April 26, 2016

George Frank Robie

A native of Candia, New Hampshire, George Frank Robie was a sergeant in Company D, 7th New Hampshire Infantry, during the Civil War. As part of the Union army, he was commended for his performance during a reconnaissance mission (September, 1864) near Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, for which he was later awarded the Medal of Honor (June 12, 1883). Unfortunately, during his time in Virginia, he contracted “rheumatism” - probably polymyalgia rheumatic, a particularly virulent form of arthritis, which could have resulted from sleeping on cold, wet ground, and he was mustered out of the army with the rank of first lieutenant. In 1869, Robie went to Galveston where he worked as a bookkeeper in a railroad office, but eventually his condition forced him to stop working entirely. He managed to visit friends and relatives in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1883, but his return trip to Galveston exhausted him completely and he never left the city again. He died June 5, 1891 (some records say June 10) as a result of his illness and was buried in the New City Cemetery.

Robie's original 1891 marker
Citation
Gallantry on the skirmish line.

Note
His original stone lies only inches behind a prominent headstone and is easily overlooked; in fact, it was considered lost after the hurricane of 1900. A Civil War scholar rediscovered it while researching Union soldiers in the Houston-Galveston area and a new, more prominent military marker for Robie (shown below) was dedicated on November 11, 1997.

GPS Coordinates
29° 17.588, -094° 48.822


New City Cemetery
Galveston

April 19, 2016

Larry Blyden

Larry Blyden, actor, producer (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum), and director (Harold), was born Ivan Lawrence Blieden on June 23rd, 1925 to Adolph and Marian (née Davidson) Blieden in Houston, Texas. His childhood years consisted of attending Wharton Elementary School and Sidney Lanier Junior High School. It was sometime during this period that Larry met and befriended Rip Torn. The two became such wonderful friends that their friends and families jokingly called them Torn and Bleedin’ (an obviously cute play on the pronunciation of the Blieden surname). In the beginning of his years at Lamar High School, Larry was considering becoming an attorney just like his father (known by locals as ‘Jelly’ Blieden), with his eyes then on a law scholarship at the University of Texas. In turn, Larry proved himself a quite worthy contender on Lamar High’s debate team. But when it boiled down to needing either Home Economics, Shop, or Drama credits, Larry decided to give Drama a crack after Shop not being his forte, nor having any remote interest in Home Ec. To his surprise and delight, the future Larry Blyden discovered how much he actually enjoyed acting and learning more about it. And with the coining of Larry’s personal slogan, “Yes, I Can Do That!”, his road to Broadway commenced its construction.

At the tender age of fourteen, Larry landed his first ever role in a Margo Jones production. He would find himself starring in more of the Texas theatre giant’s offerings throughout the remainder of his high school years and time with the Houston Little Theatre…including S.N. Behrman’s Here Today and The Sound Of The Hunting, the latter of which officially opened Houston’s world renowned Alley Theatre. After graduating from Lamar High, Larry attended Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) for just under a year before enlisting with the United States Marine Corps due to the outbreak of World War II. Before receiving an honorable discharge in 1946, Larry rose to the officer rank of Lieutenant. He went back to school, this time with the University of Houston, from whence he graduated in 1948 with degrees in English and mathematics. During this time, Larry worked at KPHC, a Houston radio station and where he began to demonstrate a penchant for foreign accents and cultures with a well received show called the International Hour. Throughout the hour, Larry would perform as four different DJs introducing the music of their featured native countries, with his accents fluctuating between British, French, and Chinese, among many others. After graduating from the U of H, Larry dabbled in politics, and did campaign work for George Peddy.

In 1948, Larry Blyden traveled to New York City to try to trip the lights fantastic of the Great White Way. In addition to finding further work in radio, Blyden immediately enrolled at the Stella Adler School of Acting, where he would further study the craft of theatre for eighteen months. In 1949, Larry would get his much coveted big break…during a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest, Joshua Logan, one of Broadway’s most esteemed director/producers at the time, spotted Larry and decided he would be perfect in his up and coming hit, Mister Roberts, starring Henry Fonda. At first, Larry’s role was only a small one as a Shore Patrol Officer…but over the course of a few months, and with the departure of David Wayne from the production, Larry would take over as Ensign Pulver, and as whom he won the first of several applauses of critical acclaim. Joshua Logan appreciated Blyden’s efforts as much as the general public did and immediately cast him in his next production, titled Wish You Were Here (which would also feature Jack Cassidy and Florence Henderson), in 1952.

Work for Larry, in television (for which he appeared in several of the playhouse and omnibus/anthology shows prevalent then, the two most noteworthy of them, both in 1959, being the TV movie What Makes Sammy Run with Blyden turning in a decadently ruthless portrayal of the title character, Sammy Glick, and the TV musical, George M. Cohan’s Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway, which had Larry co-starring alongside Tammy Grimes) and stage, instantaneously became steady upon Logan’s discovery of him. Hollywood took notice, and came calling. In 1957, Blyden was cast in Paddy Chayefski’s The Bachelor Party, also starring Don Murray and Carolyn Jones, as well as Kiss Them For Me, also starring Cary Grant, Ray Walston, Werner Klemperer, and Jayne Mansfield. Earlier, and while in the midst of such an immensely busy schedule, Blyden managed to meet Carol Haney, famed choreographer and then actress (who won a 1955 Best Featured Actress In A Musical Tony Award for The Pajama Game, but would quit acting due to never quite overcoming stage fright), during a touring production of Oh Men, Oh Women! The two got married in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 14th, 1955. Blyden and Haney would actually work together three years later in Flower Drum Song, the Rodgers and Hammerstein culture clash musical which would see Larry sporting an exquisite use of a Chinese accent as Sammy Fong, and helped him land his first Tony Award nomination (1959 Best Leading Actor In A Musical), as well as Ms. Haney receiving a further nomination (1959 Best Choreographer). The Blydens’ marriage went on to produce two children (Joshua, born in 1957 and named after Joshua Logan, and Ellen Rachel, born in 1960), but ended in divorce in 1962. Two years later, Ms. Haney would die of pneumonia complicated by diabetes and alcoholism. Larry, wanting to keep the family together and vowing to be the best father AND parent his children had ever known, immediately took Joshua and Ellen under his wing.

The 60’s were that much more of a hectic time for Larry Blyden, having to juggle the odd Broadway role or two, numerous beyond numerous television appearances, and being dad to his two quite young children. Because of the latter and its expenses, Larry turned to television even more-so than previously in the 50’s. It was during this time that some of Blyden’s most famous television appearances would occur…including two visits to The Twilight Zone (“A Nice Place To Visit” and “Showdown With Rance McGrew”), Dr. Kildaire (“Take Care Of My Little Girl”), Route 66 (“Like This, It Means Father..Like This, Bitter..Like This, Tiger”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Wally The Beard”), Twelve O’Clock High (“Mutiny At 10,000 Feet”), The Fugitive (“Crack In A Crystal Ball”), and The Man From UNCLE (“The Waverly Ring Affair”). On Broadway and in 1964, Larry found himself starring alongside Bert Lahr in Foxy, and reunited with Rip Torn (who helped Blyden win his role through telling producers he was every bit as Southern as the role required the actor be) in Blues For Mr. Charlie. 1965 had Larry appear in Mike Nichols’ Luv, which would inadvertently kickstart Blyden’s game show career via his first appearances as a panelist on the highly rated What’s My Line? to promote the production. Mike Nichols found Larry Blyden’s stage presence to be dynamic, and in turn, Larry was cast as the Devil in the 1967 Tony Award Best Musical nominated The Apple Tree (and also starring Alan Alda and Barbara Harris). Later in the spring of 1967, Blyden would be approached by NBC about hosting a then new game show called Personality. He accepted the job, all of which lasted two years, but would lead to further emceeing gigs for the likes of You’re Putting Me On, The Movie Game, and most notably, replacing Wally Bruner on the syndicated/color version of What’s My Line? in 1972.

Until 1972, Larry Blyden’s career sadly entered a small doldrums; after leaving You Know I Can’t Hear You When The Water Is Running in 1968, Larry decided to try his hand at directing again (his first time being a play titled Harold in 1962, which starred Anthony Perkins, and also featured Don Adams and John Fiedler) with a play called The Mother Lover. It ended up being the most dreaded thing in one’s Broadway career - an opening night flop. Apart from a Hollywood commute that saw him in On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (which had Larry getting to perform alongside Barbara Streisand) and two television dramas (The FBI - “The Innocents” and The Mod Squad - “Exit The Closer”), Blyden mostly laid low until 1971, when he saw a California repertory theatre production of a musical that would, almost as if by magic, turn his life and career around overnight. The revival of A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum could also be called ‘A Terrific Thing Happened To Larry Blyden’ with all it accomplished for the producer and those around him, most particularly Phil Silvers, who took the role of Pseudolus (a role he had rejected previously for the musical’s original 1962 Broadway run) and ran with it to great heights. And oh what great heights Silvers and Blyden (who played Hysterium) hit - with a 1972 Best Leading Actor In A Musical Tony Award for the former and a 1972 Best Featured Actor In A Musical Tony Award for Larry, who remained a workhorse and was one of the on-stage performers at the 1972 Tony Awards (at which Larry entertained with such greats as Hal Linden, Alfred Drake, and Ethel Merman, among others).

After A Funny Thing closed, the remainder of 1972 and beyond had Larry Blyden maintaining a steady television schedule between What’s My Line?, a couple of television dramas (notably Medical Center - “Terror” and Cannon - “The Torch”), and several appearances on other game shows as a panelist (To Tell The Truth and Match Game ’74) and celebrity assistant ($10,000 Pyramid and Blankety Blanks). Larry returned to the stage in 1973 for one evening, March 11th, to participate in the Stephen Sondheim Musical Tribute (the recording of which is affectionately known by fans as ‘the Scrabble album’ due to its cover art), and performed “Love Is In The Air” from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum and “Buddy’s Blues” from Follies (with one of his co-stars on the number being Chita Rivera). He would not see stage work again until 1974, when Blyden was asked by Burt Shevelove (who had directed A Funny Thing) to take on the role of Dionysos in a Yale Repertory Theatre production of The Frogs, Shevelove and Stephen Sondheim’s modern retelling of a comedy by Aristophenes. The show would last for eight performances in late May of 1974, and had Larry performing alongside Michael Vale of Dunkin’ Donuts commercial spokesperson fame, and also included a pre-stardom Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.

In December of 1974, What’s My Line was cancelled after a six year syndication run and a near twenty-five year duration overall, with Larry Blyden having hosted its last two years and several months. Goodson-Todman, the production company behind What’s My Line? and other classic game shows, offered Larry an emceeing slot on an upcoming idea called Showoffs, which was basically a combination of charades and a Beat The Clock-esque format. Meanwhile, Blyden had started the last great stage role of his all too short-lived career: Sidney, in Absurd Person Singular, a British farce also featuring Tony Roberts, Carole Shelley, and Richard Kiley. Larry won the role through a heavy demonstration of his best Cockney accent during the interview and audition, and never dropped the accent at all between entering and leaving the room. It paid off most handsomely, landing Blyden his third Tony Award nomination, for 1975 Best Featured Actor In A Play, as well as also his first and only Drama Desk Award nomination, for 1975 Outstanding Featured Actor In A Play. Remaining one of Broadway’s hardest workers, Larry took on the skit directing and hosting duties for the 1975 Tony Awards and again was one of the on-stage performers (alongside other stars such as co-hosts Bobby Van and Larry Kert). Such duties would be Larry Blyden’s fourth to last ever appearance in anything…his third to last being a gala to Joshua Logan (which was recorded and distributed only among private parties) where he reprised his Ensign Pulver role from Mister Roberts, his second being the pilot for the aforementioned Showoffs, taped on May 24th, 1975; and his final showing being a Bicentennial Moment segment that aired on CBS on May 31st. A couple of days after the Showoffs pilot taping, Larry Blyden embarked on a plane for a promised two week vacation in Morocco before the official tapings for Showoffs were to begin later in June. On May 31st, Larry was in a horrific automobile accident between Agadir and Tan-Tan, and sustained significant wounds to his head, chest, and abdomen. Larry underwent surgery, but ultimately succumbed to his injuries on June 6th, just a little over two weeks shy of turning fifty. As well as quite sadly and literally alone, with all loved ones and friends an ocean away, and very tragically ending a most inimitable and still blossoming career and young life all too soon.

Biography courtesy of Caroline Erin "Maven" Smith

GPS Coordinates
29° 42.904, -095° 18.437

Section 27
Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery
Houston

April 12, 2016

Asa Hoxie Willie

Asa Hoxie Willie, jurist and soldier, was born in Washington, Wilkes County, Georgia, on October 11, 1829, the son of James and Caroline (Hoxie) Willie. He attended private schools near Washington and taught at Powelton, Georgia, for a time before he moved to Texas in 1845 at the age of sixteen. He lived for a while in Independence with his maternal uncle, Asa Hoxey, but in 1847 he began the study of law at Brenham in the office of his older brother, James Willie. He was admitted to the bar in 1849, and from 1852 until 1854 he was district attorney for the Third Judicial District. In 1857 James Willie became attorney general and was commissioned to index the state's criminal codes. Asa Hoxie Willie moved to Austin to assist him and for a year took on the greater part of the duties of the attorney general.

In 1858 Asa Willie moved to Marshal where he established a partnership with Alex Pope, and in 1859 he married Bettie Johnson of Brandon, Mississippi. The couple had ten children, five of whom lived to maturity. With the outbreak of the Civil War Willie joined the Confederate army and was commissioned a major in the Seventh Texas Infantry on the staff of Col. John Gregg. He was captured with the rest of his command at Fort Donelson in February 1862 and was confined for nine months at Camp Douglas, Illinois. The regiment was exchanged in time to take part in the battle of Chickamauga, Tennessee, in September 1863 and the remainder of the battles of the Army of Tennessee. After the war Willie returned to Brenham, where he was elected associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court but was removed from office the following year by the military government of Gen. Charles Griffin as an "impediment to Reconstruction."

In 1866 Willie moved to Galveston, where in 1871 he formed a legal partnership with Charles Cleveland. In 1873 he was elected to the House of Representatives of the Forty-third United States Congress, serving until 1875. Willie chose not to run for reelection and returned to Galveston, where he was elected city attorney in 1875 and 1876. In 1882 he was appointed chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court and served until his retirement in 1888. Willie died in Galveston on March 16, 1899.   

GPS Coordinates
29° 17.597, -094° 48.697


Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery
Galveston

April 5, 2016

Robert Edward Galer

Brigadier General Robert Edward Galer, a combat aviator and holder of the Nation's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, was born in Seattle, Washington, October 23, 1913, and graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in commercial engineering in 1935. While at the University of Washington, Galer was an All-American basketball player and is in the Husky Hall of Fame, the State of Washington Hall of Fame, and the NCAA Hall of Fame. After graduating, he began elimination flight training at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base, Seattle. In June 1936, he began his Aviation Cadet flight training at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, July 1, 1936. Following his designation as a Naval Aviator in April 1937, he was transferred to the First Marine Brigade at Quantico, Virginia, for duty with Aircraft One. In July of the same year he was assigned to a course of instruction at the Basic School at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Following the completion of his studies in June 1938, he was ordered to the New York Navy Yard, but shortly thereafter was transferred to the Virgin Islands where he served with Marine Scouting Squadron-3 at St. Thomas. He was advanced to first lieutenant in July 1939.

Lieutenant Galer returned to the United States in June 1940, and in July reported to the Second Marine Aircraft Wing in San Diego, California. In January 1941, he was ordered to Hawaii and was appointed a captain in March 1941. He was serving at the Marine Corps Air Station, Ewa, Oahu, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In May 1942, he assumed command of Marine Fighting Squadron-224. It was while in command of the unit that he received the Nation's highest award, shortly after his promotion to the rank of major. He also received the British Distinguished Flying Cross for the same act of heroism. Following the presentation of the Medal of Honor by the President at the White House, Major Galer was ordered to Marine Forces, Air West Coast, Miramar, California, where he served as assistant Operations Officer. Shortly after advancement to the rank of lieutenant colonel in November 1943, he was ordered to return to the Hawaiian Islands, where he became Chief of Staff Marine Air Hawaiian Area. In May 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Galer was named as Operations Officer, Third Marine Aircraft Wing. He served as an observer during the Falani Islands campaign, while on temporary duty from the Third Marine Aircraft Wing. His next assignment found him as Training Officer of Provisional Air Support Command, Fleet Marine Force Pacific.

Colonel Avery Kier and Lieutenant Colonel Galer trained three LFASCU's and shipped them out on three different ships as directed. Later Colonels Kier and Galer were ordered to join Team 1 at Ulithe. Team 1 landed on D-day at Iwo Jima, along with Kier and Galer. They were there when the flag was raised. Team 1 was established and working, and Colonels Kier and Galer climbed Surabachi to see the flag established. After 30 days, they were directed to catch an airplane for the Philippines. They landed behind the lines and joined Team 2, coming ashore on D-day. They went on into Manila where they set up Team 2. After 30 days, they were directed to return to Ulithe and join Team 3. Team 3 went into Okinawa on D-day. Colonels Kier and Galer participated in three D-days in 65 days.

Lieutenant Colonel Galer again returned to the United States in June 1945, and in July he reported to the Marine Barracks Naval Air Training Base Corpus Christi, Texas, as officer in charge of a cadet regiment. He remained in that capacity until August 1947, at which time he was assigned as a student at the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. In June 1948, he reported to Marine Aircraft Wing at the Marine Air Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina, where he served as Operations and Training Officer. He joined Headquarters Squadrons-2 at that station in April 1949, and was transferred Aril 26, 1950, to the Naval Air Station San Diego, California. He served there as Marine Planning Officer and, later as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, on the Staff of the Commander, Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. During this assignment he was promoted to colonel in March 1951.

Colonel Galer sailed in March 1952, for Korea where he saw duty as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 (Supply), of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, until the following May. He was then named Commanding Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing there and for extraordinary on July 11, 1952, was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Flying Cross. According to the citation accompanying this medal he "led a maximum effort strike of Marine attack aircraft against a heavily defended industrial area in the North Korean capitol city Pyongyang." Colonel Galer was also awarded the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" for his service in Korea from May 24 to August 5, 1952, when he was shot down behind enemy lines by antiaircraft fire and later rescued by helicopter.

After a period of hospitalization, he returned to duty at El Toro, California in October 1952, as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-1 (Personnel) and later, G-3 (Operations) of Aircraft Fleet Marine Force Pacific. He was enrolled as a student in the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama in July 1953. Upon graduation from the college the following June, he was transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., where he became Assistant Director, Guided Missiles Division, Bureau of Aeronautics, Department of the Navy. He served in that capacity until January 1956, when he became Acting Director. The following June he was awarded a Masters degree in Engineering Administration from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

For exceptionally meritorious service in combat, he was advanced to brigadier general upon his retirement, July 31, 1957. A complete list of General Galer's medals and decorations include: the Medal of Honor, Navy Cross, Legion of Merit with Combat "V" Stars, Purple Heart, Presidential Unit Citation with one bronze star, American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with two bronze stars, United Nations Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross (British Award), and the Korean Presidential Unit citation.

After retirement from the military, General Galer moved to Dallas and worked for LTV and also in the real estate business. He was a member of the Medal of Honor Society, Legion of Valor, American Fighter Aces, Golden Eagles, and Former Commander Marine Corps Aviation Association. Brigadier General Robert Edward Galer passed away on June 27, 2005, and was buried with full military honors at the Texas State Cemetery five days later.

Citation  
For conspicuous heroism and courage above and beyond the call of duty as leader of a marine fighter squadron in aerial combat with enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area. Leading his squadron repeatedly in daring and aggressive raids against Japanese aerial forces, vastly superior in numbers, Maj. Galer availed himself of every favorable attack opportunity, individually shooting down 11 enemy bomber and fighter aircraft over a period of 29 days. Though suffering the extreme physical strain attendant upon protracted fighter operations at an altitude above 25,000 feet, the squadron under his zealous and inspiring leadership shot down a total of 27 Japanese planes. His superb airmanship, his outstanding skill and personal valor reflect great credit upon Maj. Galer's gallant fighting spirit and upon the U.S. Naval Service.

GPS Coordinates
30° 15.971, -097° 43.572

Monument Hill
Texas State Cemetery
Austin

March 29, 2016

Bernard D'Ortolant

Bernard D'Ortolant was born in Bordeaux, France about 1753, and migrated to Louisiana around 1773, where he joined the local militia and fought in the American Revolution. He married Marie Ann Grappe and in 1797 was the Lieutenant of the Natchitoches, Louisiana Cavalry Militia where he served for fourteen years. He returned to San Antonio in 1779 and was in charge of the first cattle drive of 10,000 Texas long-horned cattle that were taken to Louisiana to be used by Bernardo de Galvez during his attacks on Mobil and Pensacola. Lt. D'Ortolant was in charge of the Old Stone Fort in Nacogdoches when Philip Nolan was arrested in 1801, and died there about 1822. The exact location of his grave has been lost, but it is believed that he was buried in the Old Spanish Cemetery in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Note
The Old Spanish Cemetery was razed in the early 1900s in order to build the second Nacogdoches County courthouse in 1911. It is not recorded that any of those at rest here were exhumed and moved. In fact, it is specifically stated on the historical marker located on site that Bernard D'Ortolant is still buried here, as are others. The Spanish Cemetery grounds are pictured below.


GPS Coordinates
N/A


Old Spanish Cemetery
Nacogdoches