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Memorial Day taps family memories

Photo array on Jenny Shivler’s wall honors four generations of family service

Memorial Day honors those who have died while serving the nation.

But like the sound of a mournful trumpet, it taps into the deepest memories of countless people like 89-year-old Genevieve “Jenny” Shivler, whose apartment wall near Northridge holds a photo array of four generations of her family’s soldiers and sailors.

“I’m proud of that wall,” she said.

Memorial Day “is like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day,” she added, after a pause caused by a sudden reign of tears. “It gets to me.”

The tears came after Shivler was transported 76 years to the day she lost her father, Bert Kimmel, a World War I Navy veteran, at 54, to kidney disease.

“I’d just turned 13,” she said, and her family was living on Columbia Street between Sycamore and Murray streets.

To honor him, she and her niece, Jean Greiner, visited his grave in Glen Haven Memorial Gardens before Memorial Day.

There, and at other stops, she sees “my Dad, my Mom, my brothers, my sisters. I’m the only one left out of seven kids. I’m the baby.”

She also visits the grave of her husband of 69 years, Eddie Shivler, at Asbury Cemetery. The World War II veteran, who appears twice on the wall, was checking a furnace at at Fort Benjamin Harrison when it exploded and burned his lungs. That was before she knew him.

“He was going to be shipped out when that happened,” said Mrs. Shivler’s niece, Jean Greiner, who helped her aunt tell the story, about the photo.

In one of the photos, Eddie is shown in uniform with his pipe smoking brother Paul, who also served in World War II. So, said Mrs. Shivler, did her brother Lavern Kimmel, who soldiered in Europe.

The next generation is represented by the Shivlers’ son, William Kenneth, “Kenny,” who spent 26 years in the army, where he met his wife, who also served and appears in a portrait with him.

Kenny retired as as Master Sergeant, but his entry into the military was delayed “because his Dad wouldn’t sign the papers,” Mrs. Shivler said. “I would have signed them,” but her veteran husband would not.

“Eddie didn’t want to lose his kids,” she explained. “They were close with their Dad.”

Uncle Sam broke the family stalemate with the Vietnam era draft, and Kenny became a Green Beret who went to the war zone.

“He won’t talk about nothing,” Mrs. Shivler said. “I didn’t ask him too much.”

But he did stay in the Army and “actually trained troops at Fort McCoy (for service in the Middle East) before he retired,” Mrs. Greiner said.

Mrs. Shivler’s granddaughter, Tina Patterson, served in the Navy. Her picture is not far from a military portrait of her father, Mike Patterson.

Mrs. Shivler’s grandson, Bill Shivler, followed in his father Kenny’s footsteps so closely that, in a joint portrait, their two highly decorated uniforms seem virtually interchangeable.

“He’s still in. He’s been in 22 years,” his grandmother said.

That has involved half a dozen rotations from Fort Campbell, Ky., to war zones and a request that his photo not appear with this story.

“I promised him I wouldn’t,” Mrs. Shivler said.

Despite the general serious tone, her family’s military service is a cause for celebration and fun as well as somberness.

The cement goose outside her front door wears Army fatigues that bear the Shivler name. And once a year, she allows herself to get her Army son’s goat by rooting for Navy in the Army-Navy football game.

A 13-year-old inside Jenny Shivler still retains loyalty the branch in which her daddy served.

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