Paper Scraps – Little Treasures

Knuth - 1949-07-21 address

My cousin Judy has generously shared her mother’s collection of family photos. Judy took hours to scan and email them. Like me, she also loves to save scraps of paper her deceased parents left her. Going through them can be a chore, though

In an Aug. 30, 2015 email Judy said she wished she could “find new treasures.” She added, “There’s nothing like finding things you didn’t know existed.” As we discussed those scraps of paper I remembered one mother left among her things. It was the corner of an envelope postmarked Detroit, Jul. 2, 1949 with a return address for: “Mrs. J. Knuth, 501 So. West End, Detroit 17, Mich.” (see above)

When I discovered it I thought, “I’ve been looking for that!” I had an old WWII photo of dad and his pal in the Navy. He and mother had talked about this guy many times but I couldn’t recall the name. “Knuth, that’s it!” I thought the Michigan address was cool for two reasons: One, because a good friend of mine from my own military experience was from Michigan and Two because I thought Knuth was from New York.

Now I think mother took the photo in New York. Dad and Knuth both served on a ship there. I had my father’s military record. I knew he was in what he called the “Merchant Marines.” Here’s the side story.

Before the U.S. officially entered WWII we were sending military supplies to the U.K. who were desperate for our support. German submarines were locating these merchant ships and blowing them out of the water. Innocent, unarmed American civilians were dying. The Navy armed them with deck guns and assigned troops to man them. Dad was trained as a gunner’s mate and defended one of those ships.

His military record said it was the Theodoric Bland which dad had told us about many times but I forgot. On there was a ship’s passenger list giving the names of both my father, a Seaman 1st Class, and a man named “John Henry Knuth,” a Gunner’s Mate 3rd Class. CLICK HERE for a scanned copy of the passenger list with Knuth’s name highlighted in blue and dad’s name highlighted in yellow.

Mother told me she went to New York to see my dad while he was there. I’m guessing she took THIS PHOTO of my dad and Knuth. Because of the passenger list I now knew Knuth’s full name. A few hours searching FindAgrave, Ancestry, FamilySearch, and Google (for obituaries), I found out more about John Knuth.

He was born in Detroit, Michigan on March 9, 1921 to George William Knuth (1880–1972) of Cleveland, OH and Augusta Amalia Griebe (1898–1980) of Michigan. All 4 of Knuth’s grandparents were born in Germany. He had at least one brother and one sister. I can’t tell who he married. His wife may still be living. Records list his deceased children but I can find no obituary on him that gives those he left behind.

Knuth moved to Florida like a lot of folks from Michigan. Records show he lived in Zephyrhills, FL in ’95 but was living at the Tendercare Health Center in Cheboygan, MI when he passed away Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Too bad nobody in my family ever tried to look the old guy up before he died. I wonder what stories he could have told us about my father. Family members have posted a nice photo of John Knuth in his Navy uniform at If you have a subscription to Ancestry, HERE’s a link.

So now we know a lot more about him than we did. We also know my mom contacted Knuth’s wife and that she wrote my mother back Jul. 2, 1949 because of that interesting little scrap of paper. Isn’t it interesting where a little scrap of paper will lead ya?

Categorized: Vincent

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