Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

World War II Orphans Find Each Other; and on Tuesday, They Ended Up at Fernandina Beach's Fourth of July

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

World War II Orphans Find Each Other; and on Tuesday, They Ended Up at Fernandina Beach's Fourth of July

Article excerpt

Byline: MARY KELLI PALKA

FERNANDINA BEACH -- Jimmie Earl McCollum doesn't believe in coincidences.

He believes that his father, Clarence E. McCollum, played a hand in steering his life in the direction it's taken him, especially during the past year.

It helps explain how he ended up in Fernandina Beach's Central Park on the Fourth of July, watching as area children made cards to send to soldiers overseas.

More importantly, it helps explain how the newlywed of little more than two weeks ended up in Fernandina Beach at all.

To fully understand Jimmie's story, you'd have to first go back to Nov. 20, 1944.

That's the day Clarence McCollum was killed in action near Prummern, Germany, while serving in the U.S. Army.

Jimmie was 8 years old at the time, living in Columbia, Mo., with his two sisters and mother.

In those days, people often didn't talk about the loss of a loved one, and Jimmie didn't know much about his father's life or death.

He later married, had two sons and two daughters. After 47 years of marriage, he lost his wife to cancer. Living in Missouri, he took comfort in the love of his family, which now includes six grandchildren.

Then, around Memorial Day 2005, Jimmie, along with relatives and friends, traveled to Germany to learn more about his father's valor and his death. He also visited his father's burial site at the national cemetery in Holland.

Upon his return to the United States, Jimmie took more of an interest in learning about other families who lost loved ones during the war. His sister had already made some connections through American WWII Orphans Network.

During one of Jimmie's visits to Central Florida, where his sister lives, he met an original member of the orphans network, who was also visiting family.

Jamie Duke, a recent widow, mother of four children and grandmother of nine, was living in Fernandina Beach. …

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