gold starAn old weathered scrapbook

Recently, while clearing out the possessions from my parents’ home, a box came into my possession. It was filled with papers, knickknacks, a Boy Scout merit badge sash, and an old weathered scrapbook. The name on the scrapbook was Raymond Eames Winter. I never met Ray; he was my Uncle, the handsome young man who appeared alongside my mother, Medalou Winter, in the pictures of her youth.

Ray died early in World War II, as a young airman with the Naval Reserve Air Corps on October 19, 1942, during training maneuvers at Corpus Christi, Texas. My mother related to me that he had parachuted from a low flying airplane, and died on impact.  

As I thumbed through the loose papers of the scrapbook, and examined the awards attached to his Boy Scout bandalo, I was reminded of stories I had heard from my Mother about her older brother whom she worshiped.   He was a clean, moral young man who had been respected by his peers, and by the adults in his ward and community. His letters portrayed a sweetness coupled with a testimony of the Gospel. Photographs showed Ray with family and friends in happier days. The last picture portrayed him with the other young men in his aviation training unit. The Boy Scout awards testified of his desire to do his best, illustrated through 32 merit badges, an Eagle award with additional palms, and other awards. He had been a charter member of the first Scout troop in Bozeman, Montana and attended the first national jamboree in Washington DC in 1937. The family had attached his World War II service medals to the sash that were awarded to him posthumously.

In the back of the scrapbook I found a red banner, with a faded gold star centered on a white background. I recognized it from World War II books I had read in my youth. I was touching history. This was one of the stars that mothers across America hung in their windows signifying a son or daughter serving in the military. The living servicemen were represented by a blue star; but those mothers whose children had died in the service hung a gold star in their window. This 70 year old Gold Star was a symbol of the sacrifice of a son, and the sacrifice of a mother. This flag hung in my Grandmother’s window for three long years until at the war’s end it was tenderly placed in tissue paper and put into the scrapbook.


As I pondered the passing of this young life, I was reminded of the words of Elder Shayne Bowen in the October 2012 General Conference, speaking of the deaths of young children as being pure souls taken home by God. I thought of the many older children of our Heavenly Father who had also been taken home by God, keeping them pure from the evil influences of Satan. In many cases these special individuals are forgotten by those who are left behind because many of these Gold Star young men and women do not leave children or spouses to remember them. They are remembered by loving parents and siblings in whose hearts they reside, but with the passing of the generations, those memories fade and are forgotten by new generations… unless a memory is preserved, and shared.

And yet, even with a preserved memory, it is highly unlikely that many of our loved ones will be remembered very long in our collective family history. It is very difficult to recollect the dozens, scores, or even hundreds of relatives in our genealogies who have passed on and taken their stories with them. It is all the more challenging to know those of the distant past, unless these extended relations accomplished special deeds that become a part of family lore and their stories retained. But we must do better. Part of the concept of turning our hearts to our Fathers, spoken of by the Prophet Malachi millennia ago is that we need to find a vehicle by which these kith and kin and their stories can be remembered over the years, preserved, to be known and shared now and with future generations.


We have been blessed to live in an age of incredible technology that enables us to gather, preserve and share our loved ones with the present and the future. Genealogy databases now include the ability to add photographs, stories, recordings, and preserved memories for each person on our family tree. Remarkably, it is a sweet mental picture that spirits of past family members now inhabit clouds, when in reality we can store information about our families in what is known in computer language as “cloud technology.”

With the wide spread growth of social media, the genealogy of our families can be stored, and shared through this cloud technology. Soon, the story of my Uncle Ray Winter long kept in this scrapbook and box of memories will be preserved in the Cloud, and pictures of him and his Gold Star will be part of that new eternal memory.


James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”. He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. ( ), the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.

For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including free genealogy, LDS Family History advice and expert answers to commonly asked ancestry questions, visit Jim’s website for free consultations and ordering custom family tree research services, and his genealogy blog