By Molly Rossiter, correspondent
MARION – Carl Hoover was born Jan. 1, 1889, in Quinter, Kansas, the third of 10 children. He moved with his family to Linn County, Iowa, when he was 11 years old.
As a teen Hoover worked as a fram hand, switching in 1915 to carpentry. All that changed, however, when the United States entered what would become World War I in 1918. Hoover enlisted in the U.S. Army and served with the 343rd Machine Gun Battalion, Company A, in France.
Hoover returned to Cedar Rapids after the war and resumed his work as a caprenter — first doing construction and then making cedar chests. He married Nancy Baer in 1921 and they had a son in 1928. That same year, Hoover became a salesman for the W.T. Rawleigh Co. and would work in sales until his retirement in 1965. Historical records show Hoover also operated a mineral feed mill by 1940.
Hoover lived in Cedar Rapids until his death on Nov. 23, 1976.
Hoover’s story along with the other 106 World War I veterans buried in Oak Shade Cemetery in Marion are the focus of a book published by Marion residents Bill Thomas and Kathy Wilson. For more than six years Thomas and Wilson have been getting together once a week to dive into the history of Linn County and, more specifically, Marion. They’ve gathered information and connected genealogical lines for on Civil War soldiers from the area, founding families, and others.
Their newest work, published just in time for the 100th anniversary of World War I, identifies the veterans of the “Great War” buried in Oak Shade Cemetery.
“I’ve been studying Oak Shade Cemetery for a long, long time,” Thomas said. “Probably 20 years or so. I was working at the Granger House at the time, and we’d talk about the cemetery and who all might be buried there. So I started taking a look.”
“Taking a look,” to Thomas, 87, didn’t mean just hopping on the internet and seeing what he could find.
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“He would go out to the cemetery almost every week and systematically create mini-(family) trees, writing down names and other information from the gravestones,” said Wilson, 59.
Using genealogy software, Wilson would gather as much additional information as she could and submit it to ancestry.com for a publicly accessible tree.
“Then it came down to writing about all of the veterans,” she said. “That was the easy part. Bill had already gotten the hard part done.”
“World War I Veterans of Oak Shade Cemetery” is a 75-page spiral bound book that reads much like a school yearbook. Photos, when available, accompany each entry, along with a short biography of each veteran.
“When I was growing up in my home town, many of the men who lived on our block were veterans, but no one said much about the war,” Thomas wrote in the book’s preface. “Nonetheless, while I was in grade school, each year we all stood tall for two minutes while the teacher recited, ‘In Flanders Field’ on the 11th of November at 11 a.m. — the exact moment when the armistice was signed ending the war in Europe. As I grew into adulthood, I often thought about the men and women who served during the Great War, wondering who they were and what they went through. This book is not only an attempt to satisfy my curiosity, but also a way to ensure these veterans are not forgotten.”
The book isn’t available in any stores or websites, Wilson said, and the two aren’t looking to make money from it. People can order the book by contacting her via email, email@example.com, and the $20 cost will cover the costs of printing and getting it bound.
“We didn’t do it for us,” she said. “We did it so these people would be remembered.”