“We need to get together more often and not at a funeral.” How many times have you and a cousin said that? Funerals are much like a family reunion. You can learn a lot about a family just by looking at who showed up. Using my grandparents’ guest books and sympathy cards, I’ll be exploring “Who came to the funeral?”
is for Gilbert Stepp. The absence of a signature in the Guest Book at my grandfather’s funeral October 1963 tells me the Stepps probably didn’t attend. However, they sent what must have been a beautiful arrangement of fuchsia gladiolas, white mums, and lavender pompoms.
Gilbert was married to my grandfather’s first cousin, Vessie Jollett.
Gilbert was born in Shenandoah, Virginia in 1895, and was one of ten children born to Andrew and Lavinia Stepp. But what was his name? I always knew him as “Gilbert A. Steppe” with an “e” on the end. His tombstone has an “e” but his brother who attended the funeral signed the book “Paul J. Stepp,” no “e.” And what about that middle name? Supposedly “A” stood for Arburne. However, his draft registration clearly says “Orvin.” He even signed his name “Gilbert Orvin.” And Steppe with an "e"!
Gilbert’s father had been a bridge carpenter at one time and later a farmer. Gilbert no doubt learned some wood-working from his father. Some of the Stepp boys became successful carpenters and contractors.
Gilbert and Vessie married in 1922. Their only son Jollette was born the following year. According to the 1930 census, Gilbert was putting those carpentry skills to use for the steam railroad, one of the major employers in Shenandoah. They owned their home on Fourth Avenue.
When World War II came knocking, many of my distant relatives left Shenandoah to find work with the government, some going to the shipyard in Norfolk, some going to Baltimore, and some to Washington D. C. Gilbert and family moved to Dahlgren in Northern Virginia where he worked as a carpenter for the Naval Proving Grounds, known today as the Naval Surface Weapons Center.
He and Vessie spent the rest of their lives in Dahlgren, but both came back to Shenandoah to be buried among most of their family in the Coverstone Cemetery.
|Gilbert A. Steppe's tombstone|
Coverstone Cemetery, Shenandoah, VA
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