And Then...That Was When I Felt It

My Bonus Grandma Vadnie Harrison

I know many of you out there can relate to this. In the middle of putting together my post The Book Of Me: Prompt 7 --Grandparents --Part Two, I felt like I needed to take a little break from writing and so I did.  I had just finished writing a little bit about my step grandma, Vadnie Randolph Sutton Harrison, so I thought to myself, why don't I see if I can find out anything new on her.  When Vadnie and my maternal grandfather Lemuel Harrison wed, it was a second marriage for them both.  Before I get into what I discovered recently, here's what I know of my grandmother's life before she met my grandfather. 

Vadnie Randolph was born in March 17, 1925 in New York City. Her mother I addressed as "Mrs Randolph" when I was a child. It turns out Mrs. Randolph's had a first name and it was Louise. According to the 1940 census, mother and daughter resided at 210 West 153rd St in Harlem.

Source Information: 1940 United States Federal Census
 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

Vadnie and Louise were living with a William Marshall who was described as the head of the household. Louise was regarded as his common-law wife and Vadnie was noted as being Louise's daughter. So who was Vadnie's father?  That will be the subject of a future post. 

While growing up, I knew of my grandmother Vadnie, simply as grandma. I guess I kind of knew she had a life before meeting my grandpa Lemuel. I knew of her children my uncle Harry and my aunt Linda. The specifics of how someone is an aunt or an uncle to you often aren't made clear until one becomes a grown up.  It wasn't until earlier this year that I thought to ask my mother about the man who was Harry and Linda's father and Vadnie's first husband. She said he had been a very good looking man. He reminded her of Harry Belafonte. Then she mentioned that he had died in the Korean War. Now for whatever reason, perhaps I was distracted or something at the time, I really didn't "hear" those words when she said them to me. 

Now let's get to what I found.

Source Information: U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control Forms, 
1928-1962 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

This is the U.S. National Cemetery Interment Control form for a Harry Earl Sutton

Name of Cemetery:  Long Island Name:  Harry E. Sutton
Emblem:  Christian
Rank: 1 lt.
Service Data:  3rd Div Co I 15 Inf Regt
State:  New York
Date Of Birth:  Apr 19, 1920
Date Of Death:  Feb. 3, 1951
Date of  Internment:  Aug. 28, 1951
Grave Loc:  Sec or Plot A  Grave or Lot No. 24
Dates of Service
Enlistment: 12/28/44
Died on A. D.:  2-3-51

Remarks:  (Authority for interment, pension, claim number, disinterment etc.)

Auth.  Korean Dead returned from overseas (RE) (SR) (DB) was verified by next of kin
Gr. 24A Sec A reserved for widow Vadnie

Wait a second. What?! I read on.

Name and address of next of kin or other responsible person

Vadnie R. Sutton
670 Adee Ave., Apt 2A
Bronx 67, N.Y.

And that was it. That was when I felt it. My dear sweet grandmother was once a young widow with two babies to raise on her own. For a moment I couldn't breathe. Then, I thought about that little lady (she was under five feet tall.) I used to call her my honorary Irish grandmother because her birthday was on St. Patrick's Day. What strength she had! Her eyes always seemed to be bright and smiling when I would visit. I look back now and wonder what other sorrows she may have kept to herself.


  1. A very moving post. Your research bring to life those who came before you, their joy and yes, their sorrows, too.

    1. Thanks Angella! The sorrows always catch me off guard it seems it seems.

  2. It is funny that your grandmother is your step-grandmother because you do resemble her. Isn't it funny how that happens in relationships? Thank you for sharing your post and the sorrow you felt. This happens to me when putting my life into their shoes and trying to imagine the losses and even the celebrations. I am so glad I caught your blog this time....I hope to visit it more often and catch up on all your research.

    1. Thanks Yvette for your continued support and for following me on my journey :)

  3. I am enjoying your blog posts Andrea...I was just thinking about the records we have to explore and all we can gleam from them.

    1. Thanks Ms. Vicky. It also reminds me to go back and review what I have learned about my ancestors. There's always something new to learn.

  4. it's always a pleasure finding out these things. Especially when we look at them thru a child's eye. Then we grow up and realize they were people too. This was wonderful.

  5. Beautiful, beautiful post..and very touching. I loved reading about your Grandmother.

  6. You said,
    "Now for whatever reason, perhaps I was distracted or something at the time, I really didn't "hear" those words when she said them to me."

    Trust me when I say that as you go back in your notes, interviews, and conversations with family and friends, you will zoom in on information that was shared, but you simply did not pick up on at the time. I think that has everything to do with where we are in our lives and in our genealogy skill level. So don't be too hard on yourself for not paying attention to the details back then. I'm just glad to see that you are reviewing the details and pulling the family story together now.

    Have you ordered his military records yet? If you have, I look forward to hearing more about his military experience during the Korean War. If you haven't yet, I know you will to round out your research on this area of your family tree.


  7. Like Liv, I am also interested in. Harry's military history, it appears that he might of been an officer, possibly a pilot or gunnner. I visualize your grandmother ID her Harry Belafonte looking husband and the fear of what is next with these two young children. You are bringing life to your grandmother's legacy for generations to come.

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