One of my favorite parts of gathering heirloom origin stories is the additional history I gain through my research. I sit down with someone, thinking I am aware of the story they will share, yet often I leave the session, phone call, or email feeling slightly surprised. It is similar to meeting a new friend. This feeling is especially true when I hear stories about my grandparents. Seeing that I only knew them for a fraction of their lives, hearing about their younger years is similar to working on a giant puzzle. A missing piece of my family history puzzle snaps into place with each new detail revealed.
This new-found-friend feeling applies not only to my own family but also to my husband’s family. With them, everything is still fresh and new. Even after twenty-one years, I know very little, especially about my husband’s grandparents, so I eagerly pounce on any story that comes my way. The story of Pop’s shadow box is a prime example.
Thomas Ransom Hunnicut, my husband’s grandfather, or Pop as he is known to his family, spent his life making people better. He lived most of his life in Fort Valley, Georgia, where he was known to many as the Peppermint man because of the many peppermints he would hand out all over town.
The town so greatly loved him that, in the summer of July 2004, a Peach County newspaper featured Pop in an article that commended him for his contributions to Fort Valley’s citizens. Within the first sentence, the writer commented on Pop’s endearing personality. I find “endearing” the most fitting word to describe him.
The Perfect Gift
On my husband’s fortieth birthday, his mother Lainey presented him with a special gift. She had gathered many of his grandfather’s military pieces and beautifully displayed them in a shadow box.
The box holds various pieces of his naval uniform: a bib from his dress blues, a name tag from his uniform written in his handwriting, a certificate of completion from the Bureau of Naval Personnel dated March 6, 1943, his white Navy cap, a badge from his dress blues. Black and white photographs, some featuring Pop in uniform, are pinned around the box, my favorite being one of him and his beloved wife, Dorothy, sitting on a front porch smiling at each other.
The box rests on a side table in my husband’s office home, and each time I dust, I enjoy looking into the box and seeing Pop’s items. Although this young man is not one with whom I ever had the honor of meeting, this display gives me quite an introduction. Fragments of a military uniform, a certificate of completion, plus a picture of him and the love of his life tell their narrative. With one glance inside the box, one can see a man of devotion and character possessing a love of country and family.
I have looked at this box for the last three years, yet it was not until recently that I noticed the poem pinned inside. For the longest time, I thought the poem simply came from a book Pop enjoyed. However, a closer look at the label revealed that it was Dorothy’s creation. Filled with questions, I called Lainey to discover what she knew about the poem.
Here is what she shared:
PPT: Can you tell me more about Pop’s time in the military and the items you have gathered for his shadow box?
Lainey: Daddy signed up with the US Navy soon after Pearl harbor. The Navy sent him to Jacksonville, FL, for training in aircraft mechanics.
PPT: Can you tell me about the clothing items?
Lainey: The box holds his white Navy cap tucked under his dress blue bib, which I noticed had HUNNICUTT stamped inside. I am guessing this is the same cap he wore in the picture taken on the steps. Also, he was a good seaman and became a Petty Officer. The badge on his dress blue sleeve is indicative of that.
PPT: Finally, I am curious about this poem. At first, I thought it was pulled from a poetry book. However, that is not the case. What can you tell me about it?
Lainey: Well, the most precious thing to me is the poem. Mama and Daddy were so young when WW2 separated them from South Georgia to the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific. They wrote often, and she beautifully expressed her love with this poem. I knew she had this specific gift but had never seen this poem before. We found it among Daddy’s things after he died. It is such a treasure to us all.