My father died in 1997. As a child, I remember thinking he was the "smartest man alive". He taught me many things about working hard, integrity and having pride in what you do. We never knew any of his family and always thought of him as an orphan. The details of his life were only recently revealed to us in the last years of his life.
Harold lived through the depression without a family, fought in World War II, and served in Occupied Japan. He never quiet got over the horrors of war. He had fought the Japanese in the Philippines but was very depressed at seeing the devastation of the atomic bomb in Japan. Maybe what made them the Greatest Generation was they carried their scars with dignity and never lost the pride they had in their country.
Harold was born July 22, 1920 in Springfield, Illinois to William Groves and Vandelia Miller Groves of Burnside, Kentucky. See the marriage license of William Groves and Vandelia Miller. His father and grandfather came from Clark Co Kentucky in the 1890s. His father served in the Spanish American War and did not marry until he was 39 years old. He was 43 years old when Harold was born. His mother was 23. Harold was an only child. Harold's birth certificate.a
Harold as a baby - 1920
Born during the depression, his mother and father divorced soon after his 2nd birthday. She remarried Guy Hunter in January of 1923. After their divorce, he appears to have been in the custody of his father but due to his father health, he was actually raised by several foster families. His dad had a medical pension from the Spanish American War. Harold's uncle, Robert Groves, died in that war. In the 1930 Sangamon Co Ill census, he is listed as a boarder in the home of George Bookout. He was nine years old.
Harold recalls living with several foster families in Springfield. The most memorable was a family named "McMann" when he was 4 yrs old. He was very attached to them. They moved to California and asked to take Harold with them but his father would not let him go. He never saw them again but often wondered how his life might have been different. I have located a Willie Lloyd and Blanche McMann in the Illinois census who lived in Springfield in 1920 and in Pasadena, California in 1930. They had a son, George, born the same year as Harold.
He started school in Bloomington, Illinois while living with the Shockey family, as near as a 6 year old can remember. They would take him to see a "man" whose last name was also Groves but he never knew what the relationship was. He met his best friend, Harold Peek there in the third grade. They remained friends until Harold's death, 70 years later. The funeral wreath from Harold Peek said "So long old friend".
His fondest childhood memories were of his dad. When asked to tell me what he knew about his father, he told me the following:
"My father worked for a family by the name of Stice between New Borough and Jacksonville, Ill. He was a "miller". I seem to remember him working for a flourmill in the Springfield area before it closed.
He smoked and played the punchboards, a form of gambling. I remember him having a severe cough that was disabling and may have been from mustard gas during the Spanish American War. He was receiving a medical disability. I remember buying cigarettes and cough drops for my dad with my newspaper money. He would get a family to put me up and he would sleep in their barn.
Father of Harold Groves
With his first grandchild, Alta Groves
I recall returning from the War and going to the pool hall to find him. I was afraid of what the shock of seeing me might do. He died that same year in 1946."
I never knew much about Harold, my dad's life, but I always knew how much he loved his dad.
It has not been determined why his mother who was nick named "Fannie", did not have custody of him or where she was when he was a child. She married Guy Hunter in 1923 and divorced him in 1928 on the grounds of abuse. This may be why Harold did not live in her home.
Harold and his mother, Vandelia (Fannie) Miller
Around 1921, probably Springfield, Illinois
Harold sold newspapers for 3 cents and the Saturday Evening Post on the streets of Springfield. He spent a lot of time at the YMCA and was in the "golden gloves". He was proud of winning a PGA state caddie championship.
Harold's aunt was Sara Miller Booker, his mother's sister. She was married to Joe Booker who owned Booker Electric in Springfield, Illinois. She had no children and Harold was very close to her. His mother, Vandelia Miller, remarried Sam Sheibly in 1933. Harold was fond of his step dad and lived with them while in high school.
At 18 years old, Harold married Vivian Davis. They had two children. Little is known about their relationship but they were separated before the war and his children were living with his mother while he was over seas.
Alta and Dick
Children of Harold and Vivian Davis
The marriage lasted only a short time
Harold went to work at the Sangamon Ordinance Plant at Illiopolis, Illinois. It was located between Decatur and Springfield. He met my mother Diana Faye Stratman at the plant. He joined the Army and served in World War II in the Philippines and Occupied Japan. He received the Bronze Star for the Battle of Luzon. He was with the 33rd Army 123rd Infantry Co K and because of his children did not enlist until late 1944, arriving in the Philippines early 1945 during the "mop up" operations. He contracted malaria while in the Philippines which he suffered with all his life.
I have several love letters which they wrote to each other during the war. Many of his comments are an inspiration to me now. The same words were probably written millions of times by thousands of soldiers, they were so typical of this generation. He describes his fear of the enemy, his willingness to die for his buddies, his fear of letting them down, the bravery of his friends while downplaying his own heroism and his love of country.
And after the war, his compassion for the Japanese civilians and anger at the Army for not sending enough ships to get them home. They are truly a treasure and truly representative of our American culture during that time. I have often thought of posting them to the site but have hesitations for fear of invading their privacy.
In May of 1946 after returning from the war, he married Diana Faye Stratman in Decatur, Illinois at the home of her parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Harold Groves
Harold and Faye had two children and Harold took custody of his son from his first marriage, while his daughter remained with his mother.
They lived in Decatur Illinois until he received an offer to work at Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico. His mother died in 1951 and he took custody of his eldest daughter and the entire family moved to that city in 1952
Los Alamos, New Mexico was a closed city with a guarded gate. The birth place of the atomic bomb. It required a pass from the Atomic Energy Commission to enter the city. The government provided housing and the public schools were excellent. He was a tool and dye maker and received a security clearance. He spent several years working on secret government projects.
Harold, who was always inventing something, consulted with several scientists and built a "bow" that would change his life. He began making the bows in a basement he had dug under our government house. He often joked about it being the only house in Los Alamos with a basement and what the government would do to him if they found out about it. In 1956 he made national news by shooting a cable across a steep canyon for the Labs. The headlines were "Bow and Arrow helps the Atomic Age". He set a national broad head flight record over the next several years.
In 1959 he moved to Albuquerque and started a bow business where he manufactured Groves Spitfire Bows. The bow was world renown and had an excellent reputation. He had several US patents on the bow and set a world distance record with a 90 lb bow he had built.
Harold and Faye divorced in the late 1960s. The scars from the war and his early childhood followed him his entire life. After several years as a bachelor, he married a third time. His wife was several years younger than him but she died a few years later and Harold spent the remainder of his life alone.
Harold contracted colon cancer, a disease common to the Groves family and died in 1997 at the age of 77 years. This a copy of his obituary and a copy of an article on his success as a bow manufacture.
Harold was a brilliant man that was well liked by all that knew him. His eldest son, who continues in the bow business in memory of his dad, has since entered him into the New Mexico Bowhunters Hall of Fame. Visit his web site at The Legacy of Harold Groves.
Harold's 3rd great grandfather, John Groves
The Tuggle family, Harold's paternal great grandmother
The McLain family, Harold's great grandmother
The Groves study