THE FORTNIGHTLY CLUB
OF REDLANDS, CALIFORNIA - Founded 24 January 1895
December 12, 2004
Journey of Uncertainty
by Steve Spiller
She was only 500 miles from the coast of
and headed home when two torpedoes launched from the U-90 tore into her port
side.An hour earlier the crew of the USS
President Lincoln had been occupied with morning chores.They now found themselves in lifeboats and rafts as they watched the
18,000 ton, former German liner disappear into the icy
.The required emergency training
had paid off.Fewer than thirty of
the 715 on board, including Army passengers, lost their lives that final day of
Troops preparing to leave the
continued to face a journey of uncertainty.U-boats, influenza, crowded quarters, and the glow of a single cigarette
could prove deadly.Convoys
zig-zagged across the
in an effort to prevent the loss of more ships, equipment and personnel.
thousands of men preparing to leave for
in June of 1918 was a small contingent of Belgian soldiers, less than 400 in
number.They, unlike the freshly and
hastily trained soldiers of the American Expeditionary Force, had already
experienced the devastation and horror of war.The Belgian Expeditionary Force was on a journey wrought with
danger, apprehension and uncertainty, and heightened by beginning in a country
experiencing war, and revolution.
According to an
account on a World War 1 website, the Expeditionary Force left
aboard the British ship SS Wray Castle on
September 22, 1915
.They brought with them armored cars manufactured by the Minerva Motor
Company, cars which had proven effective in the siege of
on October 13.They were to fight
alongside the Russian troops in
against the Austrians, including participating in the Brusilov offensive in the
summer of 1916. As the
dissatisfaction with Czar Nicolas and the leadership of the Russian Army grew,
the Belgians, highly decorated by the Russians, would remain in the country.In 1917 civil war and revolution would lead to the ratification of the
- Litovsk Treaty. There was
little opportunity for the Belgian Expeditionary Force to leave
; at least not via the route they had entered the country in 1915.
In February 1918
the Belgians left Kieff for
.Two months later they were in
.There would be others forced to
take this same path, including the Czech Legion and Stanford professor and
Romanov historian Frank Golder. It
had not been an easy journey.It was
necessary to assemble adequate provisions for the expected three months prior to
beginning the trip west.They even
had to bring together and repair the trains they would take.Initially they traveled with passports signed by Nikolai Krylenko.Further west his authority was not recognized, including in the regions
. On April 25 the Belgians boarded an American transport in
destined for the
Sunday, May 12, 1918
, the Belgian troops were far from home, yet enveloped in the admiration of an
adopted nation.Hundreds of
thousands were involved in an international effort to feed and house "Poor
Little Belgium."Meatless and
wheatless days became common.
It was fitting
that the soldiers would be guests of
where the Hoover Institution was to be established, dedicated to the study of
war, revolution, and peace, and to the efforts of the mining engineer turned
humanitarian and president.In the
inner quad of the University on May 15 the Stanford ROTC stood guard as the
Belgians entered the
for a program held in their honor.
The troops were
also welcomed to the Presidio and to
, attended dinners hosted by the Defenders Clubs in
, participated in a mass led by their own chaplain, Father Lens, and sat in
review of a Red Cross parade.
During the nearly
week-long stay in
, the Belgians were motored around the
, sightseeing.A call had gone out
requesting the temporary use of citizens' automobiles.Over 200 owners responded.It
was in these vehicles that the soldiers traveled to Stanford, the automobiles
adorned in the Belgian tricolor of red, yellow and black.
On May 14 they
marched in a parade from the Ferry Buildings along Market, Geary and Powell
's City Hall. The San Francisco
children of the city had been given a half holiday. They had
assembled in thousands, and they cheered and cheered
and sang "Over
There," and all sorts of other patriotic songs.
showered upon the men of Flanders and
.Roses, sweet peas, and
rhododendrons adorned their khaki uniforms.Even the rifles they carried over their shoulders appeared to have been
plucked from neighboring gardens as blossoms sprouted from the cold steel.The adulation would be repeated again and again over the next two weeks.They were at the beginning of a cross continental journey to
New York City
, a stark contrast to their anxiety driven passage across the desolate Siberian
The U.S Army
Quartermaster Corps was ordered to provide trains and Army personnel to
accompany the Belgian soldiers to the east coast, including "two of the best
cooks at the Presidio."They reached
New York City
around the first of June.While
waiting to leave for Europe they were housed at
.The non-stop celebration and
reception continued in
.Surges of emotion accompanied the
Belgians as they marched down
.Shouts of "Vive la Belgique"
were heard along the route.
The members of
the Expeditionary Force would soon be in
. Their fellow countrymen
were being deported and placed in forced labor at the German fronts where they
were exposed to Allied fire, malnourishment, a lack of clothing, and the ravages
of tuberculosis.What were these men
thinking as they prepared for the last leg of their journey?Would they once again be fighting the Germans and Austrians, only this
time on the Western Front?
Also preparing to
was Lt. jg Elbert Walker Shirk of the United States Navy Reserve Aviation
Corps.The Lt. had left the security
of the mid-west and a loving wife, and leased his manufacturing business to a
cousin, allowing the Lieutenant to participate in the war effort.At age 38 he had not been required to register for draft when the
entered the war.On
May 11, 1918
he enlisted in the Navy.His actions were not out of character for this self-assured man who
excelled on the athletic field, won sailing regattas, and captained his school
track team.He was also a man of the
arts, at ease composing music or playing the violin.And, he was not a slacker.
Elbert Shirk grew
a small town north of
along the banks of the
.He was born of privilege on
November 11, 1878
.His grandfather, Elbert Hamilton
Shirk, was considered one of the wealthiest men in
.The grandfather had purchased depreciated Mexican War bounty land
warrants when they became available to private investors.With encouragement from Shirk, farmers in
traded their land to him for land in
.His wealth grew.Elbert Shirk's other business interests included establishing the 1st
National Bank of
.His oldest son Milton would become
president of the bank.
June 6, 1868
Milton Shirk married Ellen Walker, the daughter of Joseph Walker of
.Milton and Ellen Shirk had two
sons; Elbert Walker Shirk, born in 1878 and Joseph Henry Shirk, born in 1881.Milton Shirk continued the prosperous ways of his father.When he died in May of 1903 his estate had an estimated value of
family lived in
, a town directly west of
. There, "Judge" Cheney and his wife raised three daughters and a son.Their eldest daughter, Helen,
married J. Alfred Kimberly in 1865.Kimberly,
a native of
, owned a dry goods business in
with his childhood friend and partner Havilah Babcock.Seven years later the two joined with Frank Shattuck and Charles Benjamin
Clark to start a paper company on the banks of
Kimberly and Helen Cheney Kimberly had seven children, two sons and five
daughters.Their youngest was Mary
Emma Kimberly, but to family and close friends, she was always "Bobbie" or
"Bob."Mary would attend the
and graduate from
In 1894 Elbert and Joseph Shirk, and their cousin, Richard Edwards,
.Despite the age difference, Elbert
and Joseph were in the same class.Their
maternal grandfather, the Honorable Joseph Walker, was president of the small
Elbert was viewed
as one of the leaders on the
campus.In his senior year he
captained the track team, running the 300 yard and low hurdles, was president of
the Athletic Association, played on the football team, and was president of the
and Richard Edwards continued to follow the same educational path.In the fall of 1898 the three entered
. Harvard had undergone dramatic
changes during the second half of the 19th century. The
industrial revolution and the presidency of Charles W. Eliot significantly
impacted the direction of the college.In
1847 The Lawrence Scientific School was established, providing scientific and
engineering courses of study.Elbert
For the next two
years the brothers were roommates in Matthews Hall, a gothic structure
resembling a "Transylvanian castle."They were among the minority of students, about 27%, who lived in the
less fashionable on-campus housing; housing adjacent to the former dump and hog
slop that had become Harvard Yard.The
Spartan living conditions were in stark contrast to the private dorms just off
known as the "Gold Coast."
Harvard career was noticeably uneventful.Dropping
and adding classes, extended periods of absenteeism due to a variety of aliments
and poor grades did little to inspire the future architect.A letter written in January of 1899 to Elbert's parents from Worcester
Principal Daniel W. Abercrombie, hints at challenges faced by Elbert,
You and I and
other friends have never doubted the goodmetal that is in
Elbert.We have only hoped that life
wouldso discipline him
as to bring things to an equilibrium for him that one part of
his nature might not seriously overbalanceanother.
had introduced the "elective system" permitting students to select their own
classes giving them "free play to natural preferences and inborn aptitudes."Elbert's good friend and classmate Prentice Coonley, reflected on this
freedom in 1953,
The privilege of
electing courses while we were at Harvard resulted, in my
case, in four wholly delightful years andno
preparation for earning a living.
Elbert's classmates was Joseph C. Grew, who would have a distinguished
diplomatic career.His biographer,
historian and professor Waldo Heinrichs wrote,
. . . young
aristocrats of Harvard's Gold Coast acquired their 'gentleman "C" ' with no great effort, and some enjoyment and profit, without risking deliberate commitment to the mastery of any particular subject.
Elbert resigned from Harvard on
January 25, 1901
I respectfully submit my resignation from the
increasing illness of my father makes thisnecessary.As the eldest son it falls upon me to be with him andas soon as I am
able, assume business control of his property.
For the next two years Elbert worked in the lumber industry in Louisiana
and later returned to Peru where he was named an officer in the 1st
National Bank, the bank founded by his fraternal grandfather.He also became involved in the Indiana Manufacturing Company, makers of
refrigerators, wooden sewing machine parts and bicycle rims.
Elbert and Mary
met at his cousin, Richard Edwards's, wedding in October 1904.The two were among several friends and family members who served as
attendants at Richard's marriage to Marie Stuart, the daughter of a former
Purdue University President and granddaughter of a former Indiana Supreme Court
Justice.Mary and Marie Stuart had
known each other for many years.The
two had served as flower girls at the wedding of Mary's oldest sister, Helen,
when in 1889 Helen married William Zachary Stuart, an older cousin of Marie.
Within weeks of
the wedding a romance bloomed.She was "My darling" and "My beautiful."He was her "Count."He
had captured her heart.Elbert would
hire a train to visit Mary in her hometown of
.There would be the parental
cautions. Before the end of the year
the couple was engaged.They
even devised a secret code for use when sending telegrams.When a telegraph operator deciphered the code, they were forced to make
changes.Elbert was on his way to
for the couple's March 1905 wedding, when a telegram he sent was delivered to
on her way to
, with the actual words written below the coded message.They married on
March 7, 1905
in a home on
rented by her parents, J. Alfred and Helen Cheney Kimberly, with the Rev.
Robert Burdette of
promising to "knit the bonds into a tie as gentle, and tender, and strong as
love. . . "
marriage, the couple lived in
where Elbert managed a cement manufacturing plant.They then moved to
where they built a Prairie style house designed by a
architect.Elbert was President of
the Indiana Manufacturing Company in
, manufacturing refrigerators under the Hoosier,
labels.In 1916 he moved his
where he established the United Refrigerator Company manufacturing the Blue
Star refrigerator.The factory would
employ 300 when at full capacity.
were active in the waters of the
. Any military ship leaving
New York City
was in danger of being attacked by these submerged weapons. Newspaper
headlines shouted, "U. S. Ships Battling with Hun Submarines," "Transport
Sunk on Voyage Home with Wounded, "Two U-Boats Sink 9 Ships off this Coast,"
and "German Submarines Have Sunk American Ships off New Jersey Shore."The latter noted that the "Ports of New York City and
Are Closed and Careful Watch is on at all Atlantic Gateways."This last headline appeared in the Redlands Daily Facts of
June 4, 1918
For the thousands
of men and women traveling across the
, ocean travel would be a new experience. Effort and assistance came in many
forms.The YMCA's National War
Work Council Committee was concerned with the welfare of the troops, including
literacy.The Council published a
booklet as a guide to the novice travelers.Orientation included becoming familiar with a previously unknown
A new language of port, deck,
starboard, galleys, and heads was quickly learned.
The War Work
Council's publication also contained information emphasizing the need for
discipline; strict and impartial discipline.Throwing any trash or refuse from a ship was prohibited, including
cigarette butts.Warning signs were
posted on the bulkheads declaring,
overboard.Floating articles reveal our course to
This was at a time when the
"comfort" of a smoke was encouraged. Barnett's
Photo Shop in
sold pocket size cigarette cases designed to hold a photo of "the girl I left
behind me."The citizens of
contributed to the Army Girls Transport Tobacco Fund, including the families of
the Hicks, Sanborns and Harris's.Twenty-five cents would provide enough tobacco for the "cruise." The
troops were prohibited from smoking in the berthing areas and on open decks at
night.It was possible for the light
of a solitary cigarette in starless darkness to be visible from a half a mile.
In May 1918 a
proposal was approved by the Navy and War Departments that would increase by 50%
the number onboard over the total number of available berths.Shifts were instituted. "Hot racks" had become the norm.It was not until the influenza epidemic hit in force in August of 1918
that the numbers were dropped in an effort to reduce the spread of the viral
The increase in
the number of passengers necessitated expanding the cooking facilities,
including the addition of large steam kettles.The goal was to feed as many as possible in the shortest amount of time. A
lack of trained cooks resulted in training on the spot; galleys became
classrooms in between meals.In
the YMCA's publication, the members of the American Expeditionary Force were
You will be
assailed with a terrible appetite, and you will now welcome the call
for breakfast. . . you'll pass long rows of large kettles, which
are giving off savory odors. . . Mealtime is always a happy time
aboard ship and I know that the reader will agree with me when he
has settled down to a good old 'Regulation dinner.'
Not everyone agreed with this
glowing assessment, but grumblings were more common on the return trip to the
than on the way to
Ships of other
nations were chartered, including from Cunard and the French Compagnie Generale
Transatlantique lines.The La
Lorraine, from the Compagnie Generale, was one of one hundred and twenty-eight
ships that sailed for
in June 1918 transporting nearly 300,000 troops.
was launched in 1899 at the St. Nazaire shipyards, home to many French liners.The 11,146 ton ship required 12,000 to 15,000 kilos of coal per hour.One hundred and ninety-five stokers worked in temperatures in excess of
120 degrees, feeding 18 boilers in order to reach a speed of 20 knots.
Prior to the
' entry into the War, destroyers were assigned a prescribed area to protect
the ships.These "zone
patrols" allowed for greater speed of the ships transporting men and
equipment.The concept of convoys
had not been accepted by the British Admiralty, fearing the slow speeds made the
ships increasingly vulnerable to the German U-boats.
United States Naval Overseas Transportation Service (NOTS) was a strong
proponent of the convoy system, despite the reduced efficiency and speeds.The speed of a convoy was dictated by the slowest ship, typically at
about 8 knots. Ships were directed
to implement predetermined zig-zag patterns.Many of the ships were camouflaged with colorful "Razzel Dazzle"
geometric patterns inspired by Cubism. The
use of smoke screens and abandoning the use of navigation lights in the dark
were implemented to further confuse the enemy.
published accounts, the
left port on
June 11, 1918
.Aboard were the members of the Belgian Expeditionary Force and Lt. Shirk.The following day five ships leaving
, spotted the wake of a German submarine.This
unnerving experience occurred as they were to rendezvous with ships that had
New York City
.It is highly probable that the
contingent included the
dangers, the crossing was seemingly uneventful.The
anchored off the French coast at the mouth of the
, waiting to dock at one of the French ports. On
June 23rd about 10 in the morning there was a cry, "man
overboard."One of the Belgian Expeditionary
Force members now found himself in the water, a water chilled by one of the
coldest winters on record. Elbert
Shirk was on the promenade deck, 30 feet above the surface of the
.We can only imagine how
Elbert and the others were reacting to the emergency."Man overboard" and "abandon ship" drills were included as part
of the required daily onboard training.What
followed can only be described as a selfless act, an act of disregard for
one's own safety for the benefit of another.Without hesitation, a man from above the water's surface dove into the
. Lt. Shirk had leaped from the
approximate height required of an Olympian diving from the highest competition
Apparently the Belgian soldier was stunned when he fell overboard.Elbert Shirk was confronted with a man struggling, not uncommon for
someone in danger of drowning.Elbert
was able to successfully "asprawl" the man across a lifesaver that had been
thrown to him.A swift tide carried the two a third of a mile before the
's No. 1 lifeboat reached them.Twice
the man let loose of the lifesaver, requiring Elbert to dive after him.The second time Elbert was struck in the stomach by the soldier
"resulting in the loss of breath and pain to him."He held onto the man and the life preserver for over an hour by one
account until the two were rescued.
August 16, 1918
proclaimed, "Lieut. Shirk is Hailed a Hero Plunges into the Ocean and Rescues
a Belgian."According to the account in the Republican,
While the vessel
was standing some distance from the point of landing, . .
., one of the Belgian officers became temporarily deranged and
attempted suicide by leaping overboard. . . Lieut. Shirk threw off his coat and hat
and plunged in to rescue the officer. . . Lieut. Shirk was showered with praise
by the people on board . . . when he was brought back and it
was learned that the Belgian, too, had been saved.
actions were described by a
It was the same
fine spirit of loyalty actuating him there that sent him through
the line twenty years ago, the spirit of service to his fellows;
an impelling force from within called into action by a human need.
Had then this man
purposely jumped overboard or was it an accident?His experiences on the Eastern Front and the journey across
were in dramatic contrast to the three weeks he and his comrades had just
experienced during the trans-continental trip from
New York City
.The Expeditionary Force would be
in a few days.More than any, the
Belgian knew what to expect on the battlefield.Perhaps it was too much for this man.But he was not the only one who suffered. Elbert
would continue to have ill effects from his unselfish decision of June 23rd.
on the 28th of June where once again they were welcomed as heroes.
It is not known if the Expeditionary Force was disbanded after their arrival in
or if they were once again called upon to fight the German-Austrian armies.
Elbert would be
assigned to several Navy bases in
. His manufacturing knowledge and experience was important to the Navy in the
assembly of airplanes.
important harbor for the U.S. Navy was at
.Queenstown had a significant
history.And, it was the final stop
for the Titanic and where many of the survivors were taken after the sinking of
Cunard's celebrated ship.
The U. S. Naval
Air Station in Queenstown opened in September 1918 at the south eastern side of
the harbor.From there seaplanes
provided convoy escorts and patrolled for German U-boats.The Navy had also established an assembly plant at the air station.The plant was under the charge of Lt. Elbert Shirk.
at Queenstown Elbert received a letter from Secretary of the Navy Josephus
September 6, 1918
, in which the Secretary wrote,
wishes to advise you that it is recommended to the Treasury
Department, that a Gold Life-Saving Medal be awarded to you
for your action on this occasion.
Further compromising Elbert's physical condition may have been an
incident which occurred while stationed in
.Apparently the seaplanes were not
known for maneuverability.Several
of the planes had been shot down by German aircraft.According to the Class of 1902, 25th Anniversary Report,
on his own initiative, to try . . . looped the loop in a
Liberty seaplane with a full complement of
men and equipment.
Elbert successfully completed the
loop, but the strain caused the plane to crash into the sea.No one was hurt and Elbert was credited with "getting the plane on its
side, so that he could use the rudder and flatten out just before striking the
The war was
coming to a close.On
November 11, 1918
sirens wailed, the Statue of Liberty was bathed in light, effigies of the
Kaiser were everywhere, and the citizens of
disregarded the flu quarantine in favor of an official celebratory parade at
three in the morning.All but one
member of Congress stood in standing ovation for President Wilson before a joint
meeting of the two houses.
The words of
President Wilson were for all to hear.For
the Kimberly family their thoughts were more private, but no less profound.For decades J. Alfred Kimberly had kept leather bound daybooks.Typically his comments were brief. Sometimes
the shutter opened a bit more into the life of one of the great entrepreneurs of
the 19th century.He
found space at the end of his 1918 daybook to author the following,
So goes the year 18 and we step into 1919 fearlessly = War is at end & the
peace conference is on in
.Our army is coming home every week & will soon settle back in their old work except those we left in
the fields of
.Thank God there are not many more but still
there will be vacant chairs & many aching hearts on our fairland
for sons & fathers who can never come back. Such is war.May there never be another.JAK
Mary returned to
in late November and Elbert was officially discharged on January 20 at the
Naval Air Station, Bay Shore,
.Four days later Mary met him at the Victorville train station.
A photograph of
Mary and Elbert, with Elbert in his Navy officer's uniform, was taken at
Kimberly Crest sometime after Elbert's arrival in
.On close examination, the look in
his eyes is strangely distant, the sparkle is gone.War ages men, often beyond their years.
continued to seek relief from the painful, hot and throbbing ear infection that
had shadowed him since June 23rd of 1918.On
August 12, 1919
he sought treatment in
from a Doctor Peterson. A week
later, Elbert checked into
's St. Luke's hospital on
South Michigan Street
.The city was still reeling from
the racial violence that erupted the previous month, in part a reaction to the
death of a young black man.
Members of the
Kimberly family came from
to see Elbert.Mr. Kimberly visited
him on August 21st.Surgery
was scheduled the next day, presumably for the removal of the mastoid.This was an accepted treatment for the potentially deadly infection
rather than medicating with sulfa and antibiotics, which would come later.
inner ear infections and resulting mastoiditis without surgery.Mastoiditis grounded 94th Aero Squadron flyer Eddie Rickenbacker in July
and August of 1918.Hospitalized for
a brief period in a
hospital, Rickenbacker overcame the infection and soon returned to the air.He may have been an exception.During
the flier's lifetime he would repeatedly cheat death.
daybooks revealed the seriousness of Elbert's illness as well as relief that
Elbert survived this first operation.The
elder statesman required only a few words to convey hope and, concern. On
August 22nd he wrote, "Elbert's operation was a success.Very much needed."
into Mr. Kimberly's words when he wrote a few weeks later,
Thursday, September 4 - Operated on Elbert.He is a very
sick manmeningitis (this
would have been a second operation)Friday, September 5 - Elbert has another operation.Last
The following day
Mr. Kimberly wrote, "Elbert goingNohope."The finality of "No hope" was reinforced by Kimberly as he underlined
the words signaling the inevitable. He
followed the next day with, "Elbert
died last eve
We go to
listed the cause of death as septic meningitis with acute mastoiditus the
contributing factor.On November 19th Elbert would have celebrated his 40th
birthday.For those surrounding him
that day, the race riots of July and August mattered little.
Approximately 50 attended Elbert's service on September 9 at the home
of Joseph Shirk. Music included "Children of Liberty," a march composed by Elbert.Elbert put the poetry of William Dudley Foulke to music.The
, attorney, author, poet, newspaper owner, and advocate for women's suffrage
and civil service reform had captured the feelings of many when he wrote:
Children of liberty, whereso'er you be, Forward to battle till the world is free!Crush the proud oppressor, smite him stroke on stroke-Free the plains of
Poland - break the Servian Yoke!
Mr. Kimberly and
others escorted Elbert's body to
where his body was cremated as he requested and the ashes interred.His remains were later removed and placed in the Kimberly family
.A small American flag was placed
over the box.Nearby was an emblem
displaying the Croix de Civique, an award presented to Elbert from the Belgian
On the first page
of The Peru Republican of September 12, was the following headline,
"Lt. Elbert W. Shirk Answers Summons - Heroic Experience Probably Caused
Death."The Redlands Daily Facts reported Elbert Shirk's
death on September 13 and reprinted his obituary from the
September 22, 1919
they said of him,
The death of Elbert Walker Shirk removes from the ranks of the alumni of the
school one of their ablest and strongest
members. . . He
has gone from us, as he would have wished, serving his fellow men.Those of us who knew him, loved him.We shall be influenced by
his personality to the last.
Harvard did not
forget its dead.On Memorial Day
1920 General John Pershing attended a ceremony on the Harvard campus in "Honor
of Harvard Men Who Have Given Their Lives for
and Democracy in the War Against Germany."On display in the Widener Library, within steps of Matthews Hall, was a
display by the Harvard Memorial Society memorializing the 373 faculty and
was completed in 1932 a permanent memorial was dedicated.Etched in stone are the names of those "who have given their lives."
Elbert was also
honored by the
government with the posthumous award of the country's Croix de Civique.The Civil Decoration was instituted in 1867 to provide recognition for
bravery, self-sacrifice, and humanitarian actions.
Within a year
Mary gave up their
apartment and moved to
to be with her aging parents.Items
familiar to her, those from her life with Elbert, were packed and sent to
Kimberly Crest.Many would
eventually be used in the home, while others in crates, trunks and barrels would
remain virtually untouched until after her death in 1979.
There remained a
strong and permanent presence of Elbert Walker Shirk at Kimberly Crest.It was not then a surprise that an unopened crate in the basement
contained Elbert's Lieutenant's uniform, complete with leather leggings.
In the library
one would have been immediately drawn to his portrait.Elbert is dressed in his U.S Navy Lt. jg uniform.The framed photograph occupies a place of honor at the center of the
library bookcase.There were
actually two portraits.A simple pin
mechanism allowed the frame to spin, revealing a second photograph of Elbert in
his officer's uniform.
contained a diverse, eclectic assortment of books, including those by graduates
and The Factories of the Valley, an industrial history of
.Within the pages of another book,
titled the Indiana Book of Merit (1932),
are chronicled the events leading to Elbert's premature death.Discovered among the pages was a typed carbon copy of Elbert's
obituary, stiff with age.
The library was
routinely the setting for weekly bridge games.A cabinet with inlaid ivory and tortoise shell was at one end of the
room.It fit somewhat awkwardly into
the library, adjacent to the large westerly window. Hidden in the cabinet were
score pads, pencils and several sets of playing cards. Elbert's
mother, Ellen Walker Shirk, had purchased the cabinet in
at the turn-of-the-century.In 1935
she presented it to Mary.Inscribed
on a paper tag hidden under the piece was the following "given to my
daughter-in-love (law)."Within the many cabinet drawers were mementos and other treasures,
including the U.S Navy's Gold Living Saving Medal and the Croix de Civique.Other reminders found in the home included a packet of letters carefully
tied with ribbon and a small box containing a piece of the groom's wedding
cake from the couple's 1905 wedding.
From the hall
sitting room on the 2nd floor Mrs. Shirk had a sweeping view of the
San Bernardino Mountains
.The features appeared as natural
elements of the classic Italian gardens designed by her brother-in-law,
architect George Edwin Bergstrom.
Mrs. Shirk would
sit at her Empire style, drop front desk in the sitting room planning menus,
meeting with staff, maintaining her correspondence, and handling her business
affairs.A pencil sharpener was
close at hand, screwed down to the wooden window ledge. A
multi-color sun catcher, a gift from a great niece, hung in the window.
desk's cubbyholes and drawers were still other reminders; a preserved wedding
invitation and a letter Mrs. Shirk wrote to Elbert following his death.Perhaps she had begun similar letters or maybe this was the first time
she had attempted to put her grief to paper?Grief is classless.The
process, the steps are predictable.We
know of the denial, the anger, the bargaining, and the inability to change
Nelson's mistress, Lady Emma Hamilton, wrote the following in November of
1805, just weeks after Nelson's death:
". . . Hope that I shall not long after him. . . nothing gives me a gleam of
comfort that I shall soon follow."
Mary Shirk had
nearly identical thoughts when she wrote,
I feel you near
me - every where - it is such a comfort . . .I feel sure if my faith was great enough
I could reach you.Some day you will reach me I am sure.May it be soon.
In reality, it
would be 60 years and almost to the day, 75 years after they met at the wedding
of Richard and Marie Edwards.
Mrs. Shirk's bedroom was directly above the library.The room is deceiving in its simplicity and size and, at first, appears a
paradox for an heir of a multi-national corporation.A windowed door leads to a porch above the porte cochère.This south exposure with curtains of wisteria and rose was Mrs. Shirk's
"little bit of Heaven."The
colors were a perfect complement to the color that dominated the room.The wallpaper, the bedspread, the clothes behind the mirrored closet
door, the drapes, and even, the hand embroidered pillow presented to her on her
90th birthday, reflected her strong affection for the color blue.
years following Elbert's death, a portrait of Elbert rested on Mrs. Shirk's
bedside table. The silver frame,
with a photograph identical to one found in the library, may have been a gift of
the Belgian government.The Croix de
Civique was incorporated into the frame's design.
A newer addition
to the room was an alarm panel, a modern necessity of the mid-1970s, intruding
into the space that had changed little in the 60 years.Sometimes spiders mysteriously found their way into the smoke detectors
and triggered the sensing mechanisms.It
was difficult for anyone to discern the piercing sound of an intrusion siren
from that of the fire alarm.Although
this was before cities instituted mandated fees for false alarms, one did not
want the police or fire departments responding unnecessarily. In
the event of an alarm at Kimberly Crest, the "central station" operator was
to be called, or they called you.A
code word was required, a word easily remembered.One would respond with "Elbert."
Vice Admiral Albert Gleves, U.S.N.A
History of the Transport Service (New York: George H. Doran Company,
indicates there were actually three torpedoes that struck the
, although not all struck the port side.
From Kieff to Vladivostok Armoured
Cars on the Eastern Front; available from http://www.greatwardifferent.com/Great_War/Russia/Kieff_Vladivostok_01.htm.
San Francisco Thousands Cheer War Heroes in Brilliant Parade," San
Francisco Chronicle 15 May 1918, p.1.
 "Belgian Soldiers Are Kept Hustling," San
18 May 1918
 "City Pays Honor to Belgium Veterans," New
5 June 1918
, p.11, c.3.
Elbert W. Shirk, Military Personnel Records,
The term slacker was first applied
to British males who found ways of not serving their country.
County (Chicago: Brant & Fuller, 1887).Available from http://members/tripod.com/~debmurray/miami/miabioref-8.htm.
 "Death of
Shirk:Miami County Millionaire
Passes Away Saturday Evening," The
15 May 1903
 "There's no place like home," The Harvard independent
15 July 2001
D. W. Abercrombie.Letter to Mr.
Milton Shirk dated
10 January 1899
William Martin, Harvard Yard (
: Warner Books, 2003), p. 373.
 "Fiftieth Anniversary Report of the Harvard Class of 1903," (1953): 170.
Waldo H. Heinrichs Jr.American
Grew and the Development of the
Diplomatic Tradition (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1966),
Elbert W Shirk.Letter to
25 January 1901
 Telegrams. (January - March, 1905). Kimberly-Shirk
Papers, Kimberly Crest House and Gardens,
Robert J. Burdette.Letter to
Mrs. J. A. Kimberly, dated
21 February 1905 . Kimberly-Shirk Papers, Kimberly Crest House & Gardens,
U. S. Ships Battling with Hun Submarines," The
5 June 1918 , p.1; "Transport Sunk on Voyage Home with Wounded,"New York Times,
1 June 1918
c.1; "Two U-Boats
Sink 9 Ships off this Coast;" New
4 June 1918
, p.1; and "German Submarines Have Sunk American Ships off
," Redlands Daily Facts,
4 June 1918
 "German Submarines Have Sunk," Redlands Daily Facts,
4 June 1918
, p. 1.
B. B. Brown, Troopships, (New
York: National War Work Council of Yong Men's Christian Associations, by
Association Press, NY, 1918).
 Benedict Crowell, &
Wilson The Road to
II: The Transportation of Troops and Military Supplies 1917 - 1918 (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1921), Chapter XXVIII.
Advertisement, Redlands Daily Facts,
2 May 1918
, p. 5, c. 1.
 "Movement Being Pushed Here to Provide Boys with Smokes, Chews," Redlands
Review, 3 May 1918, p.1, c. 3.and "An Army Girls Transport Tobacco
Fund," Redlands Daily Facts2
May 1918, p.5, c. 2-3.
College , Class of 1902," Secretary's
Sixth Report (June 1922): 413.
. (There is also conflicting information that the
New York City
of June 15).
Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Briscoe, USNRF, Lieutenant C. T.
Chenevert, USNRF, Lieutenant Wm. E. Hooper, USNRF. Letter to unknown person
20 July 1918
.National Archives & Records Administration,
J. W. Peterson, M.D.Standard
Certificate of Death,
, State of
, Elbert W. Shirk, No. 23958, (September 6, 1919).
Elbert Walker Shirk, Children of
Liberty, original poetry by William Dudley Foulke (self-published, circa
House & Gardens,
 "Lt. Elbert W. Shirk Answers SummonsHeroic
Experience Probably Cause ofDeath,"
The Peru Republican
12 September 1919
 "Death of Lieutenant Shirk Due to Heroic Experience," Redlands
22 September 1919
: p.2, c.5-6.
 "Death of Elbert Shirk, '98'," Worcester Academy Bulletin, (no date): 14. Collections of the
American Antiquarian Society,
Harvard Memorial Society.Photographs:
an inventory.HUD 3567.219.2.Roll of Honor Collection,
 "Names of U.S. Naval Officers Decorated by Foreign Countries - Belgium," Croiz [sic] Civique
de Premiere Classe, Elbert Walker Shirk, National Archives and Records
Administration, Washington, D.C.
Harry A. Rider compiled by, Indiana Book of Merit Official Individual Decorations and Commendations
Awarded to Indiana Men and Women for Services in the WorldWar
Historical Bureau Indiana Library and Historical Department, 1932), pp
 Michael Ryan, "Lord Nelson Hero and . . . Cad!" Smithsonian
Magazine, vol. 34, no. 11 (February 2004), p. 75.
Mary Kimberly Shirk. Letter to Elbert W. Shirk dated circa 1921.Kimberly-Shirk Papers.Kimberly
Crest House & Gardens,
Wilson. The Road to
II.The Transportation of Troops
and Military Supplies1917 -
Duffy, Francis J.
and William H. Miller.The
: TBW Books, 1986.
Farwell, BryonOver There:The
in the Great War, 1917 - 1918.New
York/London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.
First World War:A Complete
New York : Henry Holt & Co., 1994.
, U.S.N.A History of the Transport Service.
: George H. Doran Company, 1921.
AmbassadorJoseph C. Grew and
the Development of the
: Little, Brown & Company, 1966.
John . The
First World War.
Papers.Kimberly Crest House
William . Harvard
: Warner Books, 2003.
Shirley, Noel C.
United States Naval Aviation 1910- 1918.
: Schiffer Military History, 2000.
Small, Cloyd E.Achieving the Honorable:
1834 - 1978.
: Davis Press, Inc. 1979.