Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Darrell Stanley Wingard, 1929-1956

I was an only child. 

At least I thought I was. 

In 1967, when I was a senior in high school, I discovered letters to my Dad from Darrell Wingard who I'd been told was a cousin of Dad's.  Darrell addressed him as "Dear Dad," which was a shock and a puzzle.  I never approached my Dad directly about it, but I did ask my Mom.

She told me that Dad had been married once before and had a son.  So Darrell was my half brother, one I never had a chance to know.

He was many years older than I.  He'd been to visit us in our Daly City (California) home when I was very young.  My memory of him is fleeting, just that he had on a nice dark coat (which was what gentlemen wore then) and he had a jar of M&Ms ... for me!  My regret is that I cannot remember his face.0

In June of 1956, Darrell was killed in a spectacular automobile accident on the coast highway near Santa Cruz, California.  He and some of his buddies had been on the beach in the early morning hours.  They drove their two vehicles up onto the highway, and were struck by an oncoming vehicle traveling at high speed. 

The San Francisco newspaper ran a front-page article about the accident which included a black-and-white photo of Darrell.  It's not clear when the photo was taken, and its quality was poor.  But I could tell that he had very light-colored hair and a nice smile on his face.  I'd like to locate the actual photo some day.

I remember riding along with my Dad when he drove out to what I learned later was the scene of the accident.  Being near the beach was a treat for me, but we didn't actually drive down to the beach.  That was a puzzle.  It was also puzzling why Dad just walked up and down the road.  I followed him, quietly.  I guess I thought he'd eventually tell me why we were there.  He didn't.

At one point, he leaned down and picked up what looked like a shard from a car's mirror.  He held it for a while, then put it in his pocket.  He turned and headed back to the car with me trailing behind.  We went home and never talked about the trip.

There's always been an odd longing in my heart to have known Darrell.  I remember asking as a child if I could have a brother.  I was a youngster, so I didn't understand then what that question must have meant for my parents. 

I can't imagine what my Dad thought when I developed a love for playing music on several different instruments, because Darrell had been in the Army band.  And I learned to swim at Fleishhacker's Pool in San Francisco, where Darrell had apparently worked as a swimming instructor.  For all I know, he may have been one of the instructors who taught me.  I can't be sure because I've not yet been able to locate employment records for Fleishhacker's or any other records that would confirm his employment. 

Darrell was just 26 when he died.  He's buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery. 

I've hit a brick wall in tracing his mother's (Mae Simas, born in California) living relatives.  She remarried at least once after she and my Dad divorced.  My hope is that if I can locate living relatives, they may still have in their family records photos or information about Darrell that's been lost. 

In the meanwhile, I'm posting a copy of his death certificate and a photo of his headstone.  I want him to be remembered.  He was my brother.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a huge surprise for you to learn that you have a brother! Being an "only child" who longs for a sibling must have made this discovery even more compelling. I'm so sorry that he died so suddenly and horrifically. Let's see, Darrell was born in 1929? He would be 82 right now? Hope you're able to get a clearer picture of him. ~ Cousin Diana