HARRISBURG - I never dreamed a visit to the Pennsylvania State Archives would result in one of the most poignant moments in my genealogical research.
I told the front desk clerk I wanted to write about the holdings and conduct some personal research. Soon Jonathan Stayer, head of the reference section, appeared.
"What might the PA archives have that other places don't?" I asked.
"World War II veterans' bonus applications," Stayer responded.
Until then, I hadn't known these documents existed. According to Stayer, the World War II Veterans' Compensation Act passed by the state legislature made any Pennsylvania resident who served in the military between Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 2, 1945, and was honorably discharged eligible for a state bonus.
"My dad was in World War II," I said. "Do you think there's one for him?"
"What was his name?" asked Stayer. "I'll take a look."
"Norman Thomas Murray," I replied.
When Stayer returned, I couldn't stop the tears from welling up as I read the two-page application submitted on Jan. 20, 1950, by my late father.
Norman Murray, born on Jan. 7, 1923, in Lemont Furnace, Fayette County, had served in the Army from Jan. 21, 1943, to Feb. 24, 1946. Where he was asked to give the name and address of living minor children, my name appeared: Donna Jean.
As I stood there touching papers that my father had once held, I was overwhelmed by a swarm of emotions. When I tried to speak, the words caught in my throat.
That trip down memory lane is one I'll never forget.
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