Brief bios on the individuals from home mentioned in Snook’s letters.
Frank “Snook” Barber
Technical Sergeant, First Special Service Force, Sv. Co., and 474th Infantry Division.
Author of the letters featured on this blog. Born September 11, 1913 in Urbana, Illinois, Frank was 28 when he enlisted in the US Army and was assigned to the Service Company of the First Special Service Force. He and Geneva, or “Gee”, had already been married for almost 5 years by the time he was drafted, then he spent nearly two and a half years in the service before returning home. Snook and Gee kept in constant correspondence while he was at war. Prior to the war, Snook worked as a carpenter at Chanute Air Field in Rantoul, Illinois, and after returning from the war went on to found a successful construction company, Barber & DeAtley, with a lifelong friend.
Geneva “Gee” Barber
Beauty Shop Owner, Beautician
Born Geneva Bruns on August 10, 1915, in Tuscola, Illinois. Her parents were tailors and Geneva was naturally drawn to fashion and beauty. Gee kept herself busy during the war by working as a beautician at her own beauty shop, which she advertised as specializing in “all branches of beauty culture”. This pin-up style photo is representative of many Gee sent overseas in letters to Snook in order to keep his spirits up.
Charles “Chick” Bruns
Sergeant in the 3rd Division, 10th Combat Engineers
Born on April 17, 1919 in Villa Grove, Illinois, Chick was Gee’s younger brother and Snook’s brother-in-law. He served through five invasions in World War II, keeping a diary throughout. Chick is mentioned with regularity in the letters.
Check out Chick’s site: WWII Diary of Chick Bruns – 70 Years Ago
Ervin “Erv” Barber
Private, US Army
Born on June 5, 1905, in Urbana, Illinois, Erv was the younger of Snook’s two older brothers. Like Snook, Erv served in the US Army during the Second World War. After returning home, he worked in sales, owning his own window covering shop for a time.
Mom & Dad
Tillie Frank Barber and William Davis Barber
Tillie and William were a very family oriented couple and quite involved in the Champaign-Urbana community. William worked for the University of Illinois as a carpenter, obviously where Snook learned his trade, even continuing to work after losing his thumb in a machinery accident (you’ll notice he keeps his hands hidden in nearly every picture). Tillie made the newspaper for her frequent ladies functions and regular bridge games, as well as her wily pet hen who was reported to escape occasionally. Tillie, whose full given name was Caroline Magdalena Franziska Ottillia Frank, was born to two German immigrants and spoke fluent German in the home with her children, providing Snook with language skills that aided him during the war.
Snook’s oldest brother
William Claude Barber was born December 1, 1899 in Champaign, Illinois. Like his father, Claude worked for the University of Illinois, but as a steam fitter in the physical plant. Claude avoided the World War Two draft due to age.
Mildred “Sis” LeCuyer
Born Mildred Barber on August 8, 1902 in Urbana, Illinois, Mildred was Frank’s only sister. She married Eli LeCuyer, 21 years her senior, on May 20, 1933. Early letters refer to a pregnancy, but I only know about this child because of these letters and no record of any birth is on file with the county, therefore (without having Gee’s end of the correspondence) we have to assume she lost the baby. Snook refers to receiving her “super” letters which are usually several pages, typed.
Mildred Viola Cain was born August 25, 1906 in Nokomis, Illinois, and married Snook’s oldest brother, Claude Barber, on July 28, 1927.
The two Mildred sisters-in-law were very close, occasionally co-hosting events together, and Mildred Cain Barber was one of Gee’s dearest friends. Snook frequently mentions hearing about Mildred Cain and Gee taking short trips together. Mildred wrote Snook detailed accounts of these trips (one such account to visit Snook at his basic training in Arkansas will be shared alongside his memoirs once the letter posts have concluded).
Mabel “Mae” Barber
Born Mabel Coletta Entwistle on April 5, 1912 in La Salle, Illinois, Mae married Snook’s brother Erv in La Salle on October 12, 1940. Mae and Gee kept each other company while their Barber men were away at war, and the letters occasionally mention activities or excursions the two women undertook.
Jack & Hilah
The DeAtley family
Lifelong friends of Snook & Gee’s, the DeAtleys were a constant presence throughout their lives. Hilah was responsible for introducing Snook to Gee, when he was tending bar at McGuire’s Tap Room in Champaign (and she already had a beau). After the war, Jack and Snook went on to co-found the Barber & DeAtley construction company in 1949, which still operates today in Champaign, Illinois.
In his letter home from Burlington, Vermont following the Aleutian campaign, Snook asks about Hilah and their new “young’un”, Jackie, Jr.
Harry & Esther
The Croft family.
Esther “Es” Bruns Croft was Gee’s only sister and the two women were incredibly close, despite Es living a few hours away in the Chicago metro area. Her husband Harry is mentioned frequently in the letters with exasperation as having grand plans but little luck maintaining a career. Early in 1944, the letters mention that their daughter, Linda (Gee’s youngest niece, who was around 5 at the time) was sent to live with Gee while Esther recovered from surgery. Esther is far left in front of Snook in this 1941 photo, while Harry Jr. is front and center in the hat (Linda was an infant at the time and Harry Sr. took this photo).
Joannie & Francy
Geneva’s parents, the Bruns’ family.
Chick regularly wrote home to his parents, Francis and Johanna Bruns, and Gee clearly relays information from these letters to Snook in their correspondence. Francis was a tailor for the Jos. Kuhn & Co. department store in downtown Champaign, while Johanna worked as a seamstress.
Bernadine & Billy
the Bruns siblings, Snook & Gee’s niece and nephew
As the children of Gee’s oldest sibling, Bernard, Billy and Bernadine are mentioned regularly in Snook’s letters once he’s overseas. Bernadine turned 16 shortly after Snook rolled into Rome in June 1944. Billy’s 13th birthday gets a mention in Snook’s letters from December 1943, partially because he and his father both got the flu during the ’43-’44 winter epidemic. In this Bruns family photo from December 1941, Bernadine is front row, far left, and Billy is front row, far right.