Today I would like to honor the 100th birthday of my paternal grandfather, Jack Weems Quarrier. Grandpa was born at home on February 27, 1909, the day after his mother's 20th birthday. Unfortunately he didn't live to see a full century of life. Grandpa passed away on August 6, 1977, when he was 68 and I was almost 14 years old.
I did not know my grandfather very well, so several weeks ago, I asked my father, aunt, uncle and siblings to share some of their memories. I learned so many things I hadn’t known before. Even if you aren’t a relative of his, some of the historical details might be pretty interesting to you. This could also be an encouragement for some of you to find out more about your own family history while you still have the opportunity.
Grandpa’s father, John Chilton Quarrier, was the editor of a newspaper. His mother, Olive Blanche (Weems) Quarrier, was the daughter of a Confederate sharpshooter (sniper), Charles Chilton Weems, whose usual target was Union river boat captains. She was born on February 26, 1889, at her uncle’s Oak Lawn plantation in Bayou Teche, New Iberia,
Jack was born in Galveston, Texas, and was baptized Catholic. His paternal grandfather, Dana Ward Quarrier, had studied to be an Episcopal minister, but apparently Dana’s wife, Sallie Hogan Quarrier, was Irish Catholic. I'm not sure if he was raised Catholic, though. Jack had three sisters: Maxine (born in 1907), Geraldine (1913), and Olive May, nicknamed "O.M." (1919).
Jack actually grew up in
and lived there for the rest of his life. He attended Kansas City there, but did not graduate. He left home at age 15 to work for the Associated Press as the world’s youngest commercial telegraph operator. I think he was based at the offices of the Emporia Gazette. Later, he switched to teletype operation from Morse code retransmit. Teletype had a paper tape punch which could be torn off, hung up, and put into another teletype machine to be read again. He eventually had to work on computer terminals, which annoyed him so much that he quit in the early 1970s, after nearly 50 years in the business. He had worked all the way through the Depression, which is quite notable. Southwest High School
Jack met my grandmother, Margaret Brazier, when he was working in the building that housed both the AP offices and the Kansas City Star newspaper, where she was a reporter. She had graduated from the
My own memories of my grandfather are sketchy. When I was almost five, our family moved from
I vaguely remember meeting my great grandfather, John Chilton Quarrier, when we lived in
After we moved to
In April 1977, we moved to
We cleaned out Grandpa’s apartment while we were there. The thing that struck me was that he had a bazillion books. We brought many of them home, marking each with the initials JWQ inside the front cover. I still have his Revised Standard Version Bible, which is now displayed on a bookstand in my front hallway. Grandpa may not have had much of a formal education, but he sure loved to read great books! He also enjoyed classical and jazz music and had quite a record collection.
I wish I could have talked to my grandfather more. There are a lot of questions I would have asked him. I believe in being aware of our stories, about our own lives and about those who have gone before us. In so many ways, it is where we have come from, even before own births, that shapes who we are, how we think, and what we pass on down to the next generation.