Winifred Mary Ryan

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Winifred Mary Ryan, my grandmother (Nana,) was the first generation in this line born in America. Her family immigrated from Ireland to New York state about 1909. She was the second of four children of Denis and Hanorah “Hannah” (McCormack) Ryan. She was born 15 Apr 1915 while her family was living at 245 E 62nd St, Manhattan, New York. She was baptized on 21 Apr 1918 at Church of St Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Ave, New York. She had a younger sister, Mary Rain Ryan, who died as an infant; an older brother Henry F Ryan, and a younger brother Denis Joseph Ryan.

She attended St Vincents Ferrer’s High School at 65th St & Lexington Ave, New York from 1932-1934, then went to work as a secretary to the Head Division & Superintendent of Hospital at Bellvue Hospital until 1945.

On 30 Apr 1945 she enlisted into the Women’s Army Corp. She went through training at different places, keeping a travel diary as she went. She was trained as a medical secretary. Through her travels with WAC she wound up in Texas and married my grandfather, George Gaylord Vandergriff on 1 Jun 1946 in San Antonio. A month later she was honorably discharged from WAC as a corporal at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

George made a career out of the Air Force, so they lived many different places. They raised two daughters, Gaynelle Lea (my mother) and Patricia Ann.

Nana passed away 21 Jan 1999 in Melbourne, Brevard, Florida and is buried at Florida Memorial Gardens, 5950 South US Hwy 1, Rockledge, Florida.Image




William Luther Vandergriff

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William was my great grandfather and the third child of Joseph Newton and Mary Lodema (Hurn/Hearn) Vandergriff. He had 7 brothers and sisters. He was born 25 Aug 1879 in Hood County, Arkansas. On 15 Apr 1900, he married my great grandmother Mattie Rocelia Simpler (sometimes listed as Samples) in Erath, McLennan, Texas. They had 8 children: Joseph Daily, Audrey Velma, Robert Wren, William Clovis, Mary Lou, Mabrey “Bo” Carl, George Gaylord (my grandfather) and Vaughn Aaron. I have information all families except Vaughn. I lost track of him after he enlists in the service in 1943.

William spent his life farming in Hood, Swisher and Randall counties in Texas according to the census records. In 1940 he classifies himself as a “poultry distributor.” Does this mean chicken farmer instead of agricultural products? I’m not sure at this point.

He died on 23 Dec 1944 in Amarillo, Potter, Texas. He was buried in Dreamland Cemetery, Canyon, Randall, Texas on 26 Dec 1944.Image


George Gaylord Vandergriff


George Gaylord Vandergriff was born into the large family of William Luther and Mattie Rocelia (Simpler) Vandergriff, being the fifth out of eight children. He was born in Lipan, Hood, Texas on 14 Apr 1916. Most of his family were born and/or raised in this area of Texas, but by 1942 he is in Broward County, Florida. It is a mystery as to why he went here. He married his first wife Olive, sometimes known as Ollie, on 1 Aug 1942 in Broward County, Florida. According to their marriage application, she was a widow and used the name Olive Gibson. I do not know if this was her previously married name or if she reverted to using her maiden name. We didn’t know anything about this marriage until shortly after George’s death, when an Air Force official was questioning my grandmother about it. Apparently he had listed it somewhere on his military paperwork, but no one except for him and my grandmother knew about it (Nana refused to talk about it AT ALL!) It is not known if they had any children. Somehow he wound up in Smyrna, Rutherford, Tennessee and enlisted in the Air Force on 1 Aug 1942. Again, I don’t know what led him to that area when all his family was still in Texas. I find them on the 1945 Florida state census, where he is listed as Army and she works in laundry. This is the last I can find of them together.

It is not known if Olive passed away or if they divorced (I’ve looked), but he married my grandmother, Winifred Mary Ryan, on 1 Jun 1946 in San Antonio, Bexar, Texas. They lived quite a few places during his time in the Air Force, including Newfoundland, Canada. They had two children: my mother, Gaynelle Lea Vandergriff, and her sister Patricia Ann Vandergriff. George retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant on 30 Jun 1959 while stationed at Walker’s Air Force Base in New Mexico. George loved basketball. I have a newspaper article dated 17 Mar 1948 from Hampton, Virginia showing him a member of the Langley “Flyers” Air Force Champion basketball team. I remember going over to his house when I was a little girl and there was always a basketball game on. Heaven help you if you got in front of the television during a game!

He and Winnie moved to Paris, Henry, Tennessee shortly after my family moved there from Florida. He passed away there on 16 Nov 1978 from cancer. He is buried at Fort Donelson National Cemetery in Dover, Stewart, Tennessee.George Gaylord Vandergriff tombstone  GeorgeGaylordVandergriff Vandergriffkids PapaNanaand kids PapaandNana25AnniversaryGeorgeGaylordVandergriff&Olivemarriage certificate

Purpose of this blog

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I will be writing short biographies for each one of my grandparents. I hope this information will prove useful to those who need it.