The winter sun tried hard to warm the cold stone porch of the brick
house in St. Louis. It stood on the corner of Cleveland and Lawrence.
Inside the home was the
usual excitement that took place on an ordinary Sunday, just weeks
The family of eight that lived in the rental was busy with the day's activities.
Six daughters ranging in age from 8 to 24 years lived there. One
of the younger daughters was approaching 12
years old. Their two older sisters and only brother had married and
started families of their own.
On Sunday the sisters went to church and Sunday School. The parents
stayed home to prepare a big Sunday dinner.
At this time the United States was just beginning to get over the Big
Depression which had begun in 1929 with the Stock Market crash. There
was talk of the war in Europe and some companies began gearing up for
defense work, but the general public was enjoying a time of slow
growth and peace.
After dinner the twelve-year-old was helping to decorate the house
for the Christmas season. This was a big event in the lives of this
large family. Bolts of folded crepe paper were cut off at the ends
to make long strips for streamers, red and green were pinned
together, twisted, and thumb tacked to the corners of the room, then
to the centered ceiling light fixture. The decorations were saved
from year to year, but supplies had to be replenished at times.
second youngest put on her wool coat and tied the requisite scarf
around her head for warmth as she volunteered to go to the
neighborhood “confectionary” for more crepe paper.
As she returned home, anticipating the fun of decorating, she noticed
that the atmosphere of the usually busy household seemed changed. An
older sister told her that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. The
frightened young girl began to sob. This was a family that didn’t
tolerate tears and she was immediately hushed with, “Don’t
you dare start crying – Mother has enough problems right now.”
Their brother and his wife, who lived many blocks away, had been at
home listening to the radio about the attack. They knew that the
family seldom turned on the radio; so they had to run a long distance
through the width of Tower Grove Park to inform their loved ones of
the great tragedy. This was quite a feat for the very short,
dark-haired lady whose legs were only about half the length of her
The shocked relatives congregated in the living room as someone
turned on the radio. The eight-year-old sat on the floor bewildered
by all this mass confusion. Why was everyone so upset? What did it
The father of this large family, Al Lodwick was a moderately small
man in stature. He stood 5’5” tall and never
weighed an ounce over 135 pounds. What he lacked in size he
made up in abilities. He could build almost anything, be it
from wood or metal. He repaired all household disasters. He
was revered and loved by fellow workers at Busch Sulzer Diesel Engine
Company in St. Louis, where he worked for forty-three years as a
machinist. He began work there in 1914, at the start of the
Great War -- WWI. Busch Company built large diesel engines for
trains and ships.
Al met Ethel McCoy in 1908 and married her a year later. Their
marriage lasted 61 years, until Al’s death in 1970 at the age
Al registered for the Draft on June 15, 1917. On the card he wrote
that he worked for Busch, lived at 3339 18th
that he then had a wife and four children to support.
In 1922 they moved to 1316 Sidney Street which was owned by Eddie
O’Hare. Eddie had two daughters, and a son also named
Eddie, but called Butch. The O’Hare children and the
Lodwick children who were of similar age often played together. The
family lived next door to the O’Hares for six years.
Charles Schmiedeke was a tenant farmer in Illinois. In 1919 the
worldwide influenza epidemic struck his home. His wife of many
years, Ina, did not recover and he was left with seven children.
The youngest, Cleo, was only four years and three months old.
Cleo’s sister Emma began to care for him, and they had formed a
very strong bond as a result. She became a substitute for the mother
he no longer had. There was a time that Cleo
was put in a boarding house for 2 1/2 years and the woman who cared
for him cried when he left.
Cleo received the highest accolades from his father and all who knew
him. He was a cheerful, friendly, person who was always helpful to
family and friends throughout his life.
During his teens he attended Roosevelt High School in St. Louis for a
short time, where he met Al Lodwick (the younger). The two became
inseparable most of the time and Cleo got to know the whole Lodwick
family. Eventually he returned to Illinois where he graduated. His
brothers, Harry and Noel were living in St. Louis and came to the
Lodwick household often.
In 1935 Cleo enlisted in the US Navy as a career sailor. He served
on the USS Medusa which was a repair ship that could repair “anything
from a watch to a hull.” Later he was assigned to the destroyer USS Paul
Jones, and finally to the heavy cruiser, the USS Chicago, with her nine 8 inch guns.
Busch Company repaired the hull of the
cruiser in December 1942 after it was damaged in battle.
While in the Navy Cleo met LtJg George Chipley and they became close
friends, serving together on the Chicago. George had another friend,
a former school mate, serving in the same convoy – as a fighter
pilot on the USS Lexington, the Aircraft Carrier. His name was
“Butch” Eddie O’Hare. Before George was discharged
he was promoted often, eventually attaining the rank of Commander
Lt. Butch O’Hare became a war hero, winning the Medal of Honor
for single handedly shooting down five of nine Japanese bombers
before help came from the Lexington in a
February 1942 battle. Lt. Commander O’Hare was killed November
1943 when he was accidentally shot down by another American plane on
a night mission. Eventually the Chicago Airport
December 7, 1941
As the family listened to the news of the raid in disbelief, the
youngest daughter was reminded that her sister, Valerie, had
married a career sailor, Cleo, in 1940 and was living
in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Valerie had just given birth
to their son, Allen, 5 weeks earlier. While still in the hospital she
had an emergency appendectomy!
Valerie was a high-spirited, intelligent, energetic adventurer
throughout her life. She was a beautiful woman with very curly light
golden blond hair and blue eyes. She favored the maternal side of
the family. She went to work as a young teenager, as her oldest
sister had, to help their father support the large family.
During the raid Cleo, a Chief Petty Officer which was the highest
rank for a non-commissioned officer, was out at sea in the heavy
cruiser, the “Chicago”. They were in the convoy with the
Aircraft Carrier, the Lexington, and on the way to Midway.
In the days that followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, there was no
way to reach Valerie to see if she was alright; and no way for her to
reach Cleo. Communication lines were interrupted. Masses of people
sending private telegrams and letters helped to bog down the system.
Messages were sent over and over. Letters were written. No word
received in response! No word from the government either. Daily
radio announcements and newspaper reports were the only contact with
Moving picture theaters would run first hand accounts of world
events, including the war, on movie film but it might be days or
weeks old before it was shown. A friend had gone to a movie where
the Newsreels “The Eyes and the Ears of the World” were
shown. They thought they saw someone who looked like Valerie on the
news. Ethel and Al, who seldom ever went anyplace, went to the same
theater, and saw one blond woman holding a baby in a shelter. But she
didn’t even resemble their beloved daughter. They watched it
again as it was repeated. They returned home doubly disappointed and
under much stress.
Then Valerie’s mother, Ethel, who was extremely resourceful,
remembered that Valerie had often mentioned her neighbors “Buster
and Mabel” in letters in the past, so Ethel, in desperation,
wrote a letter to those names and addressed it to :
“Buster and Mabel, Next door to:”
And put Valerie’s address on it. The neighbors received it and
answered right away! Still no direct word from Valerie, but at least
it was known that she and Allen were alright! Thank the Lord!
Women and children were supposed to be evacuated first from this
war-torn island, but for some reason, Valerie and Allen were some of
the last to arrive home to the United States in late May or early
June of 1942. Her parents and their entire brood were waiting at
Union Station to not only welcome them home, but to envelope them
with much needed love.
Cleo’s sister, Emma, lived in California near a port. One
letter from Cleo told Valerie to go visit his sister. Letters were
censored, so code had to be used.
Valerie figured he may be in port so she took little Allen to visit
his aunt and uncle. Sure enough, the USS Chicago got into port and
Cleo was able to visit with his wife and eleven-month-old son before
he returned to defend his country at sea. His wife returned to her
January 30, 1943 rumors reported that the ship the Chicago was
sunk on the 29th
, 1943 near the
International Dateline. Cleo had escaped the tragic Pearl Harbor
incident, only to fight for another year and die! The Los Angeles
Daily News officially reported in the February 16, 1943 edition that
the USS Chicago was sunk. Later seamen survivors from the ship
notified the waiting wife that the torpedo had gone right through the
engine room where Cleo was assigned though there was no official word
of his plight.
A week later Valerie and her Mother saw a man, in a familiar blue
uniform, approach the Lodwick home on Hawthorne Boulevard. Both
immediately thought the worst. When they went to the door they found
that it was someone selling tickets to raise money for the war
On February 25, 1943, the second Navy-blue-uniformed man really did
bring the news that Cleo was “missing
in action.” Since there was no body Cleo couldn’t be
declared dead for a whole year!
Life goes on
Valerie went to work for the Social Security Administration where she
was expert at helping people to obtain their rightful retirement
benefits. Although she eventually received a widow’s benefit,
she had to work to adequately support herself and her son. She
continued this occupation until she retired.
Cleo’s best friend, Lieutenant Chipley, visited Valerie. He
told her that he had a hard time saving his own men in the next
engine room, and that there was no hope at all that Cleo had
survived. The torpedo had ripped directly though Cleo’s engine
One year later Valerie experienced the nightmare of receiving the
papers that her dear husband was killed in action which only served
to prolong the grieving. The younger sister was now thirteen and
clearly remembers the times she saw and heard Valerie lying on her
bed sobbing her heart out, with toddler Allen next to her crying as
hard as she did. He knew not why she cried but knew something was
Valerie told her older sister that one day after Cleo died she had
taken a calendar and counted up all of the weekends Cleo had spent
with her and added the few times he was on leave. These moments they
had shared together were only a fragmented nine months out of the
three years of their marriage.
* * *
The younger sister entered High School. There were many “Aud”
sessions where the students congregated for patriotic and
informational meetings. The sessions opened with the “Star Spangled Banner” and the girl wept
silently through each time it was sung.
At fifteen the young girl met the love of her life! He was eighteen
at the time. He entered the Army in November 1945 and served for 18
months. At one time he was shipped to a coastal area with orders to
go overseas in an occupational force. For some reason those orders
were rescinded and he served out his time in the States. They married
Two of the middle sisters met and married service men during the
Second World War. Their father and one son-in-law worked many
overtime hours in defense factories building ships’ engines and
fighter planes. One sister was a telegraph operator typing in many
Rationing began. Tires, gasoline, dairy products, meats and sugar
were all scarce and ration coupons were needed to obtain them when
they were available. Tin cans were recycled into tanks and airplanes.
The youngest daughter met and married a man a bit older than she was.
Before they had met he also served overseas in the war.
Through the years things change, babies are born; deaths occur in
families, people move from their birthplaces, grandchildren are born.
Life goes on.
Many times Valerie would visit the second youngest sister’s
family on the West Coast. They were very close even though 16 years
of age, and the birth of a brother and five sisters separated them.
It was as if she wanted to be close to the place where she and Cleo
began their life together, and where it eventually ended. “She
lived her life as if she expected to find Cleo walking in the door at
as a brother-in-law once said. MIA always
The younger sister took her to San Francisco, to the street where she
and Cleo had once lived. The place no longer existed. It was evident
that she relived their time together while visiting the area.
When asked in later years what it was like on that terrible day in
1941, Valerie got that far off look in her clear blue eyes and said,
“I was still in bed sleeping, with Allen in bed with me. There
were explosions but I thought it was practice or war games going on.
Mabel from next door knocked at my apartment door and said they were
bombing our boys in Pearl Harbor. There were two planes dog-fighting
right over our house. The school house two blocks away was bombed.”
Valerie, who was always very afraid of thunder, was asked what she
did. “I took Allen in my arms and went out in the yard and
watched it all!”
Valerie died in 2004 at the age of 91 and her son has kept her ashes
at home with him. When he dies he has requested that relatives take
both their ashes and strew them at sea so they could be with his Dad
– the Dad he never knew except through stories, letters, and
the Viet Nam war Allen also put on a uniform. A total of six cousins
served their country. Five served in Nam. The sixth was badly injured
in a military accident while in the States and received permanent
Upon Allen’s return to the States he stayed with his West Coast
aunt’s family for a short time to orient himself to civilian
living again. The visit was a great welcome home, and a sad reliving
of some very disturbing events. None of these cousins came back
unchanged. War is Hell !
* * *
And as the eighty-year-old great-grandfather installs a new faucet in
the kitchen sink, the great-grandmother is called from her writing to
hold a wrench or hand him a tool. He doesn’t know that
while he works from below, tears drip down the drain from above.
They are so blessed to be celebrating their 60th
anniversary together, but at this moment she is still in a reverie of
Request for writing this was from Cheryl Leonhardt Newcomb
Photos and newspaper clipping were
family archives on hand and sent by family members
Lorna Lodwick Brakemeyer ,
Allen Charles Schmiedeke ,
Veva Lodwick Marrow ,
Ronald Lee Smith,
Vivid memories provided in the past by --
Valerie Lodwick Schmiedeke
And more recently by -- Lorna and Veva above, and Dellora Lodwick Cook
Weeks of great suggestions for editing and revisions via email came from
Cheryl Leonhardt Newcomb ,
David Ray Leonhardt , Lynn Leonhardt Tappan ,
Much needed encouragement was thankfully
received from Al D. Lodwick, R. Pharm.
And my beloved husband Raymond A. Leonhardt