This Memorial Day, I’ll be remembering my dad Norm Charboneau — a WW II veteran and my enthusiastic travel partner on many family history road trips.
“Where are we going this time, Mol?” he would quip when I visited him and Mom each summer.
Dad joined the journey in 1992, and for years we combed upstate New York together, or strategized by phone, in search of our elusive ancestors. But it wasn’t always that way.
Dad grew up in the small Adirondack town of Otter Lake in Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y., where he admired those in uniform — postal workers, bus drivers, train conductors — who saw more of the world than he did.
The first in his family to go to college, Dad interrupted his engineering studies at Clarkson University in 1944 to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific until 1946 as an Electronics Technician Mate, Third Class (ETM3c) — in the wider world he longed for.
My college years in the 1960s were interrupted in a different way when I gave up my studies and joined the peace movement to end the Vietnam War. I was not sure I could ever heal the rift that caused with Dad.
But as years passed, we both mellowed. I eventually finished college and began researching our family. One day I realized that our time together was slipping away, so I called Dad.
“What would you say to a trip to Otter Lake, so you can show me everything and tell me all about it?” I asked him.
Dad — who inherited the gift of gab from his mother’s Welsh-Irish side — loved the idea. And with that trip, the first of many, he and I finally moved beyond what divided us and started enjoying the legacy we shared: family, ancestors, heritage.
© 2014 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.