TSGS Cruiser Blog

Saturday, December 27, 2008

“A Tribute to a Friend”

J. Jeff Hays
1929 - 2008

I want to remember a friend who's funeral is today (27 Dec 2008). In order to make this more genealogically related, I need to first tell you a story about names in my WEST family line (which is connected with my friend).

John William West had 3 daughters and six sons, all of them but one made it to full adulthood. Gaither was only 15 when he died of appendicitis. My grandfather Warner West named my father after his younger brother, Gaither, with the full name of Gaither Glennis West. Dad named my older brother Gaither Glennis West, II who named his first born son, my nephew, Gaither Glennis West, III. I was given the name of John from my great grandfather John William West. I got my middle name from the actor, Gregory Peck. When we had our first son, I did not want him to be tagged as “Junior” - so, I gave him the name Phillip Gregory West. Then came son #2 (I gave him my first name of John) and later son #3 was not named after me... so, we named him after everyone else in the family with 3 given names – James William Warner West. Warner was my grandfather's name (Dad's father).

Now, I can tell you about my friend. J. Jeff Hays passed away on Monday 22 Dec 2008 and will be laid to rest today. Jeff was 78, he had lived a good life serving for about 24 years as an Indiana State Representative. In 1975 Jeff ran for Mayor of Evansville and asked me to serve on his campaign committee along with some very impressive people... I was deeply honored and thought that if he were elected that he would have been a very good mayor. It seemed like everything we saw or wrote around our house was “Hays for Mayor.” My oldest son, Phillip was Autistic and could not, at age 4, speak and did not write, but he ended up using toy blocks to spell out “Hays for Mayor!” That, of course, pleased Jeff and his wife, Mary Lou, to no end! When Jeff ran for office he always used the name “J. Jeff Hays” - most of us wondered what could the initial “J” stand for: Jacob, Jeremiah, Jedidiah, Junior or other unpopular names. None of us had the nerve to ask. But 1975 was the year for us to learn his first name. My #2 son was born that year shortly before the fall election. I had given Phillip my middle name, so I would have to give #2 my first name “John,” but what name shall we give him for a middle name? I really liked the name of John Gaither West, except for two reasons. 1) my brother seemed to be “stuck” with the name as he often said and had named his son, my nephew, the same name. Maybe using the name in my line might be like trying to take it away from his line. 2) Jeff's opponent was the current Evansville Mayor and his City Controller just happened to be named John Gaither (Gaither was his last name instead of a given name). I felt as if using the name Gaither would cast a question of loyalty in my dedication to Jeff's campaign, as was also advised by several on Jeff's committee. I did not want “John” to be a “Junior” so we thought about using his initials like the "Good Times" TV show that had a “JJ” character that often said “Dynamite!” If we had used the Gaither name, he would have been “JG” to avoid the “Junior” designation. We thought a lot about his name... I finally decided to name him after one of my favorite Presidents, Thomas Jefferson. I really liked the sound of “John Thomas West” or “John Jefferson West.” We could call him “JT” or “JJ”... we liked “JJ” the best. Therefore, #2 became John Jefferson West. But, guess what – the “J” in Jeff's name stood for John and Jeff was short for Jefferson. I had accidentally named him for Jeff... who was very, very pleased. My associates thought I was trying to win a high position in the Mayor's appointments if he were elected. Jeff did not win election, but I finally found the courage to tell Jeff the truth about how we named JJ. I wished I had not told him, because he was so sad with the true account of his “namesake!” Jeff continued as a State Representative and was very well regarded in the state, as well as, in the Evansville area. I was always pleased that my #2 son had the name of such a great public servant as John Jefferson Hays.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Our poll asking who would we pick for an ancestor from the 7 choices provided is closed and the votes are in. We had 13 to make a choice. I was a little surprised that Abraham Lincoln was the choice of 46 % of our participants. I knew that our 16th. U.S. President would do well since we are located in Lincoln land. TSGS covers the 3 states that Lincoln claimed as home: Illinois, Indiana & Kentucky. Ol' Honest Abe got 6 of 13 votes! Cleopatra got no votes... probably one of the most powerful of all listed. Certainly one of the great Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. I placed Santa in the mix for fun... he got one vote as did Martin Luther King and Glenn Miller (great big band leader). Lucille Ball & J.D. Rockefeller got two votes each for a total of 13. Abraham Lincoln is special to me, since I grew up near where he was raised near Gentryville, Indiana. I have learned that my ancestors who lived near the Lincoln family in Hardin Co., Kentucky include a line of the Hanks family believed to be related to Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks. - by John G. West

Taken from - God's Little Devotional Book by Honor Books, Inc., P.O. Box 55388, Tulas, OK 74155, copyright 1997, pp. 8 & 9.
When God measures a man, He puts the tape around the heart instead of the head. "...the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."--- I Samuel 16:7

Abraham Lincoln,16th. U.S. President

More Than Just "Face Value"

President Lincoln had the ability to laugh at himself, especially his own physical appearance. When Stephen A. Douglas once called him a "two-faced man," Lincoln responded, "I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?" Another time he told about meeting a woman riding horseback in the wood. She "looked at me intently, and said, 'I do believe you are the ugliest man I ever saw.' Said I, 'Madam, you are probably right, but I can't help it.' 'No,' said she, 'you can't help it, but you might stay at home.'" Although his likeness is widely recognized, Lincoln is not known primarily for his appearance, but for his courageous stance for restoration of the Union and the abolition of slavery. He is an example of remarkable patience, dedication, compassion, and thoughtfulness. These inner qualities are what mark Lincoln as one of America's greatest presidents. So much is made in our culture today toward appearance and material possessions. We do well to remember that it is our virtuous inner qualities that create a lasting reputation.
Make your selection on the new poll: "When was your favorite Christmas time? - JGW

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"From TSGS to All..."

(Click on photo to get the full-size)

This photo was taken by Doretha Diefenbach-Hines [Copyright 2008 by Doretha Diefenbach-Hines]. It is the 2008 Christmas Eve Sunset - a gift of a beautiful painting from God to all of us. Becky & I witnessed this sunset last night and thought of how great God is. When we saw the sunset, we did not see geese flying across it... this makes Dee's photo even better. The photo was taken from their new home. Thanks, Dee & Kevin for sharing this special moment.
Merry Christmas !!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

TSGS Dock of Shame

Any cemetery vandalism or desecration is bad enough, but to steal statues and other sculptures to sell is the lowest. However, I recently learned that some people can even go lower! Last week I was in the office at Oak Hill Cemetery http://www.evansvillegov.org/cemeteries/ when a gentleman came in to report that his brother-in-law's brass military plaque had been removed and apparently stolen. This has become a major wave of thefts over the last several years, not just a result of the more recent economic problems. At a time when most of the nation is supporting our troops and mourning those soldiers who are killed, as well as, the hundreds of thousands veterans who have passed on... it is unconscionable to understand the theft of these memorials of those who served their country in war and peace. I implore all veterans and their families to help us spread the news of such dishonor for our fallen soldiers and veterans. These thieves are true scum & debris and qualify for the TSGS Dock of Shame! - by John G. West

Don Counts has found these news stories of how wide-spread this shame has become. Last year, in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, over 700 markers were stolen from the graves of American soldiers. These bronze plaques and flag holders were placed at every veteran's grave as a memorial to honor their service. In Texas, the grave of Purple Heart recipient Lance Corporal Jeremy Burris was desecrated only 2 days after his burial. Flower arrangements, personal notes, and flags decorating the grave site were torn down and destroyed. All of this destruction to steal and sell wire flower stands. In Georgia, a bronze statue depicting a Marine's boots, rifle and helmet was ripped out of the ground at the grave site of Corporal John Stalvey. Other graves have also been vandalized to steal the bronze plates traditionally placed on the grave sites of fallen service men and women. With the price of bronze on the rise, thieves are stealing these markers to sell as scrap metal. The cost of brass markers has risen to $28 each. Some counties cannot afford to replace the metal markers, so they are being forced to turn to cheaper aluminum markers.

John, I just found other articles, this one on Military.com: War Hero's Statue Stolen for Scrap http://www.military.com/news/article/war-heros-statue-stolen-for-scrap.html?ESRC=marine-a.nl
Veterans grave markers stolen in Waterloo
In West Virginia, it was vases bolted to headstones. In Washington state, it was bronze markers on veterans' graves. In Chicago, it was nearly half a million dollars' worth of brass ornaments.
Cemeteries have new problem: metal theft
Working to get a marble marker to replace brass one stolen
173 Brass Markers Stolen From Graves of Veterans

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

“My Genealogical Home!”

I only have one ancestor who lived in Indiana and even then it was for a very short period of time. That didn’t stop me from becoming a member of Tri-State Genealogical Society, however. I joined TSGS a couple of years before moving back to the area in 1989 and began attending meetings the same month we moved. I had found my genealogical home. Other TSGS members were facing the same problems in their research and together we learned how to solve them. We learned about seldom-used research sources, the types of flags that have flown over our country, mourning customs, using newspapers in research, and much, much more. “I don’t have any Vanderburgh County ancestors" is not a valid excuse for not joining TSGS. - by Brenda Jerome

Please notice that time is running out on the poll to select, from the list, the person you would want in your family tree. JGW

Monday, December 22, 2008

"With Christmas Time Closing In..."

I want to share two Christmas stories concerning Santa Claus. When I was growing up Christmas was so important as we celebrated the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree and the manger depicting the story of Jesus being born were the symbols of the spirit of the holiday. Oh, sure, we got out of school for about 10 days, but it was more than that... the whole holiday was magical & spiritual. For most young children there is the church Christmas play. My grandkids were in their church's play singing their hearts out with the many Christmas Carols. It was such a delight to watch all these young children perform for their families and the church members. This reminded me of when I was just a kid.

But, it was last night after we got back from seeing the grandkids in Cincinnati that my older brother called and reminded me of our Christmas memories of when we were kids. Santa Claus was such a big part of the whole holiday. Mom & Dad always reminded us that Santa was one of God's helpers and it was Jesus that gave us the greatest gift. As you may remember it was so exciting when Santa would soon be here and leave the presents. We did not have a fireplace for Santa to use; so, he needed to just come through the back door. Dad had made some kind of special arrangements with Santa to come early on Christmas Eve. To ensure that we did not see Santa, Dad would drive us around town looking at all of the decorated houses. Mom had to stay home to let Santa in, because we could not leave the house unlocked, of course! But, each year Mom would pull me aside from the other 3 kids to let me know that if I left Santa an orange, he would probably leave me an extra present. Of course, this was such a great deal... and, it was a secret between Mom, Santa & me. Many years went by with many oranges left for Santa to get that extra present. One in particular when I was about 11 or 12, Mom & Dad took the younger two kids to shop in Evansville (about 1 hour's drive away) – they would be gone all day. It was a beautiful December day before Christmas. My older brother said lets play basketball. We couldn't play because our old ball was so worn it wouldn't hold air. My brother said lets use your Christmas ball, but I protested Santa hasn't brought it yet. That is when I discovered one of the biggest of life's lessons. My brother showed me where all of the presents were hidden. That's when I realized that Mom had been eating my oranges. I could not tell Mom that I knew, so for a few more years, I gave Mom my orange. There is a good ending, though, my brother gave me his orange or I was going to tell Mom & Dad on our playing basketball, that year.

The other story is about my middle son (the one that was so much like his Dad). At about age 8 or 9, he heard at school that Santa may not be real, but he held on to the belief, because he figured that Santa had to exist, since we could not possibly afford all those presents. As it was we had the same problem as my parents... no fireplace for Santa to get into our house. What we did was take the 3 boys and my wife over to her parents with me staying home to let Santa in the back door. My middle son & I had a secret deal with Santa, that if he left some cookies & milk and an orange for Santa that he would get an extra gift. You bet he would not let that deal drop. But this particular year, he needed some proof that Santa actually showed up. I had him draw a picture of Santa and I would ask Santa to autograph it. Using my left hand to sign it (to ensure that my son would not think it was my writing) convinced him that Santa had come for sure. Unfortunately, he took it to school as proof positive that there was a Santa. My son came home and was really mad at me. Not so much at all of the laughing and teasing he got at school, not, even, that I tried to fool him... it was that I had eaten his cookies and oranges! -by John G. West

Do you have a Santa story to share? I would love to publish them here until January first. JGW