I have 170 letters that Jay, my grandfather wrote to Rinda, my grandmother between 1913 and 1919. I’ve read and documented all of them and transcribed those written during the period of WWI. The blog will use those written during the war years. All of the letters were handwritten of course and I’m fortunate he had good handwriting. His grammar and vocabulary were good too, he wrote well. I’ve made a few corrections (spelling, punctuation, etc.) as I transcribed the letters but with those few changes, what you read in the letters is what he wrote.
A little note on the letters: Jay often closed his letters with the words “oceans (or barrels) of love to you and Raymond” and signed them, “Willie”; it must have been a pet name Rinda had for him.
Jay E. Shetler was born on October 9, 1887 in Brandon Township, Oakland County, Michigan, near Flint. He wasn’t actually given a middle name, just the letter ‘E’. During the process of entering the Army, he was required to choose an actual name….he chose Elmer and became Jay Elmer Shetler.
By the early 20th century, the family (father Edwin, mother Mary, brother Dell, and Jay) was living in Gaylord in northern Michigan. In 1912, Jay was in Waterloo, Iowa, managing a cafeteria. It would have probably been about this time he and my future grandmother, Rinda Marie Johnson met. She was from LeRoy, Minnesota not far from Waterloo. They packed up and moved to northern Minnesota where they managed restaurants. Jay also worked in logging. On May 23, 1916, Rinda gave birth to my dad, Raymond Jay Shetler in Black Duck, Beltrami County, Minnesota.
During their time in the north, Rinda was hospitalized a couple times with pneumonia. She suffered from lung issues all her life. Times and the weather were hard on everyone and they left northern Minnesota for southern Minnesota and Iowa, closer to Rinda’s family in LeRoy, MN. The letters from Jay to Rinda during this time were from when he was on the road in the Upper Midwest as a salesman for the Escanaba Mfg. Co. He also traveled often to Gaylord to see his aging parents and brother.
Jay E. Shetler – my grandfather
Rinda Marie Johnson Shetler – my grandmother
Raymond – my father
Dell – Jay’s brother
Gertrude (Gertie) Upham – Rinda’s sister