2016-09-15 / Editorial

Do you remember David Trotter now?

By Leslie Rounds

Earlier this summer I asked all of you, “Do you remember David Trotter or his sister?”

You might recall that David was a 22-year-old U.S. Army soldier who gave his life in November 1944 in the lead up to the Battle of the Bulge in an unfortunate – and I learned later – largely unnecessary fight to gain control of the Hurtgen Forest. The battle for ground that could have readily been by-passed on the way to crossing the Rhine resulted in 33,000 American casualties, nearly all of them very young men like David.

David’s body was never recovered from the rubble of the building that collapsed upon him during German shelling. His parents, Thomas and Kate Chrysler, and his younger sister, Evelyn, first received word that he was missing in action, but within a couple of days, Army officials realized that David must be among the dead. His parents purchased a plot in the circle section of Laurel Hill Cemetery, and a granite marker there bears his name, along with those of his father far away, in The Netherlands, is another marker with David’s name on it. This one has been adopted by a kindly man who lives in the town of Duiven, Rob Willemsen. He asked earlier this summer if we could find and notify David’s relatives that his memorial is being visited and cared for.

Initially, that seemed like an easy project. Evelyn and her mother stayed on in Saco long enough for Evelyn to graduate from Thornton Academy in 1948. After that, however, the trail seemed to grow cold. I found Evelyn and her mother on a city directory in Takoma, Washington in 1950-1952, and then there seemed to be no more mention of her. It is only with the help of some very kindly genealogists across the country that I learned more.

Evelyn’s mother died in Fort Collins, Colorado. We were able to track backward from there to discover that Kate had been married before her marriage to Thomas Trotter (a great surprise) and that she had a son by the first marriage – who was living in Takoma. He seems to have died childless, but knowing his name helped recover the trail Evelyn left, although it is only thinly sketched. When she witnessed her step brother’s marriage, she was already married herself, although we only know what her last name had become.

From there, Evelyn may have married as many as four more times. After her mother’s death and her own last marriage, Evelyn moved to Longview, Texas where she bought a small home. She seems to have lived there up until very recently, but now there is no phone number listed for this 89-year-old lady, and the letter I sent her a couple of weeks ago was returned with a sticker saying the home was vacant. I have found no record of her death so perhaps she has moved into a retirement home. I am still trying to track her down, but it seems unlikely that I will ever catch up to her now.

What to do? I am so frustrated that no one, after Evelyn, will live to remember David. On Ancestry.com, I have found several family trees that include either his mother’s family or his father’s but none of them have any record of Thomas and Kate’s marriage or note the births of their children or the loss of David. I’ve decided that since I can’t seemingly catch up to Evelyn, the next best thing is to make sure that his name gets into those family trees so at least there will be that small record of his life and loss. But the other thing I could ask – and you could help me with – is to think of David. Think of David and all of David’s peers, lost in that war and the wars that preceded and followed it.

Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum.

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