Red Headed Stepchild
(The Barrett family memoir of Navy Life)
by Sophie Ruth Meranski with photos

 

p.106 #1516 Dr. Israeli Peter Meranski stands just behind right shoulder of Free French leader Charles DeGaulle May 8, 1945 while serving as Army doctor at hospital in France. {F}
web page 106 photo # 1516 Dr. Israeli Peter Meranski stands just behind right shoulder of Free French leader Charles DeGaulle at VE Day parade May 8, 1945 [Victory Europe] while serving as U.S. Army doctor at a hospital in France. Dr. Meranski and two uniformed American officers at left of photo are wearing the medical insignia cadeuceus. A copy of this historic photo of Free French World War II leader Charles De Gaulle honoring American medical officers 1945 in France was given to me early 2002 by my mother's brother's daughter Deborah Meranski Sonnenstrahl, now living in North Potomac Maryland and professor emeritus in art history at Gallaudet University, Washington DC. Her father born November 1903 Hartford Connecticut was a 1921 graduate of Hartford Public High School and a 1925 grad of Trinity College and a 1929 graduate of University of Maryland Medical School in Baltimore, where his future wife Jeannette Goldberg and her parents gave him much assistance --he met her shortly after his arrival September 1925, and married her June 9, 1929 and became a pediatrician in Baltimore. They lost their first two children at young age because of birth defects, but Deborah born 1935 and Daniel born after the war 1951 survive. Dr. Meranski entered the United States Army in 1942 and served first at Fort Benning Georgia and then 1944-5 at a hospital in France, where on one occasion he helped locate his nephew Arthur Meranski, who served in tanks under General George Patton in Normandy, June 1944 and in the rapid breakout that circled through Brittany and then east. Dr. Meranski sent news of Arthur's location and safety to his mother Sadie Meranski in Hartford, CT. In this photo the leader of the Free French and first postwar government of France General Charles de Gaulle [very tall] stands in the center, and Dr. Meranski fairly short] stands at DeGaulle's right and photo left, near DeGaulle's left shoulder. Some chronology - Dr. Meranski seventh Meranski child - youngest son born November 1903. At Hartford Public High School Israel Peter Meranski participated in debating and glee club according to 1921 Year Book, which I saw 1988 in Hartford collection at Hartford Public library. Some materials from Ttinity College library sent by archivist Peter Knapp were stolen in West Roxbury 1993. There was an excellent photo of "Pete" from 1925 or 1926 Yearbook, which I would like to get another copy of - the accompanying letter said "1926" which might be a type as he was class of 1925. In 1950s "Pete" was active in Trinity College alumni in Maryland area.In the spring of 1925 when Sophie was junior faculty in Economics and Sociology, "Pete" escorted one of the Patterson sisters of Detroit to her senior prom at South Hadley, because her fiance was too far away to attend - it gave Pete a change to see the college and his sister. Sophie Barrett attended a dance at University of Maryland Medical School probably 1926 and met Jen Goldberg and her parents and aunt at that time. Sophie also attended the wedding June 9, 1929, twelve days before her own wedding, and in June 1957 Sophie and her husband Jack Barrett had a wonderful visit with her brother and his family at the wedding of Pete and Jen's daughter Debbie to Alfred Sonnenstrahl, then a ship architect, with whom Jack Barrett had enjoyable conversation. This was also a chance for Jack and Sophie to get to know Danny Meranski then seven years old going on eight. Jack Barrett followed the fortunes of the Baltimore Oriole baseball team for more than eleven years following the Baltimore visit. The Barretts also saw the Baltimore family at Albert Geetter's bar mitzvash spring 1948, at David Geetter's Trinity graduation 1955, and David Geetter's marriage 1958 to Joan Trouboff in Brooklyn, and at Thalia Geetter's marriage June 10, 1961 to Michael Price from Brookline, Massachusetts. The Geetter family made possible many wonderful family gatherings of the Meranskis, Pollacks and others over many years. Dr. Meranski developed pancreatic cancer diagnosed June 1962 and died September 1962, about two months prior ro his fifty-ninth birthday. Among Sophie Barrett's stories - the eldest girl in the Meranski family was Esther born October 19, 1894, who was working as an accountant while the younger chldren were in school. Esther bought the family a piano and phonograph records, and was very generous with boxes of chocolate candy - maple walnuts were a favorite. One time Sophie thought 'Pete" was eating apples, and remarked "Be careful where you throw the cores", but Pete was eating some of Esther's chocolates, and answered, "There aren't any cores in these apples." At Hartford Public High School one time around 1919 Pete got an excellent grade for an essay entitled "My old Clothes". In the large Meranski family clothes were often handed down from one brother or sister to a younger one, and Pete at first laughed at his old clothes, but concluded he was nonetheless glad to have them. The text has not been preserved. Then his sister Sophie tried to adapt the idea for English composition at Mount Holyoke, but received only an averagegrade. As a young boy, one time Pete had an ear infection, and his mother tried putting some type of oil on the sore part, until a doctor advised her, with a comical immigrant accent - [or possbily because of dental problems] "I don't want any more hoil in the ear!" It became a family joke, as Pete a number of times imitated the doctor's speech. As the youngest son like the scriptural Benjamin - Pete was held in great affection by his father and mother. Unlike many families in the early twentieth century, it seems the Meranskis managed without corporal punishment, and it was a joke that when their father David Meranski was not-very-seriously trying to maintain harmony, he would sometimes tell Pete, "Get the stick!" - there was no stick, being the point of the story. I hope this story will not be misunderstood, as this was always in good humor and seems worth preserving from Sophie's conversational recollection. -- I should add a few more items - in the memoir text, my mother says when Pete entered the High School 1917, he at first walked to school with her - I think a couple of miles, but "he soon began to walk with the boys" as he made friends. I can add some chronology of family visits - sadly his father David Meranski traveled to Baltimore early March 1933 to see the first baby, - then developed pneumonia and died in Hartford, I believe March 29, 1933 age about 68. The family often circulated round-robin letters and kept as close as possible sharing news. There was a 1939 Thanksgiving get-together at aunt Bertha Pollack's home in Overbrook Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, where my family living in bala Cynwyd and your family from Baltimore got together with the Pollacks.
Subject: DeGaulle {F}
Year: 1945

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