On August 6, 1918, ninety-four years ago today, Willard Pershing Graber (1918-1988), my step-great-grandfather, was born on the Chamberlin Farm just outside Cooperstown, Griggs Co., North Dakota, USA.
Willard was the tenth child born to Kit Carson Graber (1875-1960) and Iva Mae McKeehan (1879-1950). According to Iva’s extensive diary, Willard weighed seven and a half pounds when he was born, making him Kit and Iva’s fourth largest baby, and tying him with his brother Gail. At about four months old, his parents moved their family to Iowa, before returning to North Dakota between 1922 and 1924. As a sharecropper, Kit often had to move his family around at this time, particularly as the Great Depression set in and the droughts took their toll on farms in the Midwest.
Between 1932 and 1934, Willard completed two years of high school at Grilley High School. By 1936, the Graber family was struggling in North Dakota and decided to move west, settling in Albany, Linn Co., Oregon, USA in that year. Iva, Willard’s mother, kept an extensive account of their trip by car. In 1937, Willard, at the age of nineteen, enlisted in the Oregon National Guard, which he served in until 1940. The following year, he married his first wife, Mae Houser (1923-1989), with whom he had one son before their divorce in 1945. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and began his training to be a pilot (the war ended before he finished his training).
In 1947, Willard married my great grandmother, Alice Lucretia (Wellin) Lapham (1916-1985), who was recently divorced from her first husband, Ted Lapham (1910-1955).