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Students build connection to World War I vets

Eliska Jelinek repairs a 1917 edition of the Island County Times. She was participating in a history camp at the Island County Museum.  - Nathan Whalen photo
Eliska Jelinek repairs a 1917 edition of the Island County Times. She was participating in a history camp at the Island County Museum.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen photo

Several elementary school students spent the past two weeks building a connection to deceased veterans who fought in World War I.

They are pouring through archives and other sources to find out all the biographical information about Island County veterans who served in World War I.

The youngsters are participating in a history camp sponsored by the Island County Historical Society, the Whidbey Island Daughters of the American Revolution and the Janet Enzmann archives.

Two of the budding archivists discovered the veterans they would learn about at a cemetery in Stanwood.

Ten-year-old Genesis Chigbrow is learning about Olaf Berlie, who was born in Minnesota and died in the Camano Island area. Chigbrow, who will start the fifth-grade next month, learned that Berlie, who was of Norwegian ancestry, eventually moved to Tacoma where he operated a fuel company.

A visit to the website, www.findagrave.com, also yielded another surprise.

“I found his parents’ gravestone with a picture of them,” Chigbrow said.

Aleksandr Wellner, who will enter the fourth-grade at the Stanwood-based elementary school, learned about James F. Crandall, who lived from 1887-1973. Following an eight-month service in the Great War, the Hastings, Minn., native was a traveling salesman and a shoe store salesman who moved to King County before settling on Camano Island around 1940.

While Wellner and Chigbrow were researching, another student was busy repairing records on file at the museum.

Eliska Jelinek, who is Peters’ granddaughter, used heat-set tape and an iron to mend a 1917 edition of the Island County Times.

“You always want to mend from the inside,” Jelinek said while fixing a tear to the newspaper.

The student research will be used by the Daughters of the American Revolution, who is producing a book.

Peters said the group is profiling the county veterans who served in the Spanish American War and World War I. So far they have identified 325 veterans. She said organizers hope to have the book produced in 2017, which is the centennial anniversary marking the end of hostilities in World War I.

Community Events, April 2014

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