Since Friday is the inaugural National Ernie Pyle Day
as declared by Congress, I thought it would be good time to report
on another family of five brothers who served their country in
As some people may remember, Pyle was a Pulitzer Prize-winning
World War II correspondent who wrote about the fighting in both
Europe and the Pacific until he was killed by Japanese troops
in 1945 on an island near Okinawa.
I heard from Jerry Durham and his wife, Bernice, a few
months ago after my third column about brothers serving their
country over the years. I know Bernice as one of my Genoa-Kingston
High School classmates. Her husband, Jerry, went to school in
Iowa and during his senior year he enlisted in the Navy. It seems
two of his friends had joined up and when they came home from
basic training he was so excited he decided to enlist. This was
toward the end of the Korean War.
The Durham brothers, Jerry (left) and Don shown in
their Navy uniforms some 60 years ago. They are the only two
of the five brothers who served still remaining today, (Family
Jerry told me he came from a family of 16 in the small Iowa town
of Knoxville. He is the youngest of the siblings and he and his
closest brother Don are the only ones left. Even more remarkable
is the fact he had eight brothers-in-law who also were in the
military. But I only have the space to talk about his siblings.
His oldest brother, Clyde, joined the Army and fought in
the Pacific Theater during World War II. Jerry recalls Clyde
somehow acquired a half track at the end of the war and brought
it home with him. It was like a truck with an open bed, but normally
it would include a mounted heavy machine gun. I imagine the gun
had been removed, but its a sure bet he had the only one
like it in Knoxville.
Next oldest, Ken, was a tail gunner on bombers in Europe
and served in the same squadron as actor Jimmy Stewart.
A third brother, Lloyd, was in the Navy and spent most
of his WWII duty on the submarine USS Griffith. During the Korean
War, brothers Don and Jerry served in the Navy.
I asked Jerry how he met Bernice and he explained that
his brother first dated her, and later on he and she hit it off.
After two years, they were married at the Kingston Methodist
Church and now it is 58 years later.
He worked for Anaconda, then Turner Brass, was a trucker
for 15 years and managed two gas stations, one each in Sycamore
To digress, when in high school Bernice used to come to
my house occasionally to sing, with Clint Strouse playing the
guitar along with Paul Buzzell and me trying to carry a tune
in the background. Bernice was as good as a country western singer,
and she sang with the southern accent she had retained as a native
When I inquired about his brother, Jerry said Don lives
in Amarillo, Texas, but is coming to visit this weekend.
Good timing for this column, so they will see their photo
together in uniform from 60 years ago.
(My column has been missing from the Chronicle for six
weeks because while on a trip in California my laptop containing
all my notes for future columns was stolen.)