Putting the Pieces Together

This #ThrowbackThursday, we're celebrating genealogy and one of our genealogy volunteers, Darryl Jerome. Darryl knows that learning about your family history is the key to unlocking who you are and where you fit in your family tree. As a Johnson County Library volunteer in the Genealogy department at Central Resource Library, he has experienced the joy and fulfillment of helping families find their roots. He has been volunteering with the Library since 2017, and since then he's helped so many people on the genealogy quest.

One of his rewarding experiences started with a phone call to the genealogy desk in September 2018 from a genealogy society in Kentucky. A family had asked for help in locating records on Dolores Clark. They had traced her back to a cemetery in Olathe, Kansas, but couldn’t find any further information. There appeared to be no local connection between Dolores and this area.  Darryl began by researching obituaries in the Kansas City Star where he found her simple obituary. As is typical with many in the newspaper, it was short on detailed information, but Darryl uncovered one clue: that she was from St. Petersburg, Florida. Armed with only the years of her birth and her death, Darryl expanded his obituary search to include St. Petersburg. He successfully found her obituary, as well as that of her husband who had preceded her in death. Ironically, it was his obituary, not hers, that included her previous married name plus the names and ages of their children. With this knowledge it would be relatively easy to track down family connections, so Darryl emailed his discovery to the genealogy society in Kentucky. He later received a personal phone call from the family thanking him for his efforts.

“Genealogy is a puzzle” Darryl says, and he enjoys helping others put the pieces of their family together. Personal lives are puzzles, too. If our encounters and experiences were puzzle pieces, they would create a picture of who we are. For Darryl, a significant piece of his puzzle went missing for a while. The missing piece was his wife, Darlene.

At the tender age of 17, Darryl and Darlene were married in February 1962. They spent time in Sarcoxie, Missouri, where Darlene was born and had grown up. After a two year "all-expenses-paid vacation" courtesy of the United States Army, Darryl returned to married life with Darlene. They lived in Kansas City until 1973 when the company he worked for transferred him to Denver. Their marriage began to unravel, and the couple divorced in 1977. Darryl stayed in Denver and Darlene made her way to Oregon and then on to California, Utah and Arizona.

Darryl remarried, but his second wife passed away after fighting cancer for 15 years. In 2016, he decided he needed a vacation. When asked by his co-workers where he planned to go, he told them he intended to throw a few things together and just get in the car and drive. He left Denver at 10 am, and 14 hours later he found himself back in Sarcoxie, Missouri. The next morning, he spent some time taking pictures of “home” and exploring downtown, disappointed at how run-down it had become. He recognized the name on a building and went inside to see if anyone was there he knew. No familiar faces greeted him, but he ended up having a great conversation about family, friends, classmates and teachers with strangers who knew the town well. Numerous names and phone numbers were exchanged, including that of his former brother-in-law, Bill. It was Bill who informed Darryl that Darlene had moved back from Arizona and was living in Overland Park, Kansas.

Long story short, Darryl and Darlene re-connected in May 2016, and by December he had moved back from Denver. He discovered she had a keen interest in genealogy. It was often a topic of discussion in repeated phone calls back and forth. Her love for genealogy sparked a passion in it for him as well. Their long phone calls and visits helped re-ignite their love for each other. They had both maintained their status as amateur photographers, each still owning the Nikon cameras they bought when they were first married. Most importantly, however, was that Darlene met with the approval of Darryl’s aloof and finicky cat, Mischa.

Darlene was a member of the Johnson County Genealogy Society, so Darryl attended meetings with her. He eventually became a volunteer and is now Vice-President of Volunteers for the society and a liaison between them and the library. Darryl is an important piece of the larger picture that is the Johnson County Library.