Things I Never Knew and Things I Wish I Didn’t…

I am the daughter of the original master storyteller. My birthfather couldn’t go to the store, as my mother would say, without having met the Queen of Sheba. And been awarded a medal for it. Seriously, the man could spin a tale out of nothing and often did. If you asked him a question you never received the same answer twice.

Now, that can be entertaining, but makes it incredibly hard to track down real information about your own family history. You see, I am the last leaf on the tree for two branches of the family. I was unable to have children of my own, and my aunts (on my maternal side, there are none on the paternal side) chose not to have kids. So…for the Ruffolo side, the oldest daughter’s line ends with me. That’s not a big deal, great-Uncle Ralphie’s clan numbers in the hundreds at this point, so no worries.

On my father’s side, things are about the same. My birthfather (I say that ’cause I had an amazing “Dad” in my stepfather, and an equally good guy in stepfather #2 who got me as a late teen) was an only child (despite his telling you he was a twin—he was not). They (my mother and he) only had me.

I’m it. The end.

My birthfather, Chip, passed away 16 months ago and his wonderful wife Patti has been diligently going through the acres and acres of items he had in his collection of “important things.” I had asked him for years to at least identify the faces in the photos that hung on the walls (and God help us, there are hundreds). He’d casually whip out names but never did write them on the back. I’m left to piece together what I can from the photos.

Being from a looooooong line of military folks, it’s been relatively easy to identify the men. They have nametags on! Amongst the pile of items opened today in the latest shipment were two shadowboxed displays of medals. Thankfully one box also had an accompanying photo with the man, my great grandfather Colonel Oliver Prescott Robinson (I love his name) in his US Army Class-A’s wearing most of the medals in one box.

I noticed one medal missing from the display and, after comparing it to his photo, realized it was the one hung ’round his neck. Now, there are not many that are made/designed/designated for neck adornment, so I embarked upon a hunt. Knowing he was stationed in the Philippines, France, and Russia, I began there (having ruled out the US medals).

The medal around his neck looks like this:

After an hour or so online I was completely stumped. Couldn’t find any image resembling that medal anywhere online. Then I played with the keywords and voila! Found it!

It’s Japanese! It’s the Order of the Sacred Treasure, 3rd Class (I determined the class as best as I was able by size references on the websites and by peering intently at the photo).

Who’da thunk it?

Per several websites:

ORDER OF THE SACRED TREASURE, 3RD CLASS. The Order of the Sacred Treasure (“Zuihosho”), established in January of 1888, was awarded to either military or civilian personnel for long and distinguished service.

Seriously, who knew?

The other shadow box belongs, I believe, to my Grandfather Gordon, my paternal grandmother’s father, another career military man. That shadowbox was done really well and I have been unable to peek at the name on the back of the purple heart (with bronze cluster) to determine just who’s it is.

There’s a Bronze Star in there too. That is awarded for:

While serving in any capacity in or with the Army of the United States after 6 December 1941, distinguished himself or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service, not involving participation in aerial flight, in connection with military operations against an armed enemy; or while participating in aerial flight prior to the establishment of the Air Force as separate from the army; or while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.


I sure wish I knew more.

I also wish I had more of my Grandpa’s history. For years when he would start to tell a story, Grandma would say, “Oh, Jim, everybody’s heard it all before.” And he’d stop.

I regret that I never said, “I haven’t,” and asked him to tell them to me. On tape.

So. Back to the beginning. I’ll never understand my birthfather’s need to fabricate stories. He’d been around the world, crossed the equator, been to the South Pole, been to McMurdo (I have photos to prove it) and had parents and grandparents who had also done amazing things.

Why not tell those stories?

I hope to, someday.

Tonight: writing and reading.


One Comment on “Things I Never Knew and Things I Wish I Didn’t…”

  1. Tam says:

    The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. You’re an excellent storyteller yourself and one day you’ll be credited on celluloid for it.

    It’s amazing that at certain points in our lives we crave that family history. Usually after its too late. My condolances on the loss of your father.