I’d never met any of my grandparents, I was born well after all four had died. I have a faint, out of focus, and oddly-angled picture of my dad’s parents, and some lovely photos of my mom’s mother. So I had an idea of how they looked. But for everywhere I’ve looked and asked, no picture ever seemed to exist of my mom’s father, John Plenzler. I imagined he looked like his mother or father, and I have my great-grandparents’ wedding photo. But you can never be too sure if one does favor one parent or the other. I have a daughter who does not look like me or her sisters, she favors her father’s side of the family greatly. She definitely resembles her father’s sister in a striking manner in my eyes. On first look, she does not seem to be my daughter. But she is (and she inherited much of my personality). Sometimes, genes mix in unique ways to present a new version within the family.

I had always been curious about John’s appearance, so imagine my surprise when I received, thanks to the efforts of a cousin and his son, John Plenzler’s “Descriptive Book” that records elements of his enlistment in the Marines. I was mildly surprised and also began to see that it was possible that my mother resembled him much more than her mother.

According to a description based upon a physical examination of John dated August 4, 1909, he was described as having a ruddy complexion, dark brown hair, light brown eyes, about 5′ 7″ tall, and it seemed slender–he was described as having a mean circumference of 35″, with a 3″ expansion and a weight of only 139 pounds. I suspect he may have been a fairly muscular man–he was a street paver prior to enlisting in the Marines, that would have meant hours of physical labor. Based on this, he may have resembled his father–who in his wedding picture seemed to have met these descriptions as well. My mother was not a tall person, perhaps 5′-2″. I would not have described her complexion as ruddy, but fair and she had dark hair. But she had blue eyes. So I’m going to guess my grandmother Anastasia had blue eyes.

John also had some minor physical marks or distinctions noted on his record–a deformed small toe on his left foot, a scar on his hand, and a few moles. He also had 20/20 vision.

Seems as if I got few Plenzler genes reading this! I have poor vision (have had since I was a small child), light hair, blue eyes, and about as tall as my grandfather. I know in reality, I have half Plenzler and half Mierzjewski genes. But it just looks as if the Mierzejewski genes are dominant. Still, I wanted to find a way to “connect” with my grandfather, and this was an interesting document to read to do so–he died when my mom was quite young, so she didn’t have many memories of him and didn’t seem to have any photos of him when asked.

I think what I did find more interesting about John was his history in the Marines. There was no bravado, no battles he participated in that I know of, but within his history of good conduct one incident stood out. He was court marshaled for being AWOL for a day after liberty and returning to duty drunk. By virtue of a plea, he was sentenced to loss of 18 days’ pay and to perform extra police duties for the period of a month. The loss of pay equaled $10.62. I haven’t calculated what that would be worth 100 years later, but I suspect it to be considerable.

John Plenzler Duty List

John Plenzler Duty List

John was discharged with a notation of “very good” character and had made up the loss of one day to AWOL status. Upon his discharge, his commanding officer noted “character very good instead of excellent because of two trials by court marshal and not recommended for good conduct medal.”

The document is scanned and posted here if anyone is interested in reviewing it.

Happy New Year! May your year be blessed, peaceful, and filled with contentment.