Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Beeks line: A cousin discovered and mourned

Well, maybe he's not discovered, because I sure hope someone still remembers him, but this story was new to me and I found it only accidentally, while reading local newspapers for my "next book" project.  But Donald C Murdock deserves to be remembered and honored, not just by the few who may still remember him, but by all his extended family.  He gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country and his family.

Donald Murdock was born June 5, 1918, the son of William and Hazel Aldridge Murdock.  (It's possible that Hazel had an earlier marriage, but I'm unable to verify that now)  Donald was the only child of this couple.  They lived in Frankfort, Clinton County, Indiana from the early years of the marriage, because Donald was listed with his parents there in the 1920 U.S. census.  William is listed as 44 years old, so it's possible that he had been married before also, and Hazel was 26.  Donald's paternal grandparents, the Murdocks, were born in Ireland.  His maternal grandfather, Jeremiah Aldridge, was born in Tipton County, Indiana.  (Jeremiah had three wives and I've not yet found Hazel's birth record, so I'm not sure who her mother was).

As far as we know, life was going OK for Donald in 1930. He spent summers in Huntington County, living on a farm, probably with family members. His father was now a landscaper for an electric light plant, and owned his own home.  Sometime between 1930 and 1940 William died, and Hazel remarried to Chelsea (?) Holtz.  In 1940, Chelsea was a fireman's helper at the electric plant, Hazel was a seamstress, and Donald was a truck driver.  They were living in a rented home, so it appears that perhaps the stress of the Depression and of William's death had reached this home.

The only story I know about Donald during his teenage years is one worthy of a hero.  While staying with his uncle, W.A. Bickel for the summer, Donald went to Silver Lake for an outing.  While there, he saved the life of  a young girl who had swum too far out and was exhausted.  (This was a big enough deal that it reached the Huntington Herald Press, even though it didn't occur in Huntington County).  Donald graduated from high school, probably in 1936, and was inducted into the U.S. Army on November 22, 1941, just about two weeks before Pearl Harbor.  His last job before joining the Army was as a guard at the Kingsbury ordnance plant.

I don't know anything about Donald's training or what his job in the Army was.  Sometime, after he was deemed trained, he was shipped to the South Pacific theater.  I don't know if he was in New Guinea the whole time, or if he had arrived there from another location (he very well could have been in Australia for additional training, as many soldiers in that campaign were stationed and trained there for a time.)  We know that he sent a Christmas greeting to his cousin, Allen Bickel, on December 26, 1942 and said that all was well.  However, in what was probably the battle to retake Buna from the Japanese, on the island of New Guinea, Donald was killed in action on December 29, 1942.  Word didn't read Huntington county until January 21, 1943 of this death in the family.

I have thought about what the Aldridge and Beeks families must have felt when they heard the news.  Donald was a second cousin to the Beeks "children", who were younger than Donald.  Cleo Aldridge Beeks and Hazel Aldridge Murdock Holtz were first cousins and likely grew up spending time together.  It would have been a sad day for the family, and for the other Aldridge family members.  For Hazel, it must have been devastating. 

At some point, Donald's body was returned to the States and he was buried at the IOOF cemetery in Frankfort.  There is a military marker on his headstone indicating that he was a private.  Perhaps his mother received a letter from his commander, giving more details of the death, but this is as much as I know now.  If anyone reading this has any more knowledge about Donald Murdock, I'd love it if you'd share that with me.  We should know the story of family heroes!

Donald's line of descent would be:                                To show the connection:

Darlington Aldridge-Leah Folsom                               Darlington Aldridge-Leah Folsom
Jeremiah Aldridge-                                                       Harvey Aldridge-Margaret Catherine Dunham
Hazel Aldridge-William Murdock                               Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Donald Murdock                                                          Mary Margaret Beeks and siblings