Many of the collections in our holdings relate not to battlefield maneuvers or combat tactics, but are very personal in nature. Some collections are so personal you feel like you’re invited to share in a very private moment, being let in on a secret. This is the case with the collection from Raymond Snelting and Anna Mae Milazzo Oertel Snelting.
Raymond was one of seven children from the rural community of St. Charles, Illinois. He left school to join the Civilian Conservation Corps to earn a living. Ray joined the Army when the war began and was assigned to a Signal Corps branch at Fort Polk, Louisiana in New Orleans. While here he fulfilled a variety of different roles, including trips to the Caribbean and South American observing weather patterns. In New Orleans, Ray worked in the motor pool, as an MP, and as a telegrapher, and teletype repairman. Because of one particular teletype repair call, Raymond met Anna Mae Milazzo Oertel, a young teletype operator and widowed mother of two children.
Anna Mae married Carl Jacob Oertel and had two children, Carol Ann and Carl Jacob. On October 16, 1939, Carl was in an automobile accident and suffered a spinal cord fracture, from which he died two days later. Anna and the children moved in with her parents. With the help of lessons from her uncle, a teletype operator, she translated her skills as a pianist (she graduated from the Southern College of Music) to a teletype job at the Port of Embarkation.
Ray was welcomed for Sunday dinner with Southern hospitality in the Milazzo home. And because her mother did not approve, Ray courted Anna Mae secretly. They fell in love despite their very different backgrounds. They were married on April 16, 1944 in a simple ceremony at the Post Chapel at Fort Polk. Carol Ann and Carl Jacob now had a “Daddy Ray.” On September 1, 1950, the couple had a daughter, Carla Rae Snelting. Carla Rae shared a collection of her parents’ memorabilia with the Museum. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we are pleased to share this story of wartime romance and a happily ever after, just one example of the tender moments our artifact donors bring to us daily.
Gift of Carla Rae Snelting Shirer, 2014.494
Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.
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