The gentleman who is personality is a transplanted Yankee from Illinois. He has been on the move a big part of his life. At the age of 86 another move took JULIUS DeVOS to retirement home in Fredericksburg, Texas to support his wife, Ruby, who faces health issues. Of course, following Ruby is nothing new. She was a Hilda, Texas native working up north when they met. She brought him home to Texas where they married and Texas is where his heart is. It's in the people, the places and he loves the climate. Yes, even hot weather.
Julius was born to parents, Maurice and Julia Van der Haegen DeVos, on October 22, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. He said. "Mother was the true Yankee of the family." He has one sister, Martha.
He attended local schools in Chicago graduating elementary and high school there. He received a BS degree in Civil Engineering at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
He answered my question about games he played as a child with a quick, "I played marbles. I won a lot of marbles and I still have them all." With the wit I detected so many times during our conversation, he commented, "It's good I can say I still have all my marbles." He recalled games of Tag, Red Rover Come Over, Mumblepeg and May I. These games touch many of our recall buttons.
"My parents worked hard, but they had peace and quiet in their lives. It is getting harder to find places of peace and quiet today. There is always so much activity going on," he reflected. "Families lived together. Sometimes three generations taking care of each other."
Julius enlisted in the U.S. Navy on December 12, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois; he was not called to active duty until July 1, 1943. Julius was placed in the V-12 program as an Apprentice Seaman at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Illinois, until his graduation in early February 1944. Transferred to Midshipman School, Camp Perry, Virginia, he obtained his indoctrination into the military. While there he qualified as a Marksman (Carbine) and Sharpshooter (Pistol). Completing his training there in May 1944, he was commissioned as an Ensign, Civil Engineer Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve. Julius was transferred to the U.S. Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, for further assignment on September 23, 1944. Assigned to the 92nd Navel Construction Battalion, (See Bees) Tinian, Marianas, in early November 1944 where he was designated Adjutant of the 29th Regiment, 6th Brigade Naval Construction Battalions, Tinian. This position continued until January 1945, when he moved as Adjutant of the 92nd NCB. This was a temporary position followed by Company Officers, Construction Supervisor of work being done on the island. Following the end of the war in August 1945 the Battalion was decommissioned and the men returned to the U.S.. Officers were scattered, Julius to Guam and the 593rd Construction Maintenance Unit there. At Guam Julius became Logistics Officer for the unit until he was transferred to the U.S. as a Lieutenant (j.g.). Julius was put on inactive duty on February 2, 1946, at Camp Wallace. Texas, and retired from USNR October 15, 1951. He was entitled to the American Defense, Asiatic-Pacific with 1 Bronze Star and Victory Medal for 3 years, 4 months service. Julius worked in Engineering Hydrology. In case you are like I was I had not the foggiest idea what we were discussing. This deals with water: dams, water systems and sewer systems.
After his time in the military, he worked at the Highway Department in Austin, Texas in 1946. His work took him many places; the U.S. Geographical Service in Austin, Bureau of Reclamation in Amarillo, Texas working on dams and The Urban Highway System in Ft. Worth, Texas. He then went back to school at the University of Texas to get his Master's degree. After this he was the first employee with Fargo Engineering in Austin. There he helped in the design of Marble Falls and Granite Shoals on the Colorado River.
In 1951, the family moved to the family ranch in Hilda, Texas. For a five-year period (1951-1956) Julius decided to become a rancher and stay home. "Wort time. There was a drought going on. For those five years I tried to make it work. Finally, I went back to work at Frank Drought Engineering in San Antonio to make a decent living," he said. They were working on the master plan for the city's water and sewer system. Then, he found himself at the Civil Aeronautical Administration in Ft. Worth as an airport engineer working with design, lighting and etc. until 1965. He came back to Austin to the National Engineering Company and became president of the company. Their main focus was for water and sewer systems for smaller towns and communities.
After this, he said, "I quit." I asked if he retired. "No. I just plain quit. I was so tired of all the traveling. I racked up many, many miles by air and by road. I was just ready to go home. Ruby has been raising the kids and taking care of the animals. She kept the home running. Why, I remember one day after I had left to go back to the job when a big hailstorm came and beat the roof off and broke a lot of windows in the house. She took care of everything."
Julius and Ruby Eckert were married on August 26, 1944. They met while he was in the service and she was working as a dietitian on military base up north. Her parents were Ben and Cora Brandenberger Eckert. They were married at the Eckert home place, the Hilda ranch. Julius and Ruby called it home from September 1, 1951 until August 1, 2007. That was 56 years. Julius spoke of the retirement home where they now live, "It's not home as we lived on the ranch, but it's what we need now. It's a nice place and they are good to us."
They have two children, son Kenneth, born November 30, 1946 who live in Fredericksburg and daughter Sharon, born September 24, 1948 who live in California. There are two grandsons, Kevin and Douglas DeVos. "For five generations (that's as fast as we have researched) there has always been one son born in the family," he said.
I knew from that glint in his eyes I was about to encounter his wit again. He said, "You know me and Ruby didn't have any argument for two years after we married." He waited for my response. "Of course, I was gone in the military during that time." Ruby was a dietitian at The University of Texas while Julius was in the service.
In 1969 after his return to the ranch on a permanent basis, Julius was given the Hilda Methodist Church record books to care for.
They began a search to find the gravesite of Ruby's great, great grandmother, Catherine Brandenberger. They interviewed several people and found the unmarked grave. These ventures began a new career for both Julius and Ruby. They became interested in history.
They began genealogy research on their families. They wrote books by hand (no computers). They traveled to Germany and Switzerland hunting down leads. They wrote some of the complete books and helped on others of Leifestes, Brandenbergers, Eckerts and Lehmbergs.
They contacted Salt Lake City, Utah in hopes of information but none was available so they sent all their finished research work to them and it is now in the archives there. He said, "It's hard to get people to talk sometimes and hard to get others to stop."
He told me, "My mother was still alive when we began our searches so, I got her to identify all family photos as to who they were and how they fit in. This is so good to do for your heirs so they can know."
"Every vacation we took brought about some research. I had felt when I was in school that something wasn't taught about the Civil War in all honesty. Sure enough, when we began visiting the battle sites, I knew it had all been slanted."
They have traveled to 17 different countries. Most all of Europe, to Australia and New Zealand. They have been in all the state of the United States except Vermont and Delaware. They have been in every county in Texas except for the far distant Panhandle counties. They have photographs of almost every courthouse in Texas.
He said, "I was in the B-29 that flew over Tokyo on VJ Day while they signed the peace treat at noon."
He and Ruby worked together to compile the Mason County Graves and Cemeteries along with Jane Hoerster. They worked to locate and identify sites even when there was only one grave. They identified hundreds of graves. Many miles and many, many hours are invested in this book.
Julius worked diligently on the Mason County Veterans Book I and Mason County World War II Veterans Book. To find all the names and families for information was not an east feat.
They also have identified all the post offices in Mason.
He was the Editor for the History of Mason County Texas Through 1964 by Margaret Bierschwale.
Julius and Ruby transcribed the diaries of Lucia Holmes, a principal eyewitness to the events of the Hoo Doo War who put thought in writing.
He has written many individual articles of people and places of which I do not have space to cover. He has worked tirelessly with editing and research in numerous settings.
He has sat on many Symposium panels sharing his expertise.
They are now working on all schools from 1858 to present. As I walked into their room Ruby was at the desk going over newspaper clippings. One tiny clue leads to another.
Their next venture is to be all the past and present businesses of Mason.
Julius said, "Once you begin research you can't stop. I just got immersed deeper and deeper in Mason County history. I was given a diary by Jane Hoerster to read. The diary was given to the Historical Commission by the daughter of Claud Reeves who had lived in the Streeter area. He died in 1906. It was so exciting to read of the daily life then. How they even collected the rain water for further use."
They both spoke of their love for the Hilda Methodist Church. Ruby was confirmed there and Julius became a member in 1947 and he has served in many lay positions. Julius now drives to Hilda every Sunday morning to ring the church bell before services. He said, "I've done is since Mr. Silas Kothmann passed away." How many excuses could be found for an 87 years of age person for not making that trip? It is called commitment. He is the author of One Hundred Years of the Hilda (Bethel) Methodist Church and Parent Organizations, 1856-1955.
Julius told me, "I'm not much of a joiner. I belong to the Historical Society and The Historical Commission, VFW and the Hilda Community Club." I thought, not a joiner but a doer. I personally know he drives to Mason every second Tuesday for the Historical Commission meeting.
He told me, "History is not just dates and places. That's why it's so boring to the youth. They are into action. History has plenty of that. It is realizing you are a part of it. When each person passes from this earth, a bit of history dies with them. Talk to your family. Tell them the old stories. How else will they know?
There again was the glint in his eyes, "I think I must have been a Celtic clansman at one time. I love everything Irish and Scottish and that is not my background. I like the unexplained encounters along the way. The unexpected things you happen upon. By chance? Who Knows? Of well, it's a thought. History is in every life."
He said, "I only wish we could have traveled more. I just love to see everything. I must have gotten my wanderlust from my Dad. He always wanted to see what was on the other side of the hill."
Julius DeVos has contributed must to the preservation of Mason County history. He is a force to be reckoned with in relating and capturing the enthusiasm of history. We might ask ourself this question, if all others knew of Mason's history was in my hands what would they know? Ouch. When you put the combination of Julius DeVos and Jane Hoerster together you have living history books. Our local library archives and the museums in Mason are ours for the time taken to use them. Thanks Julius.