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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A postscript to Memorial Day

Soon after moving to Raleigh in 1986, I got a phone call from an older gentleman, Mr Willard Till. A long-time resident of Raleigh, he had seen my name in the new white pages (remember those?) and was curious about whether we were related.

There are Tills up north who came from England, but most Tills down south -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas -- descended from one family that arrived in Charleston from Switzerland in 1736. Some of them later moved westward. We are what's called a First Family in Orangeburg, SC, and there's a high likelihood that one Till born in the south is related to another.

He and I spoke for quite a while and confirmed that we did have a common ancestor way back. I never spoke with him again. I remember reading his obituary in 2001 when he died at age 88. His wife Frances died in 2006.

And here is the rest of the story: his son, five years older than I, a recipient of the Silver Star, KIA in Vietnam near the DMZ at age 20. Willard, Sr. didn't mention Willard, Jr. on our phone call. I wish I had known.

Thank you, my distant cousins, for the sacrifices you made.