Today is Memorial Day, a time to honor the fallen soldiers of the United States military. I must say that I’ve been fortunate not to have too many military veterans who never returned from duty. There have been a few, but they are generally distant in my family tree. My paternal grandfather, I believe, had a cousin who died in combat, as did my maternal grandmother, I believe. These are lines that I have not yet fully investigated, and they will receive their due consideration in time. Today I’m honoring a man even more distant in my family tree, but one for whom I happen to have a photograph to show you. The photograph comes courtesy of Archive.org’s scan of Bloomsburg State Teacher’s College’s 1935 yearbook. The man is Clyde C. Kitch.
Mr. Kitch was one of David Kline’s descendant. Those who follow my research know that this means, “Mom-mom’s relatives.” It also means “Lancaster”. Mr. Kitch was second cousin to my paternal grandmother. Clyde’s maternal grandmother, Annie (Kline) Hartman, and my grandmother’s paternal grandmother, Cora (Kline) Harrison, were siblings. Clyde’s mother, Blanche (Hartman) Kitch, and my grandmother’s father, William P. Harrison, III, were cousins. Ergo, Mr. Kitch was my paternal grandmother’s second cousin. Ergo, Mr. Kitch was my second cousin, twice removed. Got it? Well, enough about me … .
Clyde Christian Kitch was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, on April 16, 1911 to parents Henry C. and Blanche (Hartman) Kitch. He had these siblings: John Henry Kitch (1902-1984) and Helen (Kitch) Deane (1905-1989). Since he is such a distant relative, and since much of the information about him is in Lancaster, to which I travel but once a year, further details on Mr. Kitch’s early life have eluded me. No doubt he attended Bloomsburg State Teacher’s College, now Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, for his portrait is in its yearbook for 1935. Clyde’s colleagues had this to day about him:
Clyde’s good humor and fine fellowship are eclipsed only by his brilliant achievements on the gridiron. Handsome and athletic in build, Clyde was popular with the opposite sex.
Seems to me like a fine young gentleman whose opportunities were endless. Since this is the Memorial Day edition of 52 Ancestors, you might have anticipated the somber turn that his story will soon take. Clyde joined the Marines before he married Irene Long on the 29th of May, 1943. Sometime during that year, or the next, he shipped out to the battlefield where he died, in the service of his country, on Christmas Day, 1944. Think about that, this evening of Memorial Day. Here is a man who seemingly had it all: intelligence, good looks, fitness and health, his pick of the ladies, a new wife, and a new life. He risked it all for the United States Marines to defend people he didn’t know a half a world away from the onslaught of tyrants—and he paid it all.
This is what Memorial Day is all about. Some people personally know what losing a loved one to war is like. Others, like me, have to climb the family tree a ways before we find a relative like that, but everyone’s sure to find someone like this, somewhere in their ancestry. Take some time today, tomorrow, this week, or whenever, to think about these people, who they were, the ideals they fought for, the paths they cleared for others so that they may live a better life, and the empty spaces the left behind when they never returned. Today I honor Clyde C. Kitch, and all of my relatives in the American family who remember the sacrifices of their loved ones in the military.
I had the honor of visiting Mr. Kitch’s final resting place last fall during my annual bike tour to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He is buried at the Concordia Lutheran Churchyard near Columbia, Pennsylvania. Near the end of a 140 mile cycling day, I rode up that Sylvan Retreat Road, and it’s a hill steep like a wall, but I cranked those pedals all the way up to the top where the church is, and I found the Kitch family there in the cemetery. It was worth every turn to get to that place. Here, below, are some images of it: