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Words of Wisdom from the Descendant of a Survivor: ‘Stay Home and Play Your Banjo’

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The following is a guest blog post by Hope O’Keeffe, an attorney in the Library’s Office of General Counsel, and an ardent supporter of the Veterans History Project. To read a previous guest post about her family’s history of proud military service, go here.

A sepia photograph of a World War I era band posing in the front entrance of a building with their musical instruments. One man has a banjo.
John McLaughlin with a banjo and his band mates, U.S. Army, WWI. Image courtesy of Hope O’Keeffe.

This is my grandfather, John McLaughlin, quarantined during the 1918 flu pandemic. He had volunteered at 25 for WWI, but never made it out of the States because of the pandemic. Instead, he was quarantined at Camp Joseph E. Johnston in Jacksonville, Florida, where they trained troops and quartermasters for the Army’s Supply Corps.

Dad’s the one with the banjo, and watching him play it while I was sitting on his lap is my earliest memory. My brother, Tom, the family genealogist, reminded me today that none of the McLaughlins or O’Keeffes he has identified died in that pandemic.

Young boy playing a banjo, seated in a red reclining chair.
John McLaughlin’s great-grandson, Jeffrey, playing the veteran’s banjo. Image courtesy of Hope O’Keeffe.

Stay home and play your banjo. Your descendants will thank you.

Comments (3)

  1. You tell ’em, Hope!

  2. I had no idea that banjos ran in the author’s family. Hope, thank you for coming forward and sharing your family’s secretes! (BTW, very cute photo of Jeffrey.)

  3. Love this story!

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