Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times
                                Jackie Vannice, president of the Whidbey Island Genealogical Searchers, points to a display the club recently established at the Oak Harbor Library to honor veterans.

Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times Jackie Vannice, president of the Whidbey Island Genealogical Searchers, points to a display the club recently established at the Oak Harbor Library to honor veterans.

Genealogy group aims to preserve history of veterans

Veterans Day has passed, but a local genealogy group still wants to remind people of the stories shared by those who served, especially those of Whidbey residents’ ancestors.

“We don’t want to forget history, whether it’s military or any other kind of history,” said Pat Gardner, education chairperson for the Whidbey Island Genealogical Searchers.

Visitors to Oak Harbor Library can bear witness to the group’s effort to preserve history in its veterans display until the end of November.

Artifacts, photos and printed out stories sit behind the glass.

One of those stories dates back to military service in 1066.

Most of the display focuses on more recent conflicts and U.S. and Canadian service members, with items such as original WWII ration cards, “Mickey Mouse money” (the currency issued in Japanese-occupied Philippines), and photos of civil war-era soldiers.

“I got a kick out of the hair in some of the photos,” Gardner said with a laugh.

It turns out the unique beard and hair styles served be both amusing and insightful, said Jackie Vannice, club president.

Their appearance, along with uniforms and pins, help identify the time period in which the photos were taken, she explained.

To create the display, Gardner spent about a month asking for items from the group’s approximately 50 members. They brought her pins, medals and information they found in their own genealogical research.

“I was taken aback by some of the pieces brought in,” she said.

One member provided a photo of her brother, along with a story of how he received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Gardner’s own family has an extensive background in service.

She contributed pins and a certificate from her mother, who volunteered with the Red Cross.

She had photos of her father engaging in military dog training and she has a historical account of her great-uncle Howard Coffin, whose story of surviving the brutal siege in Malta became both a novel and a movie.

In addition to informing the public about military history, Gardner said she hopes the display will let people know about the club for those interested in genealogy.

The miniature exhibit has already resulted in some calls, Gardner said.

“This has kind of sparked some people’s interest,” she said.

• The searchers meet once a month September through June on the second Tuesday of every month at the Heller Road Fire Station.

WWII ration cards are part of the veterans display at Oak Harbor Library.

WWII ration cards are part of the veterans display at Oak Harbor Library.

Japanese government-issued Philippine fiat peso, also known as “Mickey Mouse” money from the 1940s.

Japanese government-issued Philippine fiat peso, also known as “Mickey Mouse” money from the 1940s.

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