United States Navy Veteran of WWII
Three events that shaped Eugene Stevenson’s life were his mother’s death at a young age, his Navy experience in WW2, and his ability to graduate from college.
“Steve” was born in Walkerton, IN in 1926, the second eldest of 6 children. His father worked very long hours, providing for his family in very difficult times. His mother kept a nice home with good meals. At age 14, Steve’s mother passed away. Like most kids of the time he enjoyed fishing. Also, like most kids in the 30’s he had to work hard to earn money for the family.
When Steve was 15, he climbed on a freight train going east to Baltimore. He then made his way over 600 miles to Atlanta, mostly walking. He washed pans in bakeries for food, unloaded trucks in farmers markets, and did other odd jobs to earn a living. He next made his way to McAllen, TX where he got a job building a Japanese Internment Camp. It was still winter and his only quarters was a box car full of straw. From McAllen he made his way to Lubbock, TX where he had a job hauling crude oil. In time, jobs became more difficult due to his age and lack of formal ID. His next stop was in Colorado where he had a job as time keeper for Southern RR.
In 1943 he returned to Walkerton, IN, got a job at the local grocery store and rented a small apartment above the pool hall with a lifelong friend. World War Two was just starting, so in September of 1943 he lied about his age and enlisted in the Navy. His first deployment was as a navigator on board the YM 163, a 172-foot balsa wood mine sweeper. He served in the Pacific. At the end of the war he reenlisted for 2 more years and was assigned to the USS Nevada. The USS Nevada was the target ship for the Atomic bomb test at Bikini in July, 1946. Steve was assigned to another ship to watch the test. After the blast he was sent, with two scientists using Geiger counters, to test for radiation on the USS Nevada which did not sink. He helped with record keeping. Some spots had a tolerance of minutes and others hours and days. They painted paths where the tolerance was low enough for others to walk.
Eventually he returned to the states and was assigned to the USS New Jersey for the Good Will tour of Europe. In 1946 he married his childhood sweetheart, Marian Cruthers, they lived in a small furnished apartment during the last year of his enlistment.
Steve was honorably discharged as a QM2 in October of 1947. He loved the Navy and looked forward to making his mark in the world as a civilian. He graduated from Tri-State College in Angola Indiana in 1951, although he had not graduated from high school, which had burned down during the war years. His experience as a naval navigator gave him the knowledge and experience to pass the entrance exam. Steve worked for John Deere tractor, Armco Pipe Co., and General Motors as he went to college. Along with getting an education and working, he supported a family of a wife and three kids.
Steve went on to become the LaSalle County Superintendent of Highways from 1959 to 1982, he was the President of the Marseilles School Board, he was an elected member of the Marseilles City Council and a respected member of the community.
Steve and Marian had been married 71 years when she passed away in 2018. He was always very proud of her as being dependable and helping him to raise a good family.
Tom Brokaw labeled them The Greatest Generation in his book by that title.
A child’s note:
Dad was never afraid of being a parent. He expected each of us to be honest and treat others well. He was always there for us. He instilled in us valuable lessons that we live by to this day. Always be honest, dependable, and caring.
--Written & Submitted by Eugene's Loving Children--