The Lost Uncle

It’s fitting on this Memorial Day that I just happened to find yearbook pictures of my uncle Daniel James.

Daniel and I started corresponding after I took a DNA test and his results came up as my first hit. Early on in our exchanges, he asked me not to tell anyone that we were in contact. I never asked why, but considering he and my father hadn’t talked in 35 years at that point and I didn’t know anyone else on that side of the family, it wasn’t really an issue.

Later I found out that he was estranged from pretty much everyone in his family. I did eventually tell my dad that we were in contact.

Last month I received an email from his account after a couple years of not hearing from him.

Nathan, this is D_______, Daniel’s wife.

I wanted to let you know he is in the hospital (not covid). He had a sore on his ankle and it turned gangrenous and they had to amputate his leg above the knee. The infection also turned septic which has affected his thinking and speech along with his internal organs. At this point the doctor is skeptical he will ever return home because the medical care he will need I cannot do at home. It is all up to Daniel now to pull through. I am not sure he has the strength to do that right now. Please send out a prayer he recovers.

Sorry to have had to tell you this, but I thought you might like to know. D

On April 7, she wrote me that he had passed the day before.

Dean James, 1961 Hill-McCloy High School Rambler, Montrose, MI;
accessed on 30 May 2022

I’ve been looking for an obituary since. I asked his wife if one was printed but she never wrote back. And even though I never met and know very little about him, I wanted to write down some of what I learned from years of infrequent emails about our shared family history and the little documentation I’ve found on him.

Dean James, 1962 Hill-McCloy High School Rambler, Montrose, MI;
accessed on 30 May 2022

Daniel, known as Dean when he was young, was born April 16, 1945, to Ralph James and Mary Lou Romine. He grew up in foster care until he graduated and then enlisted in the army. He rose to First Sergeant in the Korean War and married a woman he met while stationed in Germany. They soon divorced. He married again and lived in Flint for a while before moving to California. From public records, I know he lived in Los Gatos and Campbell, CA, and Laughlin, NV. He married D________ sometime after 1990 in California. He died on April 6, 2022, probably in Laughlin, Nevada.

May First Sergeant Daniel Dean James rest in peace.

Korea, 1972. Daniel is on the right. Photo from Daniel himself.

Posting a few emails I received from him over the years:

Hi Nate,

First, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Save this, you are the only person I have ever written a holiday greeting too. Bad brother, uncle, etc.

Second, thank you for sending all the neat goodies! I really appreciate the thought and the information. I have spent at least 3,650 hours reading, researching, and revising what I thought I knew about myself and the family, based on the records you sent me last year.

I have to apologize, there are a number of incidents that occurred in 1971-1972, that greatly affected my ability to remember much of anything. After five decades, I still don’t have it right! I will keep trying as long as I can….

Unfortunately, I did not recall being the best man at your dad and mom’s wedding. That was a real kick in the butt. I have gone back to grid square 00 and started over. I am now trying to get it all in writing and that will take sometime due to my numerous issues.

Again, have a great new year and God bless. Daniel

24 Dec, 2017, personal email

Hi Nate,

We are doing well, hope you are too.

The articles are great! They answer some of the questions I had for a long time. I never heard About this before, but I’m not surprised. My dad was a alcoholic for many years. He worked for Goodwill and attended AA around the 1960’s. My mom, sister and I had the same problem! The last time I saw them they were still drinking real heavy (1972). The drinking was part of the reason he “resigned” and the divorces, I’ll bet on it.

The last divorce raises several questions. Were my parents ever married? Was my dad a bigamist? Why did they get married in Rock Port, Atchison, Missouri, which is about 100 miles South of Council Bluffs? So many questions and no answers, yet.

By the way, my old computer died and I got a new one. Windows 10, Office 2016 and Outlook are driving me nuts! I think the learning curve will be much longer than usual, older age, I guess. If you have questions let me know, I’m not embarrassed to call it as I see it.


7 Feb 2016, personal email

Post-script: If you are reading this and would like to share more about Daniel, please contact me or leave a comment here.

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