Because I haven’t updated this site in some time, I thought I would start posting individually about some of the men who served aboard the USS Zircon (PY-16).
When I began my search for the Zircon sailors (or their families), I created an Excel spreadsheet of all the names that appeared on muster rolls I’d obtained via Fold3.com. One of the first things I did was to determine which of the sailors were on board the day of the YF-415 disaster (11 May 1944), as looking for witnesses to that event was a priority of mine at the time. So, taking the March 1944 Muster Roll and then adding and subtracting the sailors whose names appeared on the subsequent Reports of Changes, I was able to determine that there were a hundred and twenty enlisted men aboard the ship on 11 May 1944. Once I acquired the ship’s deck logs for 1944, I found that there were eight officers.
Once the spreadsheet was completed, I began searching for information about each sailor in alphabetical order, and amongst the first handful on the list was Frank Paul Bielskis. Unlike many (probably most) of the people I’ve searched for, I found a fair number of newspaper articles which mentioned Bielskis’ name. Sadly, they all were news articles about the boarding house fire in Brockton, Massachusetts in which he died. The above photo of him (at top right) is the only one I have of him in which he has been identified. I received it from Thomas Shubert, whose father is at the top of the photo.
Bielskis had been married and had two children, but as he was living in the boarding house, he appears to have been either separated or divorced from his wife at the time this fire occurred. For a time, he and his wife, Frances (“Fannie”) had lived with his parents, Casimir (Charles) and Eva, in Brockton. According to a listing in a Brockton city guide, he worked at an auto body shop.
His wife appears not to have married again, or so her obituary suggests. Bielskis was not mentioned.
His children have not responded to my postcards, letters, and phone calls, so either they were too young to know much about him when he died, or their relationships with him were such that they have no interest in speaking about him. I’ve sent postcards out to two of his surviving sisters but have yet to hear from them.
Update (9 June 2021)
I am generally pretty outgoing, but calling strangers out of the blue remains somewhat uncomfortable for me, especially since we live in the age of the scam. A few weeks ago, however, I gathered up enough moxy to call Theresa Loef, sister of Frank Paul Bielskis. I sent her a postcard in November of 2020 but hadn’t heard from her, so I thought a call was in order. She didn’t recall having received the postcard.
I’m glad that I called. We had a perfectly lovely conversation, and she wasn’t the least bit concerned that I was trying to defraud her in any way (she didn’t seem to be anyway).
Theresa is almost twenty years younger than her brother, so she barely knew him. She was unaware of the YF-415 disaster. I told her of my outreach to Bielskis’ children, but she confirmed that her brother’s divorce wasn’t particularly amicable, so the non-response wasn’t much of a surprise as she has also had similar experiences with them.
One interesting tidbit she told me, though, pertained to her brother’s stay at the boarding house where he died. There was a fellow boarder who had issues going up the stairs of the building, so Bielskis offered to swap his ground-floor room for the other’s third-floor room so that he wouldn’t have to contend with the stairs. This charitable deed is ultimately what led to Bielskis’ demise; the other person survived the fire.
I will be sending some photographs to Theresa (the above photo amongst them), in hopes that her brother might be in one or two of them and that she’s more able to recognize him than I am.