|
|
|
|
The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Remembering Roy: KC man's research key to providing late local veteran with gravestone

    • email print
      Comment
  • Benjamin Leroy Love, known less formally as Roy, lived a life that often intersected with American history in his 104 years, most of them spent in Leavenworth County.
    Born in 1890, he was the son of two former slaves, Daniel and Tressa Love.
    At 9 years old, Roy taught himself piano and as his musical talent matured, he'd play Leavenworth's dance halls, bars and brothels.
    He copyrighted lyrics to "Come and See Me Sometime," and the musical score of "In My Garden With You."
    Roy once worked as a farm laborer for the University of Kansas's football coach, Arthur St. Leger "Texas" Mosse, plowing acres and taking care of hogs, cows, mules and horses.
    He was a World War I veteran, having enlisted in the U.S. Army and serving as a drill sergeant in the 365th Machine Gun Company and later the 349th Machine Gun Company, though he never got the chance to serve abroad.
    And, perhaps most importantly, he loved.
    He married Daisy Watson, whom he described as a "beautiful singer and entertainer." Daisy and Roy stayed together for 45 years, until she passed in 1977, after the husband spent years taking care of his wife through severe health problems.
    The information above is according to Roy's memorial on www.findagrave.com, written by the man who was just a boy when Roy passed, genealogist and family friend Michael-Lee Brockhouse, of Kansas City, Mo.
    "He was like Forrest Gump almost," said Brockhouse, 32, who got to know Roy as a child because family members lived near Roy's home in Kickapoo.
    "He would just talk and talk and talk, and it wasn't ever like you wished he would just shut up or you needed to go or you wished he'd stop. Everything he told you was so amazing and he was such a good storyteller that he had your rapt attention."
    Today, Brockhouse is doing what he can to correct an oversight to Roy's memorial — he's trying to get his late friend a headstone. Roy, buried at Kickapoo Memorial Cemetery next to his parents, was interred without a marker.
    The effort began in 2011, long after Roy had passed, when Brockhouse was a student working on his master's in history at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
    Brockhouse's grandmother was a friend of Roy's, and Brockhouse often heard tales about Roy's life.
    The old man fed the young man's interest in history — one story Brockhouse remembers was Roy talking about living near Native Americans in teepees — and the two even shared the same birthday, July 6.
    "He had an amazing life, and over time, my parents, my aunts and uncles, got to know him, and when I was a kid I got introduced to him," Brockhouse said. "He was just a really amazing guy."
    Page 2 of 3 - Brockhouse said he remembered Roy all those years later during a particularly dull moment in the Ball State library.
    "I was in grad school and I was supposed to be doing research (for school) and I just got kind of bored," he said. "So, when I was at the library, I would spend like four hours reading books having to do with research, and then I would do genealogy research (for fun).
    "I was always interested in Roy because he did have all these stories about being in the military, being a musician, marrying a white woman (Daisy) in the 1930s, and his parents being slaves. I had no reason to think he was lying, I didn't think he was lying, but I really wanted to flesh that story out and provide him with a really good biography for findagrave.com."
    Through research, Brockhouse began confirming Roy's stories and filling in some of the blanks. He also discovered the veteran was buried without a marker at Kickapoo.
    "When I learned he didn't have a gravestone, I just felt like … that was a great disservice," he said. "He was from Kansas, he served in the military, but more than that he was a really great guy. … I felt like he deserved to have a gravemarker."
    Cemetery Board Chairman Roger Logan, the cemetery's primary administrator, said Roy is buried on the east-central side of the 5-acre grounds, facing the sunrise.
    He said it isn't unheard of that some people have been buried without a marker at the cemetery, which dates back to at least 1828 and is the final resting place for about 550 people.
    Logan said he's impressed by Brockhouse's efforts to correct the oversight to Roy's burial.
    "It's laudable, absolutely," he said. "… Anyone who is willing to go to that effort has my gratitude and my support."
    Clara VanderStaay, of Leavenworth, said she knew Roy her whole life. She echoed Logan in praising Brockhouse's work on behalf of her absent friend.
    "I really think it's wonderful," she said. "(Roy) may never have gotten one unless (Brockhouse) got this started."
    Through the course of his research, Brockhouse was able to find Roy's distant relatives, who were willing to sign paperwork that will provide Roy with a marker from the government due to his military service.
    Logan also has to sign off on the paperwork, and that process is under way, he said. He estimated the marker could be placed by mid- to late-October.
    Brockhouse said his work won't be finished with Roy, however.
    "When I'm able to see it, I'll feel like I'm halfway there, that Roy's life was honored," he said. "The other half is getting his wife a gravestone, which is going to be easier."
    Page 3 of 3 - Daisy is buried at Mount Muncie Cemetery in Lansing, said Brockhouse, who will crowd source for the few hundred dollars it will take to get her a marker.
    Brockhouse, who has taught a genealogy course at Kansas City Kansas Community College, also works with a group in the Netherlands that helps children of American servicemen during the Vietnam War find their fathers.
    Genealogy, he said, is both important and interesting.
    "I love research and I love history and it unites those two things," Brockhouse said. "It's rewarding when you can help someone find out about their family and help them know where they came from and why they're at the place they are."

        calendar