Eugene Adams Strickland was born on a farm in Louisburg, Franklin County, North Carolina, on November 12, 1893. Baby boy Strickland was the seventh child of Elizabeth Ann Coppedge and Sidney Nicholas Strickland. For three years, the large family met challenges together, then tragedy struck.
In February of 1897, the children lost first their father, then their mother to complications of influenza. Elizabeth’s mother, Laura Coppedge, struggled to keep the children together or at least with family. But within a short while, the large brood found themselves torn apart. Sixteen year old Cleo took five year old George (my grandfather) and three year old Eugene, and joined her grandma in the household of William Coppedge, Laura’s son. The four middle kids, Luther (15), Norman (11), Polly (9), and Laura (7), were admitted to the Mason’s Orphanage in Oxford, North Carolina. George also went to the orphanage when he was old enough; but Cleo and Eugene remained in their Uncle’s home at least until 1900.
When Eugene was old enough, he hired himself out to local farmers, living with these families as he learned the machinist trade, and eventually found his way to Washington, DC, where he worked for Cragg Manufacturing. In 1917, the handy mechanic found himself drafted into the United States Navy. During his service Eugene was gassed.
No record exists of what the veteran did between his discharge and his enlistment in the United States Coast Guard in 1924, but once there, Eugene served as Chief Machinist Mate until his discharge in September of 1926. In 1930, the single man was working as a machinist in a garage in Manhattan, living at 3155 Broadway.
My father (1928-2006) remembered Uncle Eugene visiting the Strickland farm outside Chase City, Virginia in the early 1930s. It seems that this visit was the last chance Eugene had to see his family before being admitted to the Veteran’s Field hospital in Castle Point, Dutchess County, New York, with tuberculosis, around 1934. By 1940, Eugene had been transferred to the Veteran’s Administration Facility, in Millington, Somerset County, New Jersey.
Eugene Adams Strickland remained in one of these two Veteran’s Hospitals, until his death from tuberculosis February 25, 1953. His brother, George, was notified of the loss, by the Quartermaster General, who requested permission to conduct an autopsy before having the body interred in a national cemetery. Having consulted with Cleo, Luther, Norman, Polly, and Laura, George gave the family’s consent to this request, and on March 3, 1953, Eugene Adams Strickland was buried in plot 24, lot 147 in the Raleigh North Carolina National Cemetery. A marble headstone from Vermont Marble Company was put in place by July of that same year.
Sources for this story available upon request.