Updated: Nov 29, 2019
My father, Thomas Ralph Iversen, was born on November 28, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York.
He was the son of Amund Jalmär (“John”) Iversen and Anne Teoline Johannessen, both born in Egersund Norway. They immigrated to America early in the century, arriving at Ellis Island – She in 1905, and it appears, he a bit earlier. (Research pending) In addition to the $5 listed on the immigration papers, young Anne brought with her ten year old Toralf (“Tom”), six year old Albert, and infant Alice.
The family settled in Brooklyn, as many new immigrant families did at that time. There, they added to their family with Mabel, Josephine (“Jose”), Helena (“Helen”), John, Harold, and then my father, Thomas (“Tim”). Before my father’s birth, in 1918, Tom died in France at the tail end of World War I. So, they named my father after him, as a tribute to their lost son.
My father was the last child and the youngest son and his parents were already in their late forties when he was born. He had nieces and nephews about his same age. He was effectively raised by this older sisters and so, became very independent, very early in life. This was a very useful trait for a poor immigrant child growing up in the teeth of the Great Depression, in a teaming polyglot city like early twentieth century New York.
When I was growing up, I heard tales of some of the ways a 12 year street-savvy kid earns a few cents on his own in such a time. As you might imagine, the opportunities for such a child in the Prohibition-era Depression were quite diverse. I am sure I only heard the half of it!
My father was fortunate to be enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late Thirties. From there he enlisted in the New York Coast Artillery, a regiment of the New York National Guard, tasked with protecting the homeland from the Nazi patrols – at the time German submarines were seen quite often along the east coast as war raged in Europe. When we entered the war, he was activated into the Army’s Anti-Aircraft Artillery and was sent for training and to be made ready for shipping out. Along the way, in 1942, he was stationed at Fort Macon, North Carolina, a slightly refurbished Civil War redoubt guarding Beaufort Inlet. It was then, at the USO in nearby Morehead City, that he met my mother, Kathleen Sanders, a local girl, who, with some of her friends volunteered to fill the dance cards of soldiers as they were made ready for the war in Europe. They agreed to write to each other during the war.
As so, he shipped out. First to Iceland for coastal guard duty, and then on to England for training for the eventual invasion of Europe. He arrived in Europe the usual way in June of 1944 – via Normandy, but three days after the initial landfall. From there, he marched through France and Belgium and Luxembourg (and probably some other places I am not aware of) working along and behind the combat lines, providing air cover, shooting down enemy aircraft and Nazi V1 Buzz Bombs.
After the war, like many GIs of the day, he decided to marry the girl that faithfully wrote to him during the war. My parents were married on June 1, 1947 and settled down in Brooklyn. When it became clear that a North Carolina country girl was not a happy city girl in New York, my parents moved to North Carolina and settled in Beaufort – only a couple of miles from where they met. He got his GED, and was lucky to land a job at Cherry Point MCAS as an Aircraft Electrician. The “Baby Boom” produced three children for my parents (Sandra, Janine and me), and they purchased our family house on the corner of Queen and Ann Street in the heart of the historic town.
Besides work, he used his time as the neighborhood handyman, helping folks with a variety of household tasks. He enjoyed dancing with my Mother (that makes sense), and boating. The love of his life, beside my Mother, was fishing. He loved fishing so much, he would even sneak some in while waiting for the local drawbridge to close. He always had his tackle in the car with him, just in case. It was in the boat, while fishing, that I most remember him being happy.
He died in 1976, just a few weeks before the National Bicentennial, and just shy of his fifty-seventh birthday. To get to know your parents, when you are adult, is a blessing. I never really got to know my father – I never had any adult conversations with him. I never got to thank him for what he did for me or for what he meant to me. I never got to apologize for being a snotty insolent ungrateful ignorant child of the sixties. So maybe that’s one reason this web site exists – to understand, appreciate, and to pay homage to those that came before us.
So, thank you and Happy 100th Birthday Dad!