December 30, 2014

Hal Woodeshick

   Born on August 24, 1932 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Harold Joseph Woodeshick signed with the Philadelphia Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1950. His time with them consisted of only one inning pitched for the Carbondale Pioneers, the Phillies' North Atlantic League team. He split his 1951 campaign with a pair of independent minor league clubs: the Duluth Dukes of the Northern League and the Youngstown A's of the Middle Atlantic League. He joined the New York Giants organization in 1952, winning thirteen decisions that year with the Kingsport Cherokees of the Appalachian League and fourteen in 1955 with the Danville Leafs of the Carolina League. He served in the United States Army during the two years between those seasons.

   He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the minor league draft on November 27, 1955. A twelve-game winner with the Charleston Senators in 1956, he made his major league debut later that year on September 14 with a loss against the New York Yankees. His only other appearance with the Tigers came ten days later on September 24 in another start at home which resulted in him yielding four runs again and earning his second straight loss. He returned to the minors in 1957, dividing his time between Charleston and the Augusta Tigers. He was traded to Cleveland Indians on February 18, 1958. Woodeshick split the 1958 campaign between the Indians and its top farm team in San Diego, and began the next one with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was dealt to the Washington Senators on May 25, 1959. After that franchise moved west and became the Minnesota Twins, he was picked in the 1960 MLB expansion draft by the second Washington Senators on December 14, 1960. He returned to the Detroit Tigers just under six months later on June 5, 1961.

   Woodeshick was on the Houston Colt .45s roster for the expansion team's inaugural opening day in 1962. The acquisition was a big risk because Woodeshick was prone to wildness with his pitches and had problems with his fielding. He spent most of his first Colt .45s spring training working to correct his inability to make accurate throws to the first baseman after cleanly fielding ground balls. He started in 26 of his 31 appearances in 1962. In the Colt .45s' second-ever regular season contest on April 11, its first at night, he pitched eight innings and endured a one-hour rain delay in the fourth to earn a victory over the Chicago Cubs. He finished the campaign with a 5-16 record due to a pair of nagging injuries. A slow-healing throat infection had left him out of playing shape at midseason. By the time he was released at year's end, his back pain was so debilitating that his wife had to drive him back to their Pennsylvania home. After two spinal taps failed to provide a cure, his problem was remedied by a chiropractor who prescribed an exercise regimen.

   He returned to the Colt .45s as its first-ever legitimate closer in 1963, winning eleven games with a team-leading ten saves and a 1.97 ERA. Woodeshick pitched two scoreless innings in the 1963 MLB All-Star Game, striking out Joe Pepitone in the sixth and Bob Allison and Harmon Killebrew in the seventh. His best year in the majors was 1964 when he led the senior circuit in saves with 23. A trade deadline deal on June 15, 1965 sent him to the Cardinals. As a member of the 1967 World Series Champions, Woodeshick's only appearance in the Fall Classic was a scoreless bottom half of the eighth inning in Game Six. His professional baseball career ended when he was released by the Cardinals on October 20, 1967, only eight days after The Series concluded. Hal Woodeshick died on June 14, 2009 after a long illness and was buried in Houston's Memorial Oaks Cemetery.

29° 46.734, -095° 36.893

Botanical Garden
Memorial Oaks Cemetery

December 23, 2014

Christopher Scott Kyle

   Christopher "Chris" Scott Kyle, U. S. Navy SEAL and the U.S. military's most lethal sniper, son of Wayne Kenneth Kyle and Deby Lynn (Mercer) Kyle, was born in Odessa, Texas, on April 8, 1974. Kyle grew up in rural North Central Texas. His father worked for Southwestern Bell, but the family also maintained a small cattle ranch that Chris worked with his parents and younger brother Jeff. As a small boy, Chris Kyle had a Daisy BB gun, and when he was eight years old, his father bought a 30-06 rifle for Chris to use on their hunts together. Kyle attended high school in Midlothian, and during his time there he played baseball and football and rode horses. After graduating high school in 1992, Kyle, who had been active in the Future Farmers of America, studied agriculture at Tarleton State University. At the same time, he worked as a professional bronco rider until he suffered severe injuries that resulted in a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs, a bruised kidney and lung, and the insertion of pins in his wrists. Kyle retired from bronc riding but became a ranch hand on a ranch in Hood County while he attended college classes.

   Kyle had often stated that his two possible ambitions focused on either ranching or joining the military. In 1996 he found himself at a shopping-mall military recruiting office. He had originally gone to talk to the army, but when they were not there, a navy recruiter informed him about the Navy SEALs. Kyle signed up but was initially rejected due to the pins in his arm. He subsequently quit school and decided to go back to ranching full-time. However, in the winter of 1997-98 he received a call back from the U. S. Navy and was invited to attend Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training in Coronado, California. He officially joined the navy in February 1999. Upon completing the six-month training course, he was eventually assigned to SEAL Team 3 in April 2001.

   Shortly after completion of BUD/S, Kyle met Taya Studebaker at a local bar in San Diego, California. She worked in San Diego as a pharmaceutical representative. They married in 2002 before his first deployment. They had two children, a boy and a girl.

    Kyle, who had gone through the SEALs extensive sniper training, served four tours during his enlistment and fought in the war known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was deployed for the initial invasion of Baghdad in 2003, to Fallujah in 2004, to Ramadi in 2006, and back to Baghdad in 2008. In the course of his career, he had a record-breaking 160 confirmed kills, although the U. S. Navy has adjusted the number through the years. During his tours, he was also twice shot and survived six improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. His expert marksmanship and courage resulted in a silver star and four bronze stars with valor. Kyle, who achieved the rank of Chief Petty Officer, earned a number of military honors, including Marksmanship Medals for Rifle and Pistol Expert, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Promoted to chief instructor, Kyle wrote the first U.S. Navy handbook for snipers. His work not only attracted the attention of the U.S. military but of his enemies as well. During his tours Kyle acquired the nickname “The Devil of Ramadi” and had a bounty of up to $80,000 placed on him by Iraqi insurgents.  In 2009 Kyle retired from the Navy SEALs after four deployments and ten years of service. Saying that his departure was one of the hardest decisions he had to make, he chose to prioritize his family and address marital difficulties back at home.

    Kyle came back home but experienced personal challenges in the transition from war to everyday life. The family settled in Midlothian, Texas, and he started his own tactical training and security business called CRAFT International. His autobiography American Sniper (written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) was published in 2012 and became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller. Kyle made a number of television appearances at this time and also worked with the FITCO Cares Foundation to furnish fitness equipment to wounded veterans, their families, and victims of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Kyle and his wife began work to establish their own foundation - the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation - named after a frog skeleton tattoo Kyle had that was the symbol for fallen U.S. Navy SEALs. The foundation was designed to help veterans and first responders come back from the horrors of war and become reconnected with their families.

    On February 2, 2013, Kyle and a friend, Chad Littlefield, decided to take Eddie Ray Routh, a retired Marine suffering from PTSD, to Rough Creek Lodge Shooting Range near Glen Rose, Texas, for some therapy shooting. Picking up Routh, they headed to the range, where Routh shot and killed both Kyle and Littlefield. Routh fled the murder scene. Although Eddie Routh pleaded insanity, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2015.

    Kyle was a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and in his honor, the funeral service, which took place on February 12, 2013, was held at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. More than 7,000 people came to pay their respects to a man considered an American hero. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. His second book, American Gun: A History of the U. S. in Ten Firearms, was published posthumously in 2013. On August 28, 2013, Governor Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 162, also known as the Chris Kyle Bill, which required state agencies to recognize military training as credit towards the issuance of occupational licenses. The bill aimed to provide assistance for veterans seeking employment in Texas and acknowledge the value of special operations training achieved by veterans like Chris Kyle. The movie American Sniper, based on Kyle’s autobiography, was released in 2014. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, the film was very successful at the box office and earned six Academy Award nominations. Governor Gregg Abbott declared February 2, 2015, to be “Chris Kyle Day.” Kyle’s wife Taya carried on her husband’s legacy through the foundation that she and Kyle built together. Source

30° 15.979, -097° 43.577

Statesmans Meadow
Texas State Cemetery   

December 16, 2014

William Rabb

   William Rabb, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred colonists, the eldest son of Andrew and Mary (Scott) Rabb, was born on December 21, 1770, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He married Mary Smalley about 1789 and they eventually had four sons, Andrew, John, Thomas, and Ulysses, and a daughter, Rachel, who later married Joseph Newman. Rabb and his family left Pennsylvania about 1803. After a brief sojourn with relatives in Ohio, Rabb reached his destination near the Mississippi River in Indiana Territory (later Illinois Territory) in 1804. There he built and operated a large gristmill on Cahokia Creek near present-day Collinsville, Illinois. He also served as Madison county judge and in 1814 was elected to the legislature of Illinois Territory, where he served for two terms.

   In 1818 the Rabbs moved to Clear Creek settlement on the north side of the upper Red River in Arkansas Territory, in what is now Choctaw County, Oklahoma. From there, Rabb made an exploratory trip into Texas in 1819 and chose an area on the east side of the Colorado River as the site he wished to acquire. When the federal government ceded the land north of the Red River to the Choctaw Indians in 1820, Rabb moved his family south of the river to Jonesborough, an area now in Red River County, Texas. Although the Arkansas Territory authorities attempted to exercise civil jurisdiction over the Jonesborough settlers, the Rabbs were technically in Spanish territory. In 1821 Rabb wrote a letter to the Spanish governor in San Antonio de Béxar which stated, among other things, that he intended to settle soon on the Colorado River as a member of Austin's colony. When and where Rabb first became involved in the plan of Moses Austin and his son, Stephen, to establish a colony in Texas is uncertain. Since Rabb is believed to have been a longstanding acquaintance of the Austins, he probably was aware of their plan at an early date. Somewhere along the line they reached an agreement whereby Rabb would build a gristmill in the proposed colony to help supply the settlers in exchange for a sizable grant of land.

   Rabb and his wife and two unmarried sons left Jonesborough and arrived at his site on the Colorado River in December 1821. Probably for security reasons plus availability of fresh water from springs, they initially settled on the high ground west of the river at a place Rabb called Indian Hill. Located a short distance above present-day La Grange in Fayette County, it was directly across the river from the rich bottom land that he had chosen on his exploratory trip in 1819. When Stephen F. Austin returned from a journey to Mexico City in 1823 with the news that the Mexican authorities had reconfirmed his colonization contract and would honor land titles in the colony, Rabb returned to Jonesborough to fetch the remaining members of his family. They arrived in December 1823, and for a while the entire family remained at Indian Hill. However, in early 1824, they moved downriver to the little settlement of Egypt in present-day Wharton County in order to escape Indian harassment.

   Title to Rabb's land grant was signed by Stephen Austin and Commissioner Baron de Bastrop on July 19, 1824. It was one of the earliest and largest grants made in Austin's first colony and comprised a total of five square leagues of about 22,000 acres. Two leagues of approximately 9,000 acres were located in the area near the Gulf of Mexico known as Bay Prairie in present-day Matagorda County. The other three leagues of over 13,000 acres comprised the land granted to Rabb as the result of his agreement to build a gristmill in the upper portion of the colony. Situated on the east side of the Colorado River in present-day Fayette County, it is the site Rabb chose in 1819 and is the tract known today as Rabb's Prairie. Although he soon left Egypt and returned to Rabb's Prairie to begin work on the mill, Rabb was forced to abandon the project on several occasions due to threats of Indian attack. In 1830 the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin, the governing council of Austin's colony, reviewed Rabb's situation and reconfirmed his title. Also, because of delays caused by Indian harassment, it approved an additional eighteen months for him to finish construction of the mill. With the help of his sons, Rabb completed his mill in 1831. Some of the material used in its construction came from New Orleans, but it was the transportation and installation of two large grinding stones, or burrs, that proved to be an accomplishment of considerable ingenuity and determination. The mill stones, each weighing around a ton, had been imported from Scotland and off-loaded at Matagorda at the mouth of the Colorado River. The problem facing Rabb was how to move these two ponderous objects to his mill in Rabb's Prairie, a distance of about 100 miles. Driftwood rafts and shallow water made it impractical to float them upriver on a barge. His solution was to make an axle, attach the mill stones on the ends to serve as wheels, and use oxen to pull the resulting vehicle overland to his mill. Rabb lived to see his mill in operation but died later in 1831. His wife died a few months afterward. They are believed to be buried in an old abandoned cemetery on a hillside overlooking Rabb's Prairie. Source

Note: This is a cenotaph. The small Rabb family cemetery outside of La Grange has been lost.

30° 15.925,  -097° 43.591

Confederate Field
Texas State Cemetery

December 9, 2014

Teala Loring

   Teala Loring, American actress, was born Marcia Eloise Griffin on October 6, 1922 in Denver, Colorado. She was the sister of actors Debra Paget, Lisa Gaye, and Reull Shayne. At the start of her film career, she was sometimes credited as Judith Gibson. From 1942, Loring appeared in uncredited or bit parts in films at Paramount, turning up as a cigarette girl in Holiday Inn and as a telephone operator in Double Indemnity, for example. In 1945-46, she appeared in ten films released by the low-key Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures, including Fall Guy (1947), the Charlie Chan vehicle Dark Alibi (1946), and two films starring Kay Francis, Allotment Wives (1945) and Wife Wanted (1946). Having failed to achieve the success that her sister Debra would capture in the 1950s, Loring made her final film, Arizona Cowboy in 1950. She died at the age of 84 on January 28, 2007 from injuries she sustained in an automobile accident in Spring, Texas.

29° 55.948, -095° 27.333

Section S1
Houston National Cemetery

December 2, 2014

George Duncan Hancock

   George Duncan Hancock, soldier of the Republic of Texas, merchant, legislator, and civil leader, was born in Tennessee on April 27, 1809, the son of John Allen and Sarah (Ryan) Hancock. He moved with his family to Alabama in 1819 and was educated there. In 1835 he moved to Texas. At the battle of San Jacinto he served as a private in Capt. William Kimbro's company of Col. Sidney Sherman's Second Regiment, Texas Volunteers. He was one of the five men who accompanied Erastus (Deaf) Smith in the destruction of Vince's Bridge. For his military service, which lasted from March 15 through November 15, 1836, Hancock received a total of 1,280 acres in Lampasas County.

   Subsequently he worked as a surveyor, locating lands on the frontier. In 1840 he was residing in Bastrop County, where he owned 5,907 acres of real estate, a saddle horse, and a watch. On October 26, 1842, after Adrián Woll's capture of San Antonio, Hancock enlisted in Capt. Bartlett Sims's company of Col. James R. Cook's regiment of the South Western Army, and marched with Gen. Alexander Somervell to the Rio Grande. He returned to San Antonio with Somervell and was discharged on November 21, 1842, thus avoiding the Mier expedition.

   In 1843 he opened a highly successful retail store in La Grange, Fayette County, which he later moved to Bastrop and then in 1845 to Austin, where he established himself at the corner of Congress and Pecan (now Sixth) Street. There he was regarded by the editor of the Texas State Gazette as "an experienced merchant of acknowledged good taste in the selection of goods," and as offering "as large and complete a has ever been brought to the city."

   By 1850 Hancock owned assets valued at $40,000 and was residing in an Austin boardinghouse. On September 5 of that year the state legislature granted him, Thomas J. Hardeman, John Rabb, John W. S. Dancy, and nine other men a charter to incorporate the Colorado Navigation Company to promote Colorado River traffic and commerce, and on February 16, 1852, Hancock and six other men were granted corporate rights for the Brazos and Colorado Railroad Company to link Austin and Houston. Hancock was married to Eliza Louisa Lewis, the daughter of Ira Randolph Lewis, on November 2, 1855. In 1861 Hancock, an ardent Unionist like his brother, John Hancock, retired from business.

   At the end of the Civil War Hancock was a member of a committee that welcomed Governor A. J. Hamilton to Austin in August 1865, and later that month Hamilton appointed him to the board of trustees of the State Lunatic Asylum (later the Austin State Hospital). In 1866 he was elected to the Eleventh Texas Legislature. In 1872 he served as chairman of a committee formed to keep Austin the capital of Texas.

   Hancock died on January 6, 1879, and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Austin. He was survived by his wife, who died on April 27, 1890, and a son, Lewis, who became mayor of Austin. Hancock was an active member of the Texas Veterans Association, which he helped to organize in 1873, and a vestryman at St. David's Episcopal Church. He was also a Mason and in 1852 took an active role in establishing Austin Masonic High School. Source

30° 16.515, -097° 43.616

Section 1
Oakwood Cemetery