My aunt and I share a love of history and the stories hidden there. She has shared a lot of her knowledge with me over the years. Working in an antique mall she comes across a lot of interesting artifacts. Like me she hates to see the personal mementos of people there and if possible wants to reunite them with family. One day she brought me a simple child’s report card and asked if I could find a family member to return it to.
The report card belonged to a little boy named Jacob Funk and in 1933-34 he was a fourth grader at Buchanan Elementary in Chambersburg and appeared to be a good student. Along with it was a small slip from a dentist announcing perfect teeth and a reading list that included of all things “Little Black Sambo” by Helen Bannerman.
Census and other records revealed Jacob was the son of Paul M. and Hazel Funk and they lived on East Queen Street in Chambersburg. He had an older brother named David and they both eventually attended Chambersburg Senior High School. Jacob was in the class of 1943 and school yearbooks show him in the Visual Education Club, the Science Club, and Senior Hi-Y (a religious club). He was also in the chorus of the Operetta – “Love Goes South”. The 1942 yearbook I found on Ancestry actually has a note written by him on the Visual Ed Club page next to where he was listed as the Chief Technician. “To a friend and good student that has as many headaches as I. Jake 43′”.
Jacob joined the Navy right after high school in June 1943 and remained in the service until April 1946. As a member of the 107th Naval Construction Battalion or Seabees he had the rank of EM3 (an electrician). He served overseas with the 107th from March 1944 to November 1945. Jake would have spent his 20th birthday just days after arriving on Ebeye Island where the Seabees were tasked with clearing the destruction and Japanese dead the American assault forces left behind. This was their introduction to the work they would be doing for the duration of the war. Clearing the old and building the new. By May the group had built on Ebeye the first American seaplane base in the Marshall Islands. As a member of Company B he then went to Bigej Island and finally Tinian Island where he would remain until the end of the war. He was listed as a member of the second section of the Electrical Shop. The battalion’s entire story can be found in the Log Book of the 107th.
Jacob was back in the states in late November 1945 and left the service April 8, 1946. He returned to his parent’s home where he worked in the family electrical business with his father and older brother. Jacob eventually worked for 30 years at the Scotland School for Veteran’s Children before he retired. He was active in local military service and veteran groups and the 107th Seabees reunions as well as Fireman’s relief and Junior Hose and Truck Company 2 in Chambersburg. He died in 2002 and is buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Chambersburg. Jacob’s obituary did not mention a wife or children and his now deceased brother was the only named relative.
John Wayne brought the story of the Seabees to the silver screen in the classic war movie “The Fighting Seabees”. Jacob Funk, the boy from the high school Visual Education Club, was the star of his own movie with the Seabees. One that I’m sure played in his head many times over the years after the war.