Writing these little bios every week has made me laugh, and made me cry, remembering all the good times I had as a child and the times I spent with my Daddy learning about my ancestors and developing a love of family history. My next ancestor this week is another one I knew personally and just loved to pieces. After she read my last blog story, my cousins daughter, Monica, ask if I had written one about her grandparents and my reply was not yet and so I thought why not now. Now read carefully because things might get a little confusing for some of you, we are from the south so this can happen pretty often. J My ancestor this week is J B Loftis, Monica’s grandfather and my great-uncle as well as my uncle, he was my Mamaw, Daisy Loftis Fraley’s little brother, but he was also my uncle because he married my Daddy, Frank Beard’s big sister, Helen Beard. So my Mom’s uncle and aunt became her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, after my Mom married my Dad and her first cousins became her nieces and nephews. So that means Monica can be my second cousin or my first cousin one generation removed, depending on which side of the family I am looking at. See I told you that you might get a little mixed up. J
J B Loftis was born December 5, 1918 in Marion, Crittenden County, Kentucky the son of Jasper Guy Loftis (nicknames were Jack, Jesse and Jas) and Amy Susan Floyd. Mamaw told me that Uncle J B was named John Bartley Loftis for his Daddy’s, Daddy but that he never went by that name, only the initials. Uncle J B’s Daddy worked in the spar mines off and on and so they usually lived in one of the little miners houses near whatever mine his Daddy worked at. I know that in 1930 his Daddy was working at the Klondyke Mines near Dyer’s Hill in Livingston County, Kentucky and that was where they were living as well. Uncle J B only went to school up to the sixth grade and went to work at the age of thirteen to help his family keep food on the table. Unfortunately Uncle J B’s Daddy and my great-grandfather was not a hard worker and so Uncle J B and my Mamaw, both only went to school for a short time before they had to go to work to help their family out. My Mamaw was able to go to the eighth grade before she had to stop and go to work, cleaning houses, watching children, etc. For the most part in those early days, Uncle J B worked as a farm laborer, mainly in Crittenden and Livingston Counties in Kentucky.
Pretty soon, just like in last week’s story, World War II broke out and Uncle J B soon joined the Navy and was sent overseas. When the World War II Memorial was built in Washington DC, I added his name and a number of other family member’s names to the database that the Memorial has online. I called Uncle J B and ask him about his service during the war, so I could put a small bio with his picture online. The following is what he told me, though he didn’t like to say too much about it. “My service during the war was on an LST in the Mediterranean in the European Theater and I was at Anzio shortly after that battle. I was also at Sicily and Naples and was working in Amphibious Operations and I received an honorable discharge at the close of the war.” I wasn’t exactly sure what a ‘LST’ was so I googled it and found the following information: “Landing Ship, Tank (LST) is the naval designation for vessels created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo, and landing troops directly onto an unimproved shore.” The following is a picture of my Uncle J B in his uniform, wasn’t he a handsome fellow, I think his grandson, Justin looks just like him in this picture and the above picture too.
Uncle J B’s daddy had gotten really sick, but he told his wife he was not going to die until all of his boys were home safely from the war. My Mamaw told me that her Daddy probably had white lung from working in the spar mines, plus she said he drank a lot and that didn’t help matters much. His son, Uncle J B and his son-in-law, my Papaw, Ermon Fraley, were off fighting overseas and the boys as he called them had only been home a couple of months when Jasper Guy Loftis died on December 22, 1945 from pneumonia, he was only 50 years old. Uncle J B was the informant on his Daddy’s death certificate and he was buried at the Holiness/Pentecostal Cemetery in Marion.
After the war, Uncle J B returned home to Kentucky and soon met the young girl he would make his wife. Dorothy Helen Beard, or Helen as she was always known, was the daughter of Aubrey David Beard and Jessie Holeman Doss. Aunt Helen was born June 1, 1926 also in Marion, Crittenden County, Kentucky and was the oldest child, while my Daddy was their youngest. Uncle J B and Aunt Helen were married August 31, 1946 in Morganfield, Union County, Kentucky. The following are just a few pictures of this wonderful couple when they were young.
Aunt Helen had moved with her father and her six younger siblings to California in 1942, where they had settled in the little town of Woodlake in Tulare County. However, she had come back to Kentucky after the war ended to visit her mother who lived in Marion, and that is when she and Uncle J B started to date. My Daddy wrote a little bio about all of his siblings and this is what he said about Aunt Helen and Uncle J B. “She left California in July 1946 and went back to Kentucky to live with Mother and Pa Corley. The next month she married J B Loftis, whom she had known before ever moving to California. They lived in Marion for several months before deciding to head for California. Their first child, Donnie, was started in Kentucky, but born in Exeter, California.” Shortly after they were married, they decided to go out to California to look for work, since jobs weren’t readily available in Kentucky and Uncle J B did not want to go to work in the mines. This next picture is of Uncle J B, with his brother-in-law, Don Beard, in 1947 and the next one is of Uncle J B, Aunt Helen and Donnie in 1948.
Uncle J B and Aunt Helen had five children all born in Tulare County, California and they are: Donnie, Brenda, Sheryl, Susie and Billy and they had nine grandchildren: Lisa, Jason, Darrell, Ricky, Ryan, Tyson, Kaila, Monica and Justin and they now have a number of great-grandchildren as well, I believe that number is thirteen, if I haven’t missed any that is. They lived in Ivanhoe for just a short time, but the rest of the time they lived in Woodlake, eventually Uncle J B built them a home there and his son Billy lives in that house to this day. This house is the only one I really remember ever going to and I loved to go visit them there. This next picture is of Aunt Helen with her two oldest girls Donnie and Brenda at the city park in Woodlake.
Uncle J B and Aunt Helen always had family stopping to visit and even stay with them for a while off and on. Even though they didn’t have a lot they would help in any way they could if family needed something. Uncle J B became a carpenter and built a number of homes and other buildings throughout Tulare County. My Daddy even told me that Uncle J B helped to build the old lodge in Sequoia National Park as well. I also remember many times as a kid going to visit in Woodlake and going up to Sequoia and Three Rivers for picnics with all the family, many memories were made during those times. I believe the following picture of Uncle J B was taken up there in the park.
We also went to Mooney’s Grove in Visalia for lots of picnics too. This next picture shows me and Brenda with Aunt Helen and Sheryl at Mooney’s Grove in 1959. The next picture is also at Mooney’s Grove in 1963 and shows my Papaw Beard in the wheelchair with Susie in front of him, then behind is Brenda, Helen, Donnie, Sheryl and J B, Billy wasn’t born to later this year. The next picture shows Uncle J B with his son Billy in 1965 at their home in Woodlake.
Uncle J B’s Momma, my great-grandmother, Amy Susan Floyd Loftis, suffered a stroke at her home in Marion and died on November 8, 1968 at the hospital in Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky. I remember her very well as she came to my Mamaw’s house quite frequently when I was little. I remember that she was always dressed nicely and her hair and makeup were always done too. She was buried at Union Baptist Church Cemetery in Crittenden County and so they had her husband moved from the Holiness Cemetery to Union shortly after and buried them side by side. I know Uncle J B and his sister Christine went to Holiness to identify where he had been buried when they dug the grave up. Uncle J B told me that his Daddy’s hair looked like it had grown longer then when he was buried and was still very red. The following picture of Uncle J B and Aunt Helen is also from the 1960’s as is this picture of their house I believe.
Life went along with all its ups and downs, the kids grew up and started families of their own. Uncle J B continued doing construction work and Aunt Helen worked at the packing plant there in Woodlake. After I graduated from high school in 1976, I went out and stayed with Uncle J B and Aunt Helen for the summer and my cousin, Sheryl’s friend gave me a job at his pizza parlor. I had a great time staying there, but ended up going back home, which was now in Utah, where my parents had moved, and found a job at a hospital in Salt Lake City. I don’t remember what year it was, but I think it was in the 1980’s, Uncle J B fell while working on a job site from at least 2 or 3 stories up and landed on some rebar and the doctors thought for sure he should have been dead, but it missed all his vital organs if I remember correctly. After being in the hospital for quite a while he was finally able to be released and slowly regained his health and strength back, but never like it was before the accident. I don’t think he went back to work afterwards either. I should have ask one of his kids for more details, but I was wanting to get this story out before I got any further behind.
Here are just a few more pictures of this couple through the years, all the pictures are at their house in Woodlake, except for the first one which is out in the yard at my grandparents, Daisy and Ermon Fraley’s house in Hebbardsville, Henderson County, Kentucky.
On July 22, 2004 at his home in Woodlake, Uncle J B breathed his last breath here on earth with his wife and children by his side. A nickname that he was known by in his family was the old Growler, because it seemed he was always growling about something, but we all loved him, even when he growled and I sure do miss him, as does everyone else in the family. Me, my daughter Amy and my sister Deanna and her son Shane, drove out from Utah to Uncle J B’s funeral. Not only did I go for myself, but we also went for my Mom and Dad and for Uncle J B‘s sisters, Marguerite, Daisy, Christine and Norma Jean, none of whom were able to go for themselves. Uncle J B was buried at the Woodlake District Cemetery in Woodlake, California on July 27, 2004. Aunt Helen lived just five more years and died one month after my Daddy on August 26, 2009 and was laid to rest next to her sweetheart. They had been married for 58 years when Uncle J B past away. Here are pictures of their graves there in Woodlake, the front of the cemetery and their daughter Sheryl, holding the framed memorial picture I gave to her on the day of his funeral, that I had received from the World War II Memorial, for submitting Uncle J B’s name and military info.
Monica, I hope you enjoy this brief little bio about your grandfather, I sure loved him too and miss him every day as well as Aunt Helen and all the others who have passed away. Look at that smile and remember always he is smiling down on all of us.