In this photo taken in 1944, Terri’s parents (Vincent Sojat and Blanche O’Leary) were at a supper club in San Francisco. Blanche was 18 and Vince was 24. At this point in time Vince had already served in the Navy for six years and had seen an incredible amount of action in the Pacific starting on December 7th, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. Vince, like so many WWII veterans was truly a humble man. But he was also a hero. Vince was from the small town of Lincoln, Illinois and he left home as a teenager to escape the Depression by joining the C.C.C. At age 17 he joined the Navy and was on the cruiser USS Honolulu when the Japanese attacked the U.S. fleet. Blanche was from Loleta California in the far northwestern corner of the state, a dairy rancher’s daughter who fled to San Francisco when the war began to get away from her rural, small town life. Like so many couples from this “Greatest Generation,” war and fate brought them together for better or for worse for the rest of their lives. After the war Vince and Blanche settled in Long Beach California where Vince continued to serve in the Naval Reserves. Terri was born in 1949 and grew up in the sprawling post-war suburbs nearby. I mentioned in a previous post that I met Terri at a high school football game in 1964. Terri was just 15 at the time. While her Dad, Vince kept an eye on both of us, it wasn’t enough. We were married in Hawaii in 1967 just two months after Terri turned 18.
“Those Irish, they… fought like cannibals down there, at the end of that road.” Place Names of Humboldt County
Terri’s great-great grandparents, William and Bridget O’Leary immigrated to the U.S. from County Cork Ireland in 1857. Heading to San Francisco, their ship went down in a storm as they rounded the tip of South America (Cape Horn). They both were eventually rescued but they had been separated and each thought the other was dead.
Living as widowers, William and Bridget went about their lives in San Francisco for several years. Then one day, as they were both walking down a city street, they ran into each other! Suddenly together again they got on with their lives, started a family and moved on.
After briefly living in Nevada, they moved to the North Coast of California, where they homesteaded in the Eel River valley. After trying potato farming, they switched to dairy ranching. This part of California truly was (and still is) a place for “happy cows,” with 40″ of rainfall annually and lots of grass year-round.
After William and Bridget, three more generations of O’Leary’s lived and worked at the ranch on Cannibal Island Road. This includes Terri’s mom, Blanche, who lived there until she moved to San Francisco at the start of WWII. In the 1970’s we visited Terri’s grandparents, Art and Laverne O’Leary at the ranch several times. On Terri’s final visit in 1980 she took this picture. Art and Laverne had lived together on Cannibal Island Road for 60 years. This would be the last photo Terri would take of them. They were both gone just two years later.
William and Bridget O’Leary and two of their children are buried in the pioneer Catholic cemetery in Ferndale California, just across the Eel river from Loleta. Their plot is at the very bottom of this photo. Terri has another set of great-great grandparents buried here, and also two great-great-great grandparents. The cemetery is in a beautiful, natural amphitheatre setting. The most common visitors are deer, who munch on fresh flowers that have been placed on the graves.
In an earlier story I posted a photo of my grand-daughters Alexandria and Lily standing in front of my great-grandmother’s house at 3201 Norton in Everett Washington. In this photo of the same house we’re going back about 110 years to about 1903. The house was just a few years old when this photo was taken and the street wasn’t paved yet. The little boy on the porch was my grandfather. My mom was born and raised in this house and my brother Larry lived here as an infant during WWII.
This is a photo of my grand-daughters Alexandria and Lily in front of the house at 3201 Norton in Everett Washington. My great-grandfather Alexander Keay and my great grandmother Amy McGhie Keay moved into this house in about 1898. My mom – Alexandria (Lexie) Keay was born in the upstairs bedroom above the porch in 1921. Grand-daughter Alex (to the right of Lily) didn’t realize that her name went back two generations beyond her great-grandma Lexie to her great-great-great grandfather Alex Keay. In fact though, the name Alexander Keay can be traced back to the 1200’s in Scotland.