– This page includes additional photos and images for the article by Barry Barr-Finch. –
originally published by Kristin Holmes in the Fall, 2019 issue of The Star.
The story centers on Gold Star Mother Kate Gertrude Nichol Finch, who had eight children. She lost her oldest son, CPL John Robert Finch, who was KIA in WWI on June 6, 1918 at the Battle of Belleau Wood in France, and is remembered at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery. This page is mainly about John. But Kate also lost her youngest son, 2LT David Baird Finch, who was Barry Barr-Finch's Father, KIA in WWII on November 13, 1944 at Leyte, in the Philippines, and who is buried at Manila American. To see a Tribute to David Baird Finch Click Here.
The family: Jerry, Robert, Dad, Ramona, Ester, Polly, Mama, Durell, and Teddy. David came later.
This is the chapel at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery as it was then. The names of all the missing are carved inside. My uncle's name, CPL John Robert Finch, is there. Many of the crosses are unknowns. As I said in the article, it is the largest cemetery of unknowns.
I have a little to add here. We do have some letters from John Robert’s good friend who had gone to France at the same time. Grandma wanted a family photo at one point when John Robert was in France, so she used this one to “photo shop” him into the family photo. I thought that was very interesting for 1918.
This is their wedding photo I believe, so it dates from about 1895. The family story goes that he was actually interested in one of her sisters, but that ended when he met her. She was a beauty as you can see. He was a farmer from Illinois, and I am not sure when he moved to Nebraska. His brother Durrel was at Dutch Harbor serving as the post master when the Japanese attacked. James was a firm believer that his children should take care of him when he got older, so the girls all moved away. He would stand at the door when the oldest daughter Ramona came home from her teaching job in Sioux Falls expecting her to give him her pay. She moved to Seattle. Another daughter was a nurse and ended up in Roseburg Oregon. She worked at the VA hospital, the one that "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" was supposedly based on. He also believed that his ship was going to come in and he would have it made, so he moved the family around a lot in hopes of that happening. But all in Missouri, Nebraska, and Illinois. Then he and Kate retired to Caldwell Idaho, where Kate had siblings. He was also a Congregational Minister. There are some other stories about Jim, but they didn’t paint him in a very good way. Although their 7th child, Mary Margaret, known as Polly got polio. Jim took her on the train when she was 4 years old to the Children’s hospital in St. Lewis and left her there all alone as he had to get back to run the farm. Then he came back after she had her procedure and he took her to the home of some friends, where he left her again with these complete strangers. It was very traumatic for a young child.
This is the house they lived in in Caldwell. Dad had a cocker spaniel named Susie. When he went off to war he left her with his mother. Susie was apparently, from the stories I have heard, not a very nice dog. She would only be good for Grandma and was nasty to everyone else, especially my cousin Maureen. When Grandma would put on her hat and gloves to walk to town, Susie would go nuts and have to be locked away as she couldn’t be trusted to go with Grandma. I never met my Grandfather as he died at age 80 in 1943. I only met Grandma Kate like three times in my life when She came to Seattle to visit two daughters, one son and Grandchildren. She sent me gifts for my Birthday and Christmas. Her Birthday was December 25th. I have a photo of all the family gathered one year on Christmas for her Birthday, but I was not in the photos as I was with my family visiting my Maternal Grandmother. All of the family were strict Republicans and one time Grandma Galloway took Grandma Kate to a Republican function in Seattle when she came from Idaho to visit. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to hear what those two would have said.
Thanks to Google Maps . . . this is what the Belleau Wood American Monument site looks like from the air.
On the ground, cannon (both wheeled and stationary) were artiacts of the battle.
We also saw the fox holes the men dug for protection and the craters from the German shelling in the area.
The actual Memorial is imposing. Significant.
This is a look at the DETAIL of the Marines Memorial at Belleau Wood. Semper Fi.
© 2019 • by Barry Barr-Finch and the sons and daughters of AWON • All rights reserved.