October 26, 2015

Military Monday - O. G. Wynn, Jr.

Ota Gilbert "O. G." Wynn, Jr. was born on June 12, 1918 in Prescott, Nevada County, Arkansas.  He was the second of four children born to the marriage of Ota Gilbert "O. G." Wynn, Sr. and Kate Ward.  The Wynn family moved to Louisiana in the early 1920s and eventually made Sicily Island their home.  

O. G. Wynn, Jr. married Lillian Jeanette Young of Jonesville in December of 1942.  A son, James Howard, was born to this marriage.

Mr. O. G. and Mrs. Lillian were two of the most respected people in Sicily Island.  Both were faithful members of the First United Methodist Church.  Many people remember Mrs. Lillian as the Home Economics teacher at Sicily Island High School where she taught her students proper etiquette, meal preparations and the basics of sewing.

Mr. O. G. was a draftsman for the civil engineering firm of Jordan, Kaiser and Sessions in Natchez, Mississippi and earlier for Peck Lumber Company in Sicily Island.

Words such as courteous, well spoken, respectful, unassuming and polite repeatedly came to mind as I contemplated how best to describe Mr. O. G. as I and others remembered him.  

As I began to research and learn more about his life it soon became apparent that what I and many others knew about this man was only half of the story.  

World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 show Private O. G. Wynn enlisting in the United States Army on March 16, 1942.

He served in the following Army Airborne Divisions during the Second World War:

17th Airborne Division - Golden Talon / Thunder from Heaven
82nd Airborne Division - All American
101st Airborne Division - Screaming Eagle

101st Airborne

17th Airborne
82nd Airborne

He earned service stars for the following campaigns during World War II:
  • Rhineland Campaign:  Operation Market Garden - 9/15/1944 - 5/21/1945
  • Ardennes Campaign:  The Battle of the Bulge - 12/16/1944 - 1/25/1945
  • Central Europe Campaign - 3/22/1945 - 5/11/1945
  • Spearhead for Airborne Rhine Crossing:  Operation Varsity - 3/24/1945 

As part of the Spearhead for Airborne Rhine Crossing, Sergeant Major Wynn crossed the Rhine River in a glider as part of Operation Varsity.  He was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery under direct enemy fire.

Glider Troops after landing near Wesel, Germany

The following excerpt is from the January 17, 2007 edition of the Catahoula News Booster and was written by Howard Wynn about his father's memories of Operation Varsity: 
A five hundred mile column of C-47 airplanes left France on March 24, 1945, carrying the American 17th Airborne Division and the British 6th Airborne Division.  This entourage of 3,100 aircraft escorted by 1,000 fighter planes began the invasion of the German heartland across the Rhine River.
Wynn's glider, designated number 3 in its group, was a motorless craft every bit as large as the airplane that towed it.  Glider number 3 landed just after noon in a field a few miles north of Wesel, Germany, a town about the size of Monroe.  
Wesel had been bombed out and the German soldiers had left the town to position themselves in the country side.  Some of them were hiding in a farmhouse by a railroad track near the edge of the field. 
Sergeant Major Wynn saw them firing at him and his fellow soldiers and directed small arms fire at the doors and windows of the house.  That fire cowered the Germans while the Americans ran down a narrow trail and found cover behind the railroad embankment.   
The German army retreated and the American command assigned Sergeant Major Wynn the occupation of Gartrop Castle, near the town of Huenxe, which was about the size of Natchez and only a few miles from Wesel.

Operation Varsity Footage of Airborne Assault across the Rhine near Wesel, Germany:
(Glider Troops at the 3:23 mark)

O. G. Wynn was discharged from the Army as a Sergeant Major of the 101st Airborne Division.  In 1992, he published "A Soldier of the Post" in which he recorded his experiences during World War II.

Ota Gilbert "O. G." Wynn, Jr. died on June 30, 2012.  He is buried alongside his wife in the Jena Cemetery in Jena, LaSalle Parish, Louisiana.

Courteous, well spoken, respectful, unassuming and polite.  Yes, he was all of these things.   He was also courageous, valiant, loyal and brave.  

He was a soldier.

National WWII Museum
USAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Special thanks to Howard Wynn for allowing me to share his father's photograph and his father's memories of Operation Varsity.

A separate post is planned to continue the story of Sergeant Major Wynn's time at Gartrop Castle and the search which began in 2006 to find the castle and uncover the mystery of an old photograph.

October 21, 2015

Wedding Wednesday - Henslee and Fairbanks

Joyce Marie Henslee Fairbanks

The above photograph appeared in the March 4 edition of the Monroe Morning World along with an announcement of the January 1, 1951 marriage of Joyce Marie Henslee and John Henry Fairbanks.

Joyce Marie Henslee was born to the marriage of Thomas Lester Henslee and Eva Marie Cruse.  John Henry Fairbanks was the son of Dr. Russell Usher Fairbanks and Sallie Knight.

John and Joyce Fairbanks made their home in Concordia Parish where they raised two sons and one daughter.  

John Henry Fairbanks passed away on August 19, 1985.  He is buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

October 17, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Annie Thurman

Monroe News Star - 9/4/1953

Annie Guyton

Born on April 2, 1897

Daughter of
Isaac and Martha Guyton

Wife of
Rastus Lee Thurman

Mother to
Ray Leon, Marion Dinah, Ventris Rechiel "Billy", Edsel Girard "Dinky", Freida,
Floy Newton "Tony", Mason "Sam", Lloyd Dennis "Boots", 
Cecil Mahlon "Edge" and Fay "T-Model"

Died on September 1, 1953
Buried in the Welcome Home Cemetery
Grayson, Caldwell Parish, Louisiana

Tombstone photograph was taken by FindAGrave member, Karen Klemm Pinckard.

Sports Center Saturday - Memories of Homecomings Past

Sicily Island High School Homecoming Court - 1975

Homecoming ceremonies were held yesterday at Sicily Island High School.  Memories of past homecomings prompted the posting of this particular one from forty years ago.

This photograph of the 1975 Homecoming Court appeared in the Catahoula News Booster.  Seated at the top is Queen Denise Simmons with Todd Guice (football bearer) and Nikki Roberts (crown bearer) on each side.  On the second row are (LtoR) Florida Jackson, Jessie Johnson, Carol Bowman and Dawn Seal.  On the bottom row are (LtoR) Deborah Edmonds, Rebecca Douglas, Rutha Harber, Rhonda Williamson and Helen Henry.

The selection of Homecoming Courts at Sicily Island High School was unique to the school itself.  I was never aware of any other school whose process resembled ours.  Other schools held elections where the queen and her court were selected by popular vote from the student body.  At Sicily Island, the captain of the football team was always a senior.  He had the honor of selecting the queen from the student body while the remaining senior players chose the queen's court.

In 1975, the captain of the football team was Steve Robinson.  Below is a photograph of him with his queen, Denise Simmons.

Queen Denise Simmons and Captain Steve Robinson

For those who may be interested in taking a walk down memory lane to earlier years, old home movies from Homecoming parades as far back as the 1950s can be found at Roots from the Bayou's YouTube page.

October 12, 2015

A Sketch of Business Locations in Sicily Island, 1930-1940

The above sketch gives us an idea of how the business section of Sicily Island appeared in the 1930s and early 1940s.  The sketch was drawn by Richard Guy "R. G." Price, Jr. and is displayed in First United Methodist Church.

Below is a second photograph of the sketch with transcriptions.  View this sketch as if approaching Sicily Island from the direction of Harrisonburg on LA Highway 8 East (beginning at the bottom and working your way up).
The horizontal notation along the left side of the sketch states the following:

"All forms of livestock had a free run of the town; cows, sheep, mules, horses, hogs, chickens"

  • LA Hwy 8 ends at the junction of U.S. Hwy 15.
  • Once you turned left onto U.S. Hwy 15 North, the ESSO Service Station was on the right followed by John Hall's Cafe, the Drug Store and the Motel.
  • The area showing the Shell Station and two vacant lots was on the left side of U.S. Hwy 15 North and is where the Short Stop is located today.  

Special thanks to Mr. R. G. Price for creating this sketch.  It is a wonderful piece of history which provides future generations a glimpse of Sicily Island as it was back in the 1930s and 1940s.

Richard Guy "R. G." Price, Jr.

October 11, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Richard Charles Perry

Monroe News Star - 10/25/1972

Richard Charles Perry

Born on March 9, 1904

Son of
Charles Perry and Minnie Lovett

Brother to
Ida, Leona Allie, Mary Cora, Sylvester, Ollie and Jesse Alexander

Husband of
Mary Ann Juneau

Father to
Olivia, Lela Mae, J. C., Geneva, Daisy and Mamie

Died on October 23, 1972
Buried in the New Pine Hill Cemetery
Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

Tombstone photograph was taken by FindAGrave member, Karen Klemm Pinckard.

October 10, 2015

Sports Center Saturday - Sicily Island District 3-B Football Stars, 1955

From the December 13, 1955 edition of the Monroe News Star:


Sicily Island, Newellton, and Wisner - considered the "big three" of Class B football district three - again headed the poll for all-district selections, claiming ten of the eleven berths on the first team.  Block of Jonesville cracked the monopoly by placing Roscoe Wilson, the No. 2 scorer in the area, in the backfield.

Sicily Island's district champions landed four places on the first team.  Newellton and Wisner placed three each.

There were four repeaters from the 1954 team - Jerry Don Head, Newellton end; Albert Dampier, Sicily Island guard; B. K. Miller, Sicily Island back; and Roy Shiver, Wisner back.  Four second team selections last year advanced to the first team this trip.  They are Dan Chapman, Wisner end; Sam Crawford, Sicily Island guard; John Wood, Newellton tackle; and Ralph Rayburn, Wisner back; Terry Von Head, Newellton back; and Dale Hoover, Davidson of St. Joseph repeated on the second team.

Miller, Rayburn, Dampier and Jerry Head were first string nominations of all coaches participating in the poll conducted for the Louisiana Sportswriters Association.

Rounding out the No. 1 team are Lynn Evans, Sicily Island guard; and Bill Parker, Newellton center.
Joining Terry Head and Hoover on the second team were Sam Duchesne, Newellton, and Wiley Rabb, Waterproof ends; Willie Walker, Block and Billy Booth, Wisner tackles; Ernest Armstrong, Davidson and John Lang, Newellton guards; Charles Stringer, Sicily Island center; and Billy Wiggins, Sicily Island, and Jerry Clark, Newellton backs.

Miller, tagged "Mr. Sicily Island" for Coach Raymond Peace's Tigers, is the district's leading scorer with 126 points, made two touchdown runs of 95 and 98 yards, was the passing arm of the Bengals and linebacker on defense.  Miller, a senior, weighs 155 pounds, stands five-foot-ten and made the all-state team last year.

Wilson, the smallest player on the squad at 125 pounds, was the spark of the Block High team that had a 50-50 season of five wins and five losses.  The five-foot-eight sophomore ranked right behind Miller in the district scoring race with 100 points.  Shiver and Rayburn, while without too impressive scoring records, still were ramrods of a Wisner machine that compiled a season record of seven wins, one tie, and three losses, bowing only to Sicily Island in district competition.

Cream of the line appear to be Sicily Island's Dampier and Newellton's Jerry Head.  Dampier, now a senior, was an all-state guard last year.  At 195 pounds and an even six feet, Dampier is co-captain of his club and bulwark of the Tiger line.  Jerry Head, a twin brother of Newellton's back, Terry, is considered the Bears' most outstanding athlete at six-oft-one and 165 pounds.  His coach, Jimmy Johnson tags him "a natural either on offense or defense" and especially great as a pass receiver.  Against Sicily Island, Head caught passes for 86 yards, and, for the season he gained 444 yards with passes, three for touchdowns and one conversion.

Talented Tuesday - B. K. Miller, Jr.

Sentimental Sunday - Lynn and Linda

October 7, 2015

Wedding Wednesday - Watson and Tarver, 1933

Monroe Morning World - 11/26/1933

Mary Ruth Watson was born on April 7, 1913 to the marriage of Aaron and Mattie Watson.  On November 16, 1933 she married Claude Lawrence Tarver who was born on October 15, 1907.  Claude was the son of Thomas Webster "Webb" Tarver and Juliette Posey.

Children born to the marriage of Ruth and Claude Tarver were Anita Claudette and Jerry Lynn.

Ruth Watson Tarver died on October 19, 1985.  Claude Tarver died on September 29, 1995.  Both are buried alongside their daughter, Claudette, in the New Pine Hill Cemetery in Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana.

October 5, 2015

Military Monday - Bobbie Ratcliff

Bobbie Ratcliff

Born on March 17, 1927

Son of
Benjamin H. Ratcliff and Pearl Pauline Griffin

Brother to
Benny Wilson, Henry Louis, Callie Lester, Verbie Harmon and Ruby Lee

Died on July 15, 1955
Buried in the New Pine Hill Cemetery
Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

United States Army
World War II

HQ CO, 3rd Battalion, 349th Infantry Regiment

Enlisted on May 23, 1945
Honorably Discharged on March 20, 1947

Tombstone photograph was taken by FindAGrave member, Karen Klemm Pinckard.

October 4, 2015

Sunday's Obituary - Annie Garrison

MNS - 7/17/1976

Hulda Annie Francis

Born on May 15, 1890

Daughter of
Joseph Strahan Francis and Mary Etta Renfrow

Sister to
Oscar Renfrow, Eunice, Joseph Strahan, Jr., Marshall Mason "Marcy",
Mary Jane and Albert

Wife of
Edgar Eugene Garrison, Sr.

Mother to
Eunice, Mary Artie, Annie Lee, Edgar Eugene, Jr., Josephine Francis
and Clarence Alexander

Died on July 17, 1976
Buried in the Old Pine Hill Cemetery
Sicily Island, Catahoula Parish, Louisiana

October 3, 2015

Sports Center Saturday - Tigers to Battle Basile in Playoff Game, 1955

The following article appeared in the November 30, 1955 edition of the Monroe News Star:


MNS - 11/30/1955
Sicily Islanders To Battle Basile In 'B' Playoffs

(Special)--After beating Block of Jonesville, 40-20 for their sixth straight league win without defeat and clinching the district 3-B championship for the second straight year, the Sicily Island Tigers have been working hard for their bi-district game with the Basile High Bears at Basile Friday night.

Basile won the 4-B football crown last week by defeating Cottonport, 14-7, and will face the Tigers with a fine array of backs, including Billy Fontenot, leading scorer in district four with 124 points, in addition to Clarence Weaver, hard driving fullback, and Oren Vige, an outstanding quarterback.

Coach Raymond Peace's Island Tigers will match them with all-state B. K. Miller, who scored six touchdowns in the last scheduled game against Block and is his district's leading scorer with 126 points.  Along with Miller will be such outstanding Sicily Island ball handlers as Billy Wiggins, Charles Gillespie, and Benny Frank Alford.

In the line, the Tigers' success of continuing in championship play will depend on all-state Albert Dampier, big Cook Crawford, Lynn Evans, Charles Stringer, Dean Wiggins, C. J. Richardson, Charles Enright, Harvey Ray Wells, and Tommy Wells.  All have played outstanding ball for Sicily Island this season.

The Tigers leave Sicily Island Friday morning at 8 o'clock by chartered bus for Basile.  Kickoff time that night is 8 p.m.