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Herbert Pittman of Supply has been around the world, and seen and done things in days gone by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren may have never known about.
He has boxes of pictures from his days in the U.S. Air Force on the beaches of Guam, the marketplaces of Turkey, the deserts of Libya and the rice paddies of Southeast Asia.
He has official records from his military career and mementoes of his family and job that he’s saved over the past 50 years. He wants his four children, their children and their children’s children to know about his life.
That’s why, more than a year ago, Pittman made the decision to contact Dalene Bickel of Lasting Legacies in Hampstead to put his lifetime of memories into a book his family members can treasure long after he’s gone.
Bickel, who has been working as a personal historian for the past two years, said recently that Pittman’s book is pretty typical of what her clients ask for—a personal history from childhood to retirement.
She says Pittman and other clients become more and more comfortable as she goes through the interview process and soon find themselves remembering things they didn’t realize.
She conducts between six and eight one to two hour interviews and takes all supplemental information such as photos and documents to include in the book.
Pittman’s interview sessions were successful, she said.
“As always happens, once they get into the first interview, they really get involved in it, and more and more memories just start flowing. They’re always surprised at how well they remember.”
“I thought it was fabulous,” Pittman said of the finished product. “This was a great thing. Dalene is a tremendous person who knows just how to get things going.”
The book, “Beyond Bellamy’s Crossing: The Life of Herbert J. Pittman,” traces his life from birth in a rural farming community outside Lumberton through 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, serving as an administrator and supervisor in various bases throughout the country and halfway around the world, to his second career as a postman and his retirement to Brunswick County.
For Pittman, the traveling was the best part of his military service, and it’s something a farmer’s son from Bellamy’s Crossing, will never take for granted.
At the ripe old age of 19, Bellamy was sent to Korea, setting sail aboard the USS Pope from San Francisco. The voyage took two weeks.
In Korea, he served as mail clerk and later working with classified information. During his time off, he worked with the chaplain, delivering clothes and food to orphanages and refugee camps.
The book tells all about life in Korea, before moving on to his marriage in 1953 to Evelyn Brown, whom he met when he was 18 and she was 14.
The couple had four children along the way, and the book tells the stories of the way the family struggled to make ends meet before Herbert was assigned to Guam, where his second daughter was born.
The book features various pictures of the two years the family spent in Guam, where sunshine seemed abundant and the family seemed to enjoy living near the beach.
Soon after that, however, he was sent to Ankara, Turkey, leaving his family home in Laurinburg. He saw more things than he’d never seen before and even got a Turkish driver’s license. He kept menus with odd regional listings like broiled brain and cold roasted tongue.
His next assignment was in North Africa, which he found to be one of the hottest places he’d ever been.
The book features a photo collage of various things in Libya including people riding donkeys, plowing fields with oxen and carrying baskets of food on their heads.
He spent much of that time writing letters to Evelyn, including a heartfelt poem called “Darling wife Bernistine,” her middle name. He sent home gifts as well, including four leather camel saddles for the kids.
Many pictures of his children, Gwendolyn, Victoria, Daniel and James, also fill the book, from black and white pictures of them taking their first steps to proud graduation pictures and portraits of their own families.
After spending his career as a military man, then a civil servant with the post office, in 1989, Pittman and his wife moved to Brunswick County, where they had owned property since 1970.
“A church was trying to get going, and I thought God was leading me here,” Pittman recalled.
In 1990, the couple built their house in Buccaneer Hills, and Pittman took on various part-time jobs including mowing lawns and working for a business supply company. He still works hard for the Shallotte Church of God, which is now in the midst of raising money to pay for the landscaping and paving for a new building.
One thing that’s on his mind more than work, however, is his granddaughter, Holly Ann Southern, who’s now in the U.S. Army serving overseas. Her husband and two kids await her return at their home in Georgia.
“I thought it was miraculous,” he said of her choice, noting the military is a great way to instill discipline.
“I learned to cope with things,” he said.
The military also afforded him a book full of unique, colorful memories that he is proud to share with his family for generations to come.
“People, especially older people, don’t want their lives to be forgotten. They want to know that their lives mattered and will be remembered,” Bickel said. “This is a great opportunity to pass on what they’ve learned to their descendants, and not just to their descendants but to the community, as well.”