Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Right Man For This Signature

Bit by bit, those mystery men from my father-in-law’s Navy training company photograph are taking on clearer identities. Of course, this may be the most tenuous link to date, as the veteran I’m seeking now is one whose signature was not so clear. Reading it first as “Fred Q. LaNorci,” I’ve since reconsidered and wondered if it might be “Fred R. LaForce.”

If this World War II vet from Winter Park, Florida, was indeed Fred LaForce, then after his service in the Navy, he returned, ultimately, to his home state of Florida—but not until after an extensive career detour. That is, of course, if this is the right man for this signature.

According to Ancestry.com, there was a Fred LaForce living in Florida, but when posting on my favorite genealogy forums, requesting a look-up for his obituary from 1987, it turns out there was nothing available from any Florida newspaper. However, Fred LaForce may have returned from another location to Florida as a retiree. As a helpful genealogy forum volunteer discovered, there was an obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer matching that date and name.
“Fred R. LaForce, 73, a consultant for a Philadelphia safety-equipment company, died Tuesday in New Smyrna Beach, Fla. He had lived in Ardmore. Mr. LaForce was president of the Guardian Safety Equipment Co. from 1950 until its sale in 1980, after which he continued as a consultant to the firm. The company offered everything from flameproof firefighting suits to helmets and eye shields. He was educated at the University of Hawaii and Northwestern University. He played the drums with Tommy Dorsey's band in the days before World War II. A Navy veteran of the war, he served as a navigator in the Pacific. Mr. LaForce was a member of the Veterans of Safety, the American Society of Safety Engineers and the Industrial Hygiene Society. An avid golfer, he was a member of the Pine Valley Golf Club and other country clubs.”
If this is the true identity of the signer of Frank Stevens’ boot camp photograph, this man joins the few of his World War II friends whose memory was kept by family and coworkers. His January 18, 1987, obituary went on to say that he left a wife, three children and grandchildren, as well as ties to his former workplace.

While the obituary mentions Fred LaForce’s ties to the Navy as a navigator in World War II, I have not been able to locate any Navy muster rolls to identify the ship in which he served, leaving this entry still in mystery status on two counts: the name issue and service history. And yet, whether this is our man or not, he deserves honor as one of the many who served, against all odds in the Pacific, on behalf of his country.

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