Archive for the ‘U.S.S. Philadelphia’ Category

Virgil Oren Toney

Photo - October 2013

Photo – October 2013

Virgil Oren Toney (my uncle Oren) died peacefully on Sunday, June 29, 2014 in his Indiana farm home. He was 89. He is the focus of this web-log entry*.

 

*I’ve entered this posting primarily for family and friends.  “Friends” include neighbors, my former classmates and other school chums, members of my church, my dear former students (who more than likely heard me make references to farm life and/or my wonderful family) and others.  I do not participate in social media communication because I fear that I might spend too much valuable time doing so.  Therefore, I’m using my web-log as an outlet. 

 

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My young mother was 16 when I was born in California in 1939. My father was 24 and had already served a full “hitch” in the Navy; however, he was pulled back in by World War II and served in the Pacific Theater as a Seabee. He returned in February, 1946 with both physical and emotional issues – both of which went untreated.  Insult added to injury when his group returned from the War without fanfare and he had a tough time finding a job.  Also, he more or less returned to a mess and his usage of alcohol increased.  My dad, Don, had a good mind and a good heart but, in spite of that, things pretty much feel apart.   He and my mother separated in 1949.  He stayed on as a bartender in California while mom, Margaret (Maggie) and I bused to Muncie, Indiana to live with my maternal grandparents. This occurred shortly before my 10thbirthday. I was in the third grade. Thus, mistakes made by both of my parents led to an eventual divorce. The situation in California would have been bad for any child; there is no need to go into more detail. It suffices to say that the breakup, though painful, was in my best interest; I feel certain that my welfare was one of mother’s leading considerations.

I spent almost 3 days with dad during the late summer of 1950 when he took me to New York to see the final game of the World Series and then visited his Hoosier family.  Then there was a two day period in 1954 when he came back to Indiana for the funeral of his brother, Elvyn.  I did not see him again until 1961 when my dear Uncle Oren and Aunt Marge drove all the way out to California with their three young boys and me in their small Ford station wagon.  Elvyn, named for the uncle he never saw, was in diapers.  We did a lot of camping on the way out and back and, because of the places we visited (e.g. Yosemite) my interest in geology and meteorology blossomed.  Shortly after I returned from this trip I changed my major at Ball State to earth sciences, now often referred to as the geosciences, and eventually completed a graduate study there.  Thus, Oren and Marge were instrumental in my selection of a career and also instrumental in my having the will to stick it out in spite of the long hours of my full-time job.  They had a great deal to do with the fact that I never felt alone.  In fact, I’ve never felt alone in my entire life.  I’ve always felt loved.

NOTE:  After 1961 my father and I spent time together more frequently until the day he died in 1991.

My father’s parents, Ansel and Stella Toney, lived on a farm less than 15 miles east of the Muncie home. So, after mom and dad “split,” I was blessed with the great advantage of having both sets of grandparents in my life. I went to school in the city of Muncie and was technically, I suppose, a city kid. But I was able to spend considerable time, especially in the summers, on the farm working and playing and learning at a rapid rate.  Learning a bit about honest, hard work was a blessing for me; much of it seemed like play.

Three of dad’s 5 siblings were close to home – the youngest “boy” Bill, the only “girl” Hazel, and Virgil Oren. Of the 6, Bill is the only one who remains alive today.  Ivan Dunlap was in Los Angeles with his wife, May, and Elvyn was in Indianapolis with his wife, Lucille. Oren was a recently married 25-year-old when he became my primary role model. This happened very soon after I arrived in Indiana. At that time he and his brother, Bill, worked on my grandfather’s farm. Hazel lived in town (Farmland, Indiana) with her husband, Orpheus. Grandfather, Ansel Toney, later became well-known as the Hoosier farmer turned kite man.

Grandpa had a powerful influence upon me as did Bill. The same is true for my maternal grandfather, Harley, an absolutely wonderful man who set such a good example for me. But Oren was the one who I observed closely more than any other man, at least until my mother re-married when I was 15. Oren positioned me under his wing but he did not baby or spoil me. In other words, his wings were not typically soft and gentle; they sometimes came down hard but they were none-the-less good for me.  He never did me any harm beyond triggering occasional and very brief hurt feelings in a hypersensitive boy.  Timewise, that quickly diminished as I became more and more secure in my own skin.  I credit him mostly for my experiencing that essential growth.

The importance of his wife (Aunt Marge) cannot be overstated. Describing her would require a very long chapter in any story of my life that included discussions of those who influenced me the most. Oren and Marge, as a loving couple, provided a model for those of us lucky enough to have the opportunity to observe. Additionally, his sons are like brothers to me.

Oren had already gone through the school of hard knocks by the time I got to Indiana. As a boy on the farm he grew up under conditions that were frequently difficult where he and his siblings had plenty of hard work to do. After the U.S.A entered World War II, he deliberately accelerated and increased his high school course load and managed to get enough credits for graduation before the end of the school year. At age 17 he joined the United States Navy. Enlisting prior to and thus missing his graduation exercise – his presence was symbolized by an empty chair. He served in both theaters of that war, European and Pacific. Miraculously, he lived through it. For the rest of Oren’s life the tender qualities of his heart and mind surfaced unmistakeably whenever he thought of those who didn’t survive. Among other terrible things, he had witnessed the direct hit of the light cruiser, U.S.S. Savannah (CL-42) by a radio guided German glide bomb. This occurred on September 11, 1943 during the invasion of Salerno, Italy. The Savannah had been the first American ship to open fire against the German shore defenses in Salerno Bay. The death toll aboard the Savannah from that glide bomb was 197 and 15 others were seriously wounded. From his battle station aboard his ship, the light cruiser Philadelphia (CL-41), Oren saw it happen and the memory stuck with him all of his life. I don’t ever remember hearing him mention it without tears in his eyes – pain and hurt in his voice.  NOTE: Philadelphia narrowly evaded a glide bomb during that same operation, although several of her crew were injured when the bomb exploded.

Like all humans I know, Oren was not perfect. But he was perfect for me from the time I came home to Indiana with my mother until the day he died. He had more positive influence upon me than any man, with the possible exception of my stepfather. He played a most significant role in my internalization of an identity. Especially when he teamed up with his great brother, Bill, I was one of the luckiest boys in the world. As time marched on and we all got older, his importance in my life did not diminish.  Decidedly different than Bill, there was one glaring similarity and that was their willingness to help others – whether or not they were family members.  Once, not many miles short of a routine Air Force Reserve meeting at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio – my car broke down.  Bill and Oren together rescued me; Bill drove his truck (his pride and joy) to tow the car all the way back to a Muncie repair shop where I had been given the privilege of paying off my repair bills in installments – without interest.  It was run by the wonderfully helpful couple, Hank and Olive Swain.

  Oren was clearly good to all of the spouses and the children of each generation loved him. People from all over the community, farmers and town dwellers alike, were so very fond of him.

Another World War II vet is gone. I’m not entirely joking when I often say, “Without him and others like him, we who now occupy the U.S.A. would probably be eating sauerkraut with chopsticks whether or not we wanted to – that is, assuming we had lived through the takeover.

My 4-year-long Muncie factory job (Beckett Bronze) that paid my college expenses and supported my small family was acquired on the basis of Oren’s reputation established when he had worked there. His recommendation got me in the door. He and his teammate, Marge, fed me and my family countless times at their kitchen table – the table that my daughter, Gina, has written about in a piece I have linked you to near the end of this posting.

I loved him so much. I’m sure that others have been similarly inspired by the goodness of Oren and Marge and I’m not the only person who has been guided by the two through times that would have been much tougher without them.

 

Here is his obituary written by his oldest son, Doug:

 

FARMLAND (Indiana) – Virgil “Oren” Toney, 89, Farmland, died Sunday, June 29, 2014 at his home.

Oren was a retired farmer. He also was retired from Warner Gear where he was a machinery repairman for twenty-seven years.

Oren was born on June 3, 1925, in Farmland, to Ansel and Stella Toney. He was a 1943 graduate of Farmland High School.

Oren joined the Navy at the age of 17 during World War II. He served proudly on the light cruiser USS Philadelphia in the Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. He participated in the invasions of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Southern France. After Germany’s surrender, he was assigned to the destroyer USS Bordelon, where he served in the Pacific until February 1946. Note added: The Bordelon operated as a part of the occupation force in Japan.

He was a lifetime member of the Farmland American Legion Post and enjoyed attending annual reunions with his former shipmates from the USS Philadelphia.

Oren was married for sixty-five years to Marjorie Truex Toney, who survives. Other survivors include his brother, Wilbur “Bill” Toney, Farmland; two sons, Marc Toney, Parker City, and Doug Toney and his wife, Patty Ryan Toney, New Braunfels, TX; eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews.

He was preceded in death by a son, Elvyn Boyd Toney; his parents, Ansel and Stella Toney; three brothers, Ivan, Don and Elvyn, and a sister, Hazel Mae Meranda.

No visitation or public services are planned. A private ceremony for family will be conducted at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial contributions be directed to the Rehoboth United Methodist Church, 3955 North 1000 West, Parker City, IN, 47340.

 

Related Links:

 

Written by my daughter, Gina in 2012: https://cloudman23.wordpress.com/tag/oren-toney/

My young mother (written Dec. 2, 2010): https://cloudman23.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/my-mother-12-2-2010/

Oren’s father/my grandfather: http://www.farmlandindiana.org/ansel-toney-the-kite-man.htm

Note: In the previous photo at the very bottom of the link grandpa Toney is with his son Bill (on the left side of photo wearing glasses) and Oren is on the right side of photo.

Light Cruiser Philadelphia, CL-41

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Philadelphia_%28CL-41%29

 

Destroyer U.S.S. Bordelon, DD-881

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Bordelon_%28DD-881%29

 

U.S.S. Philadelphia Service Record

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/ships/dafs/CL/cl41.html

 

Shortly after enlisting in 1943.
Shortly after enlisting in 1943.

 
U.S.S. Philly 43 t– left click on this photo to enlarge –

 

Oren landed in occupied Japan in this ship.
Oren landed in occupied Japan from this ship.

 

Flag lowered to half-mast moments after Oren passed away.  Half-mast is the nautical term for half-staff.

Flag lowered to half-mast moments after Oren passed away. Half-mast is the nautical term for half-staff.

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