For Memorial Day I thought I’d offer a tribute to the women in my family, who made it possible for the men in my family to serve. Sometimes these women served during wartime, managing households and children and cross-country moves, alone. Some of these women served during peace times, entertaining fellow officers, doing charitable endeavors, and making their husbands look good. Unfortunately women are often not honored for this kind of hard work–the kind of hard work that makes it possible for their husbands to succeed in their careers and still have a family, and a nice home.
A trio of officer's wives: Aunt Pam (Mom's sister), Mimi (my grandmother), and Mom
My Aunt Pam was married to George Branch, USAF. I’m not sure what rank he attained, but he was a pilot, and I know they moved around a bit… and Pam had FOUR kids in tow!
We called my grandmother “Mimi.” She was married to my grandfather, we called him “Papasan.” He was a Commodore, and a pilot who served during World War II. Donald G. Gumz retired at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station after having served as the commander there.
Mom. She was married to my Dad, he retired as a Captain in the U.S. Navy. He was an engineer, but also had a degree in Finance and worked on a lot of budget issues. The first time my mother had to move by herself was when my Dad was at sea. His ship, however was scheduled to return to a new home port, near San Francisco. We had been living in Long Beach. My mother, with two small children (I was two, my sister was six), had to sell the house, find new “quarters” and pack up and move.
Granddad, and Grandma
Maurice E. Simpson, aka Granddad, retired an Admiral in the U.S. Navy. He married my Grandma, Ruby, just before he entered the Navy. Grandma had grown up in a small town in Virginia, Sedley. She’d married, but her husband was killed in a car accident–she was pregnant with my Dad at the time. Knowing she had a son to take care of, she went to nursing school, and was working as a nurse when she met “Maury.” She used to tell me that all the girls called him “Dreamboat.” Right after they married, they moved to San Diego, the first of many moves to come. Also, World War II started up (my granddad was on a supply ship in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked). I think they moved 11 times, though I’m not sure. The duty stations that I know about include: San Diego, San Francisco, Japan (post WWII), (Rota Spain), Long Beach, Great Lakes (near Chicago), Beaufort (one of the Carolinas), Quantico, VA, Washington DC, Norfolk… some like Norfolk may have been more than once.
Nana Gumz and Papi Gumz
I didn’t really know Nana or Papi Gumz– I was pretty young when they passed away. I do know that my Papi Gumz was, according to my Dad, “an old salt” a term used to describe someone who came up in the Navy the hard way… my Ludwig Gumz joined the Navy at the age of 13. He lied about his age and joined as an Apprentice Boys, served during World War I and worked his way up to Lieutenant. He was called back to active duty during World War II. I wish I had more to say about my Great Grandmother. She was born Lillian Flood, and lived in Waukegan, Illinois when they married, according to a newspaper article I have (about the two Gumz men). I remember visiting once and Nana Gumz made pancakes with chocolate chips IN them. I must have been about 8 and I thought that was the most ingenious thing EVER.
They may not have been Rosie the Riveters, but they served on the home front in their own way, throughout their lives. And for that, they should be honored too.