (Bill) Shingleton’s entry into the armed forces in 1942. Every detail down to the time he departed, the vehicle in which he traveled and the highway number were all logged. A fire department chief in the small town of Fairmont, West Virginia, the father was accustomed to careful notations and, perhaps as a coping mechanism for sending his son into the horrid wartime of the Hilter regime, the scrapbook was his solace.
Page after page of photos, letters, movie tickets, drawings by the soldier and newspaper clippings were in the box.
“We never really looked at it much,” daughter Pam Cross explained. When their father passed away in 1991, after a lifetime in Fairmont, a cousin, Hickory, who lived in Alabama had a request. Exploring genealogy, Hickory asked to borrow the box. The family obliged.
Six months later, Hickory was diagnosed with cancer and passed away. Within a year, his wife also died. In the shuffle and clean up of his home, the box was lost.
“We tried to locate the box,” Pam said. But no one in the family knew what had happened to it.
A few weeks ago, Lewis County Librarian Crystal Nash received a phone call just a few seconds before pre-school story hour was to begin.
The caller had purchased the contents of a storage unit and found a container of memoribilia dating back to World War II. Knowing of Lewis County’s effort to construct a building for county archives and also knowing of the tribute to veterans inside the War Memorial Building, the caller wanted Nash to know of the find. Perhaps she could add the items to Lewis County’s collection in honor of the soldier. The caller had tried to contact family but without success.
Nash, who also serves as Lewis County Historian, asked the caller to bring the container to the library and rushed off to storytime. She did not get the caller’s name.
And as things go, the caller dropped off the box when Nash was at lunch so she still does not know who dropped off the box that forever impacted the lives of those in the family.
Carefully going through the brittle papers, she discovered a photo labeled “Mother.” That “tugged at my heart strings,” she said and was the moment she knew she had to do something.
Determined to find family, Nash made calls to Fairmont, West Virginia attempting to find anyone who might remember the man who went to war. After exhausting all resources, she went to Ancestry.com and there found a possible connection.
At first, Rachel Clemens was doubtful. How would his stuff have ended up in Tennessee? After an emailed photo confirmed the connection she was ecstatic.
“We are SO excited about this!!! We really appreciate your efforts to locate us….. you have no idea how much it means to us. He died from colon cancer in May 1991. I was a teenager at the time. He didn’t get married and start a family until he was older so my aunt was only 19 when he died. I just told my aunt what you found and she was in tears. She says she remembers him talking about writing songs and she has always wished she could have listened or read some of the lyrics.
“And, yes he was the kindest person you could ever meet. He once had a job for the water dept but was fired because he refused to turn off service to people. He also was a drummer in a band in Fairmont and played against Gene Krupa in a battle of the bands,” she wrote.
Rachel, along with her mother and Aunt Cindy, took flights from Ohio and West Virginia into Nashville January 4, 2017 then drove to Hohenwald to retrieve the information.
Met at the local library with snacks and drinks, the ladies fell into the embrace of Nash and Kathryn Kozlinski. Conversation quickly developed over the scrapbooks and the group sounded as if they had been friends for a long time.
Grateful for the persistence and diligence of Nash, the ladies were all smiles in remembering their father and grandfather.
“These are things we can remember, and we had never seen the drawings,” Cindy added.
A testament to her tenacity and compassion, this story proves Lewis County selected the perfect county historian.