I was in Kansas City in early June, primarily to see the Royals play the White Sox, eat again at Q39, and spend time with Janet and our very good friends Mike and Debbie. The Royals have had a rough year, and are a long way from the team that won the World Series in 2015. Q39 has not had a rough season, and since our last visit has picked up a few deserved recognitions for its food.
The real treat to our visit was spending some time at the World War One Museum. Okay, maybe you’re not the museum type, especially one that focuses on an event that ended badly 100 years ago. But, please read me out. First, the physical layout of the museum is welcoming, with plenty of room to walk around the exhibits, listening to the audio guide. Second, the grounds around the museum contain an adjacent park and memorial walk. They offer some of the best views of Kansas City. Third, the sights and sounds from the top of the tower at the museum are very cool, providing a panorama of Kansas City and beyond from a 200 foot plus elevated vantage point.
While I learned a great deal at the museum and found the buildings and grounds most attractive, my real motivation for going there was much more personal. My great grandfather Felix (my father’s side of my family) fought in World War One. He was gassed (mustard) and was held as a prisoner of war by the Germans. The effects of the gas had lasting effects on him throughout his life. Moreover, their town in France, Abscon, was only a short distance from Cambria where the first large scale use of tanks in battle took place on November 17, 1917. The battles raged, and the people of the region suffered. They lived in the wrong place at the wrong time. Less than three years after the historic battle, Felix, my grandfather Louis, and the rest of their immediate family sailed for Ellis Island and a new life in America.
Abscon lies close to the Belgium border, and not far from the English Channel. That location has witnessed many boundary changes over the centuries. When I used Ancestry.com to analyze my DNA to learn more about my background, the results were somewhat surprising. I am the product of a mixed marriage, mixed in a different way than is often meant today. My father was, I thought, 100 percent French (French father and French mother). My mother is 100 percent Italian (Italian mother and Italian father). So, I expected a nearly 50/50 split, with perhaps a one percent Neanderthal or some other small portion as part of my DNA. I was right about the Italian side, 46 percent with some odds and ends (most likely Albanian). To my surprise, I am only 36 percent French. I will be looking into what that’s all about in the future.
The museum visit helped me in one other regard. I have wanted to visit Abscon for some time, and the addition of new information (the tank battle) pushed me to finally decide to go. Janet and I already had planned a visit to Ireland (both the north and the south) for May 2020. Now, we will extend the trip and fly on to Brussels and drive to Abscon (location marked with the pin) so that I can continue my research about my family. You will be reading more about this in the future.