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Shirley Eleanor Nash, R.I.P.

If you read it all the way through to the end, I think you will find this to be one of the best obituaries ever written, in large part because the life it details is incredible. It is also offered below.

Shirley Eleanor Nash, 93, died peacefully Thursday, March 11, 2010, at the Garden House in Morro Bay, her hand held, being told she was loved, her favorite Andres Segovia album was playing in the background, and her room was filled with flowers and cards from friends, family and the Marines. She will be deeply missed.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada in 1916, Shirley, came to Pasadena, Calif., as a child with her parents, Herbert Howgate Nash, an administrator at Cal Tech and Christina Eleanor Nash, a nursing volunteer. Shirley was the first of three children. In high school, she won recognition as a classical ballet dancer performing at the Rose Bowl, El Capitan, the Pantages, the Greek Theater and in movies with stars Margaret O’Sullivan, Fred MacMurry, the Marx Brothers and a flop starring Fibber McGee and Molly. After high school, she enrolled at Pasadena City College.

In 1940, yearning to see the world, she quit school, sold her car and bought a steamship ticket to China. As the only American, her fellow passengers were Japanese diplomats being ordered home and German army officers recalled to Berlin. Shirley told how the atmosphere was very tense with the two groups barely polite to one another. Arriving in Shanghai, she worked as a daily newspaper reporter in the city guarded by Japanese tanks and barbed wire barricades.

In November 1941, she boarded the last ship out of China before the war. A sister ship, with all her belongings, was blown up in the Philippines. While in China she meet a “China Marine” from the 4th Regiment of the Marine Corps, whom she married after World War II. Shirley returned home, joined the Marines, attended boot camp at New York’s Hunter College, then Quartermaster School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Shirley scored the highest ever, to that date, on the Officer Candidate School test and became a first lieutenant, served as the disbursing officer in the transport department stationed in Washington, D.C.

She traveled across the United States over 40 times on Marine Corps business. Upon leaving the Marines after WWII, she married Edward Ellery Kash, who had been captured by the Japanese, survived the Bataan Death march and spent most of the war in a Japanese prison camp. They lived in New York until divorcing, and then Shirley moved to Mexico City. They had one child, Pandora Noel Nash.

In the 1950s, Shirley attended Whittier College on the GI Bill and received a Bachelors and Masters with highest honors and worked as a college professor at Chaffey College for 25 years where she founded and headed the Interior Design department and taught architectural history. She utilized her dance and theater expertise at Chaffey, producing and choreographing numerous musicals including South Pacific, Oklahoma and Finian’s Rainbow.

Every summer was spent traveling the world’s most unusual places. Shirley was the first white woman to explore Dutch Guiana’s Suriname River, and she did it in a dugout canoe just 5 years after locals stopped practicing cannibalism. She taught school in St. Thomas and St. Croix during the 1960’s and tromped through mosquito-infested jungles to photograph ruins in Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Merida and Palenque decades before they became popular tourist destinations.

Shirley became a scholar specializing in California’s estancia and adobe architectural history of the 18th and 19th centuries. She was part of a team of historians that catalogued many of the 19th century homes in southern California. Noted as feisty and finding ways to get things done, she once applied to Hearst Castle for permission to do on-site research of its architecture and interiors, but was declined. She then applied for a job as a guide and was hired, which allowed her to do her research and get paid too.

She was married to Dwight Mossman, a southern California businessman, for 25 years. She was active in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, California Historic Society, Southern California Historic Society, Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Foundation, the Society of Architectural Historians, the Pasadena Historical Society, Ontario Historic Landmarks Society, Historical Society of Pomona Valley, the American Society of Interior Designers and the Retired Officers Association. An art lover, Shirley was an award-winning photographer, a skilled carver, weaver, mosaic artist and a basket maker using traditional Native American materials.

Shirley moved to Los Osos in 1998. She became a Charter member of the Marine Corps League, Detachment 680 and helped in the early planning stages of the San Luis Obispo County Veterans Museum and the Toys for Tots campaigns. In 2007, she was awarded the Detachment’s Challenge Coin, a special recognition medallion, presented by the Commandant for her service to the League.

Shirley is survived by daughter, Pandora Nash-Karner of Los Osos; grandson Eriel Shayne Nash of Los Osos; numerous cousins, nieces and nephews from King City, Oakland, Davis, and Etna, Calif., Bellevue and Olympia, Wash., Sidney, British Columbia; and Taipei, Taiwan. She was preceded in death by brother James H. Nash, M.D. of San Luis Obispo; and sister Phyllis Nash Barren of Bellevue, Wash. A gathering of family and friends will be held in early summer officiated by Richard Carsel and attended to by the Marine Corps League. Donations can be made to Hospice Partners of the Central Coast, 277 South Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘WOO HOO’ what a ride!” That was how Shirley Nash lived her life.

Tim Haley, of the Marine Corps League wrote, “Rest assured Shirley reported in to her final duty station standing tall and looking sharp and took her place among the formation of Marines. Mission accomplished Lt. Nash, well done. Semper Fidelis.”

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The Genealogies of Christ

Prof. Grant Osborne, writing in Christianity Today, provides a fascinating synopsis of what the two genealogies of Christ, found in Matthew and Luke, are really trying to say. The article should be particularly intriguing for genealogists during this Christmas season.

Few aspects of the Bible seem less relevant to daily life than genealogies. Yet for Gospel writers Matthew and Luke, they were absolutely essential for understanding Jesus.

Genealogies fulfilled multiple purposes in the ancient world. Society was organized around kinship patterns, so every family needed lists that described their ancestral pedigree. Such family trees determined a person’s social relationships. For instance, two families planning the marriage of their children would compare family lines to check kinship ties to ensure the two were “compatible.” And rulers used genealogies to justify their power, rank, and status.

So why are the genealogical trees in Matthew and Luke so different? Matthew begins his Gospel with Jesus’ genealogy, while Luke places it, strangely, between Jesus’ baptism and temptation. Matthew has an ascending list, moving from Abraham up to Jesus, while Luke has a descending list, moving from Jesus down to Adam. Matthew’s list is partial; Luke’s is complete. And most significantly, while the two lists are virtually identical from Abraham to David, they diverge greatly from David to Jesus.

Click here to read the rest.

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This Day in History

On this day 147 years ago, our ancestors James Harrison Claybourn and Pleasant T. Claiborne (both cousins) took part in the Battle of Perryville. Over 20% of those engaged in the battle were either killed, wounded or went missing, making it one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

The Union victory there marked a turning point in the War. Confederate forces retreated into Tennessee, and Kentucky remained in Union possession for the remainder of the War. Just as important, the victory stalled Europeans from recognizing the Confederacy and rejuvenated Northerners enough to continue supporting the War in the 1862 elections.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this battle for our family is that cousins James and Pleasant fought on opposite sides of the line. James participated on the Union side with Company H of the 80th Illinois Infantry, and Pleasant with Company H of the 25th Arkansas Infantry Regiment. It isn’t known if Pleasant and James ever realized or discovered they were fighting each other in this battle.

Pleasant ultimately died in the War about a year later in July of 1863. James, however, survived and lived to be nearly 77 years old. He had ten children and hundreds of descendants, including yours truly and the family’s initial historian, Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld. One great irony is that had Pleasant or any of his Confederate compatriots succeeded in killing James, the family’s genealogical information might never have been compiled. Thus, Pleasant would have survived the battle, but any historical evidence of his very existence would have died.

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Updates from Mt. Vernon, Illinois

I recently traveled to the home of Bob Dulaney, a widower to Paula (“Polly”) McCracken, in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Polly was the granddaughter of Birtie May Claybourn and quite proud of her Claybourn roots. Polly died in July of 2008 and, left with a large empty house, her husband Bob has decided to move to smaller living quarters. Therefore Bob and his two sons – Rick and Mike – were cleaning out the home and preparing for an auction to sell quite a number of items.

The family wanted certain historic documents and heirlooms with Claybourn ties to be given to the Claybourn Genealogical Society for preservation and safe keeping. Among other things, there were numerous genealogical records, historic books, old photographs, and even a relatively lengthy diary. Of particular interest was some of the original research of Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld, one of the first and most significant family historians.

Over the next several months and years we will be working to digitize the documents and provide accounts of everything on the CGS website. The additions will be a great asset to the family history and I have no doubt that future generations will be thankful for their preservation.

Although not related to the Claybourn family, I was intrigued by an antique hand push cultivator that was in great condition, pictured to the right. It’s precise age is unknown but I would suspect it to be at least 100 years old, and most likely even older.

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CGS an Official Nonprofit Entity

Prior to yesterday, the Claybourn Genealogical Society (CGS) operated as an unincorporated entity. But in order to provide tax advantages to contributors and members, CGS is now a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. All donations to CGS are therefore deductible with receipts provided upon request. Click here for more information on becoming a member.

In the interest of transparency I have also posted a statement of revenue and expenses for 2008 (pdf). The current expenses of CGS are primarily web hosting expenses and fees for research tools such as However, as our contact with relatives grows, we are constantly learning of headstones of ancient family ancestors that are dilapidated and in need of repair. Thus, a future project of CGS may be to ensure that these memorials are repaired to a respectable condition.

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