One hundred years ago today, March 20, 1918, Pvt. Jay E. Shetler got his uniform. Posting his photo here and a ‘family photo’ I put together, Jay, Rinda and Raymond Jay Shetler. I’ve never seen a photo of the three of them together.
Jay E. Shetler was born on October 9, 1887 in Brandon Gardens, Michigan and raised in Gaylord, in northern Michigan. His father Edwin Shetler was a farmer; his mother Mary was a descendant of early settlers of Plymouth Colony. Jay had one brother, Dell to whom he was very close. After high school Jay hit the road as a salesman, his territory including Minnesota and Iowa.
Rinda Marie Johnson was born December 14, 1887 in the township of Lodi in far southern Minnesota. Her father was a Norwegian immigrant, her mother a descendant of Scottish immigrants. Rinda, her parents and 3 siblings settled in LeRoy, a small town on the Minnesota/Iowa border. As in Jay’s case, her father was a farmer. Apparently, Rinda never completed her schooling; at the age of 15 she left school because of poor health.
In 1915, while Rinda was working as a housekeeper in Waterloo, Iowa, not far from Leroy she met Jay who was managing a local restaurant and hotel. The next thing we know, they are up in the Minnesota north woods where they operated restaurants and Jay got into the lumber business. Then, on May 23, 1916, the little family added a new member when my father Raymond Jay Shetler was born in the town of Black Duck, Beltrami County, Minnesota.
While they were in the north, Rinda was often ill with lung problems including pneumonia. No doubt her strong Norwegian and Scottish genes pulled her through! Jay had written later in life that he had been very worried that Rinda wouldn’t survive her illnesses. She was admitted to a hospital in Bemidji, Minnesota on several occasions.
Eventually the cold winters and tough economics got the better of the family. They pulled up stakes and moved back to southern Minnesota, closer to her family. In many of Jay’s letters before and during the war, he recalls the good times they had in the north.
Then came the war and everything changed.