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Annie L. Windham Straley John Henry Straley

"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance."
George Bernard Shaw

Paul S. Durham, Marine

Paul Stafford Durham

A Man's Man, A Man of God

-Jan 31, 2014, Pasadena, Texas
Today, Paul Stafford Durham was laid to final rest. 

Paul was born in Galveston, Texas in 1926.  He was the middle child to Edmond Meadows Durham and Jessie Matilda Baker.

He joined the US Marine Corps in 1941 and trained in California. It was there that he married his sweetheart, Louise Hagar.  He was quickly deployed by ship and sent to the Pacific.

Paul fought in two major World War II engagements. The first was the Battle of Peleliu. It was an invasion to capture an airstrip on a Japanese-occupied coral island. The campaign was supposed to take only four days, however it took two intense months, and was noted by the National Museum of the Marine Corps as the "bitterest battle of the war for the Marines". The Marines suffered 6,500 casualties! That is one third of an entire division. As a result, the 1st Marine Division would be out of action until the invasion of Okinawa. 

On April 1, 1945, as part of Operation Iceberg, Paul landed on Ryukyu Island of Okinawa in the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific war.  The Battle of Okinawa would last 82 days, until mid-June of 1945. Okinawa was the planned base of air operations for the upcoming invasion of Japan. The battle that followed would be the most intense of the Pacific, with the highest number of casualties. The Allies suffered 82,000 casualties, with 14,009 deaths. The Japanese lost 77,166 soldiers along with 149,193 local civilians.

The Japanese defense of Okinawa was so intense, and the casualties so high, US leadership decided to find another way to subdue mainland Japan. The solution chosen was to drop two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which proved effective. With Japan's surrender, the War was over.

After a six-month occupation in China, Paul was shipped back to the US.  On the voyage back, he learned that his little brother, Victor, had been killed during the second Battle of Guam on July 21, 1944. Somehow, a friend of Victor's found Paul, and passed on Victor's sidearm pistol.  Paul feared that his possession of the pistol might somehow delay his discharge, so he threw the weapon into San Francisco Bay.

Paul and Louise returned to Texas and he returned to work at the Reed Tool Company. He would eventually retire in 1984, after 45 years of service.

He was a wonderful, good-natured man and great Christian Leader of his church. He served as an elder for many years at the Broadway and Southeast Churches of Christ in Houston, Texas.

Recollections of Danny Asher's eulogy for Paul (by Site Author)

I had no idea what to expect. An hour earlier, I had met Danny Asher for breakfast.  It had been a pleasant meeting, only slightly awkward between two cousins, both over age 50, who had never really had an adult conversation.  I immediately liked Danny, whom I guessed was about 62 years old, and I wanted hear more of his stories about Paul and the rest of my Durham kinfolks.

Next, I sat at my Uncle Paul's funeral. He was the last of the Durham children to Edmond Meadows Durham and Jessie Baker. My father, Earl, had been his big brother.

After the preacher concluded his eulogy, Danny, dressed in slacks, a light blue short-sleeved dress shirt (no tie), and thin suspenders, approached the pulpit. He looked a little frail and emotionally sad. As he began to speak, I was worried that this frailty might overcome him and he would break down. Quickly he eased into a comfort, an obvious byproduct of his years teaching English and Religion before large groups.

From the start Danny held our attention and he really demonstrated his love for Uncle Paul. He told of Paul being physically strong, describing seeing Paul's arm draped over the back of the car seat.  It was "knotted with muscle and hard". Then Danny relayed that he himself had not been a tough boy. What he so admired in Paul was that he was strong, while at the same time a genuinely good and gentle person. Many with Paul's strength tended to either be self-absorbed or bullies. That was not Paul. This had quite an affect on young Danny and it inspired him to elect to "do right" and strive to be a good person.

In another story he related that they were having a family dinner at the Asher's house and after all the food prep the sink was severely clogged. Being the man of the house Danny was expected to "fix the sink". To this Danny explained that he is NOT a man of action. However he knew to pour Drain-O down the drain. Which he did and nothing happened. All the while Uncle Paul watched the scene enfold over Danny's shoulder. He eventually said, "Hold on, I'll be right back."

A few minutes later Paul returned with a large metal can heavily labeled with XXX and several skulls and crossbones. Paul poured a large dose of his toxic brew into the clog and after a few minutes of gaseous gurgling, and a loud noise "like the crack of thunder" the drain belched and flushed on through. Danny asked Paul why he had resorted to using such a lethal poison. Paul answered with his characteristic sly smile, "Fixed it, didn't it?" His reply was a statement not a question. I cracked up at this story, and looked around the church. Everyone else was laughing too, and nodding their heads as if to agree, "Yep, that was Paul.")

Yes, Paul was a man of action. No doubt a skill need needed and honed in the Marine Corps during World War II.

Danny used another story to describe Paul. He spoke of "G. D." This was a man who had a tumorous growth protruding from his stomach. It was very large and eventually began to impact his quality of life. Danny told of Paul's persistence, long after others had given up, for G. D. to have surgery. G. D. finally agreed to have the procedure and it was a success!  "I credit Paul with giving G. D. some portion of his life back and that was the kind of man Paul was." (I later learned that the man was G. D. Baker Jr., a cousin, as Paul's mother was a Baker)

Danny finally recanted a story from Durham lore about Uncle Dan after whom Danny claims he was named. It is told that he was a man of incredible strength. But more notably, his broad back was covered with thick dark hair. The story goes that when his mother was pregnant with Daniel she heard a knock at the door. When she opened the door she found herself face to face with a large bear standing upright, claws extended. The shock caused the expectant mother to faint. When revived, she learned the bear was in fact tame, used as a gimmick for a traveling salesman. Luckily Mom and baby were not harmed. However the baby would forever have "the mark" upon him.

True to the omen, Dan possessed a hairy back and unnatural strength. A family fable, you ask? My father had always maintained that Uncle Dan could "chop a cord of wood with a pole axe by noon", but I thought he was just pulling my leg.  After the funeral service, I got a chance to chat with 88 year-old Joe Talbot, a relative of the family, and we started talking about Uncle Dan.

He remembered seeing Dan fell a tree ("I looked into the woods and saw the top of a thirty-foot tree moving back and forth, then it fell. I didn't know what was goin' on!"  In a few minutes, Dan emerged from the forest with the tree over one shoulder, dragging the massive thing. He lugged it up to the house and chopped it up there. "It was the most amazing sight I had ever seen!" recounted Joe. Chew on that a while.

When Danny concluded, I think we all wanted to hear more from this family historian. His kind and thoughtful words had captured what we all needed, which was to celebrate Uncle Paul's extraordinary life in a very personal way. I know Paul would have liked that.


A note from the Site Author:

Dearest Family and Friends,

I've created the following web pages to share to information I have on my family's ancestry. Too many memories and stories have died as time rolls by and things are forgotten; and those who remembered have passed. This is my attempt to collect, document, store, pass on and revive those memories.  This is my never-ending quest to uncover the covered, to find what is lost.  Through a lot of research, friendly "borrowing" of other's research (see "Special Thanks section" below, and the Page Sources reference on each page), and many 2 a.m. nights, I have pulled together what has become the very simple and amateurish Clear Creek Genealogy.  My intent is to post factual information, and pass on the stories as they were told to me and others. I deliberately attempt to keep my editing to a minimum.

The information here is interesting, reasonably truthful, and even dramatic! I take great pride in recognizing my many sources throughout. This literally represents YEARS of work. It is also my choice to not use standard genealogy software (I've always kind of been a lone wolf). These pages were created using my own home-grown web skills, as limited as they are.

If you read these pages and find errors, don't hesitate to email me with new information. I am always looking for more concrete verification. Hopefully, I will respond quickly, but don't give up on me if I don't immediately respond.  I usually got a lot a goin' on in these days.

[email protected] at home

Special Thanks to:

  • My wife - God bless her for putting up with me. Lord, I know I am hard to understands sometimes. You have always backed me, though.
  • Reba Ann Durham Arroyo - my sweet, late sister. Without her, none of this would have happened.
  • Elsie Durham - My Mom, for sharing the stories and having such a wonderful Texas accent.
  • Aunt Peggy Straley - She once told me, "Don't go poking around in your family history. You might not like what you'll find." Of course, that only made me more determined.
  • James Gordon "Tip" Durham - the resident expert on our Durham line.
  • Grace (Rhodes) Straley Swartz - A sweet lady who published a book on Straleys!
  • Cathy Straley - a real Straley expert, who prepared "The Descendants of Jacob Straley". Email her at [email protected]
  • John B. Windham - THE expert on our Windham genealogy.
  • Marion Windham - my Texas cousin; sent me a copy of Dr. J.D. Windham's diary.
  • Paula Windham - one of Callahan Co. Texas' top historians, and my cousin, too.
  • Rodney Britnell
  • Morris & Nell George
  • and so many others!