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A quick run across the desert looking for a long lost Marine


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A quick road trip was in order for the three day weekend I had. It was time to chase some family history. Grandma and GrandPa Conrad (yup, that’s where my first name, Conrad, and my nick name “Rad” came from) came through Ellis Island in the early 1900’s and the good folks sitting at the table made my grandparents change their name to something more American, their Swiss name with those funny couple of dots above it looked entirely too un-American.


They settled in a Company town, McGill Nevada, started by Consolidated Mines and later purchased by Kennecott Copper.



My mom and her 9 siblings, one a future Marine, were born and raised in McgGill and all 9 left when they came of age and never returned. The last to leave took grandma and grandpa with them. Some sisters joined the circus, literally, and had fascinating stories to tell us wee ones and one, Uncle Allen, joined the Marines at the start of World War II.


Uncle Allen was youngest, one of a twin, his twin died last winter and he is the last of that generation remaining in my family. You know the ones, the ones who sat at the grown up’s table at Thanksgiving while us little ones were banished to card tables set close to the main table, but not close enough.


So, the story goes that in the only remaining bar located in McGill Nevada my Uncle’s photo is up on the wall as part of a display of all the men and women who went to war in World War II.

Well, it sounds like a good story, time to go on a long ride and see if it is true.



The bar is the two story building on the right behind the car.



Friday I’m off early for the quick 700 mile dash across all of California and most of Nevada. Most of you know that drill, it is beautiful, straight and hot, did I mention straight. I have done it countless times on every road you can take on a number of different bikes, BMW’s and Hondas, but today I’m glad I’m on an RT. She is my first true mile muncher and she does it well.




Saturday morning I get up early and my first stop is an old graveyard in Ely, I’m looking for a couple of my relative’s graves, some close to 100 years old. One in particular I want to find has a headstone forged by my grandfather in the Kennecott Copper mine foundry located in McGill where he worked in about 1918.



Daymn, no luck. There is no one to help me, it is after all Saturday. After hours in the heat traipsing around a very crowded grave yard, say’n “ oops, excuse me, I did not mean to step on you” countless times, we do funny things in grave yards,


I left for the short run to McGill, hoping I was not going to be disappointed again after crossing two big states to get here.


Well, here is McGill.



Look, here is the only bar and really almost the only business not boarded up on the one block of the town.




I walk inside and sure enough an absolutely stunning display for the World War II vets is covering the walls of a beautiful lobby. I quickly scan the photos looking for Allen, I don’t see him, and I’m disappointed.




I look again, and read each name this time and sure enough, there he is, looking incredibly young, handsome and fit in his Marine dress uniform.



It is 12:30 in the afternoon and there are already folks at the bar drinking, and it is not soft drinks they are drinking at the noon hour. The bartender is very nice and cordial and becomes even more so when I tell him my mother was born and raised in his town. We have a great talk.


I climb on my bike for a long ride home across a very empty desert and I smile the entire way.



Post script

Allen is not doing well, the main reason I went now. I emailed the photos to my cousin, Allen’s son, and he was thrilled. He sent them off to all the grand kids.

The headstone? I’m sort of glad I never found it for I’m looking forward to going back again with more information so I can find it. That next time I’m there, I think I will to pay my respects to Uncle Allen's photo a few miles north.



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Wonderful. A google search on Ely Nevada Cemetery gave me this page. http://www.webpanda.com/WP_cemeteries/elycem_c.htm. Good luck in your search.


The reason I never found the graves was I placed a little too much faith in the internet. I found the site you linked prior to going and was feeling pretty confident about finding the graves knowing the cemetery sections the Conrad graves were located. The problem, there are no markings anywhere in the cemetery.....Oh well.


I have heard if I go during the week there is an old guy who works there that can point them out to me.


BTW, that was very nice of you to take the time to do that Google search.


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Cool RR. I noticed a star on your uncle's photo, do you know why it is there?


No I don't. The funny thing, I did not notice the star when I was there; I noticed it after I got home and loaded the pics on my computer.

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Can't see the colors of the ribbon, but the "star" sure looks like a "combat heroism" award.


Maybe someone on the other coast can chime in.... Matt?



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Can't see the colors of the ribbon, but the "star" sure looks like a "combat heroism" award.


Maybe someone on the other coast can chime in.... Matt?




Nope, that's a rifle sharpshooter medal. There are three qualification levels for rifle in the Marine Corps; Marksman, Sharpshooter, and Expert.


The basic job of EVERY Marine is that of a rifleman.


What would Matt know? He floated around on boats with a dog bowl for a hat.


Semper Fi!!!


Sergeant Phil Challinor, USMC


....at your service. :)

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Duane n Oregon

Awesome! I was reading and filled with anticipation for whether or not you'd find his picture, and was thrilled that you did. Then I thought, if I was this interested reading it, how amazing must it have been for you? Congrats!

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The medal on his jacket and star on the photograph are 2 different things.

The star in the upper corner could represent many things.

At one point, soldiers on active duty would have a star, often blue, hung outside the house, in a window, etc.

It was changed to a gold star if they were killed.

Don't know that the star has a meaning relating to active duty, but perhaps it does.

Any knowledge of medals during his tour of duty?

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.....The star in the upper corner could represent many things.......


....Any knowledge of medals during his tour of duty?




I will have to check that out with his sons. I don't even know if he went over seas or not.

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Great story that I really enjoyed. What a great odyssey to discover family roots and a piece of their lives. Well done.


Machinest Mate, Second Class Petty Officer Johnson standing by...

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A GREAT story! Thanks for sharing!

I noticed in the photo of the interior of the bar that there was a P-40 Warhawk ceiling fan.

Anyone ever seen one like it.

I need one!


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great story Rad, I've been trying to get back to Chula Vista, CA for years to visit my grandparents gravesites and pay my respects.


It's important we all remember the sacrifices our forefathers made so we can enjoy the freedoms we have.


After my dad passed in 1993, I was given a newpaper article about him from 1961 (Detroit News), stating he was the first person to enlist in the Army after the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor. From there he was at D-Day (remember the horrific opening scene in Saving Private Ryan?) and Battle of the Bulge.


He never talked about those things growing up and my uncle explained that the ones who truly saw the real action rarely did.


I look at my dad a lot differently today than as a scrawny, know it all teenager from the late 70's and I'm constantly looking for more information about him.



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What would Matt know? He floated around on boats with a dog bowl for a hat.


Semper Fi!!!


Sergeant Phil Challinor, USMC


....at your service. :)




I also was a bus driver dropping bullet catchers like you off.


you boys camp on that island, I'm staying here in the air conditioning


AT1 Matt Sturgis

USN 1983-1993

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