S1c Melvin Irvin Shimer

Unknown Sailor

S1c Melvin Irvin Shimer

Melvin Irvin Shimer’s father died of stomach cancer in August 1928 when his son was six. The son, a brother, and a sister went to live at Tressler Orphans’ Home in Loysville, Pennsylvania 25 miles west of Harrisburg.

It appears that their mother, Alice, simply could not afford to care for them. She stayed in the area, and after Melvin was killed at Pearl Harbor, she received the $500 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania paid to surviving parents or spouses.

Melvin was born April 5, 1922 at tiny Saxton, Pennsylvania about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh. His father, William Roy Shimer, was a farmer. The mother was a homemaker.

The father died in Liberty Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania about 2 miles west of Saxton.

The three youngest of their children are listed in a 1930-31 book, “The Story of Tressler Orphans’ Home in Word and Picture.” The home had about 350 children and was supported by Lutheran churches. The Shimer children — Melvin, Gilbert, and Esther — were from the Susquehanna Church Synod of central Pennsylvania, the book said. In a sad reflection of the times, the 1930 Census identified the children as “inmates” at Tressler.

It isn’t clear how long the Shimers lived at the orphanage. It had schools and most students stayed until they graduated from high school.

Melvin Shimer enlisted in the Navy on Oct. 16, 1940. He was a seaman first class when he was killed on the U.S.S. Arizona in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Gilbert Shimer joined the Army on July 29, 1941 and survived the war. Their older brother, Roy, joined the Army on Nov. 30, 1942 and also survived WWII.

Sources: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania World War II Veterans’ Compensation Bureau; Census; grave markers; “The Story of Tressler Orphans’ Home in Word and Picture”; Pennsylvania death certificate. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

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