William Henry Oliver was born on February 22, 1896 in Albany, New York to Louis Oliver and Mary Oliver (née St. Onge).1 Louis Oliver was born in May 1868 in Quebec, Canada.2 He immigrated to the United States in 1880. Mary St. Onge was born in July 1871 in Quebec, Canada, and immigrated to the United States in 1884. Louis and Mary married sometime around 1887 and had their first child, Georgiana, in January of 1889.3 They had two more daughters before William was born—Mary (1893) and Rosa (1894). William also had two younger brothers, Arthur and Raymond.4 By 1900, the Olivers lived in Albany, New York and rented a house.5 Louis Oliver worked as an iron moulder, and Mary Oliver worked at home. Both of his parents were literate.6 In 1905, William Oliver was about eight years old, and he attended school, as did his sisters Mary and Rosa.7 His sister Georgiana, who was sixteen in 1905, worked as a shirt maker.8 By 1915, William Oliver was nineteen and worked as a printer.9
William Oliver registered for the draft for World War I, as seen here, in Albany on June 5th, 1917.10 He enlisted May 25, 1918 at the age of twenty-two.11 Oliver started as a Private, leaving the US on June 30, 1918.12 He was part of the 2nd Pioneer Infantry, serving with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in Bordeaux, France.13 General John J. Pershing, the general-in chief of US forces, led 667,000 men in France by May 1918 when the AEF “began its first offensive engagements.”14 Pershing emphasized “open warfare” which entailed training inexperienced AEF troops to use modern warfare technologies.15 One of the largest and bloodiest battles the AEF fought in was the Meuse-Argonne offensive, in which more than one million AEF soldiers participated in 1918.16 While we are not sure what role Oliver played in Bordeaux, he received an honorable discharge on June 5, 1919 when he returned to the United States with the rank of Corporal.17
By 1925, Oliver married Margerite Greagan.18 While there is not much documentation on his marriage with Margerite, in 1930 she resided with her mother and sisters despite being married to Oliver.19 She worked as a stenographer in a lawyer’s office.20 In 1940, Oliver was divorced, still working as a printer and living in a house that he owned.21 On February 3, 1943, Oliver announced his engagement to Palma M. Ferraro, who is buried with him in Florida National Cemetery.22 Palma had been a “superintendent and administrator of the Leonard Hospital since 1928” and planned to resign her position at that hospital on February 20, 1943, which was the date of their wedding.23 Palma graduated from the Ellis Hospital School of Nursing in Schenectady, New York, in 1921 and she did post-graduate work with pediatrics at the Boston Floating Hospital before going to Leonard Hospital in Troy, New York as an assistant in 1927.24
In 1942, William Oliver registered for the World War II draft at the age of forty-six, as seen here.25 This was known as the “Old Man’s Draft” for those who were born between April 28, 1877 and February 16, 1897.26 These men were not expected to enter the military, but might have been asked to do national service if needed.27
Palma remained active in the nursing community. In August 1943, she helped supervise a drill with the members of the emergency hospital unit that set up casualty stations in which volunteers could practice in case of an incident such as an enemy bombing on US soil.28 In September of 1943, the chief of the Emergency Medical Service of Rensselaer County appointed Palma as the head of the medical property office of the Emergency Medical Service of Civilian Defense.29
William and Palma moved to Florida, probably at some point after 1969, when Palma was recognized for twenty-five years of work with the Rensselaer County Red Cross Chapter.30 They followed a larger trend of Sunbelt migration that “boomed in the decades after World War II.”31 While we do not know much about their later life, they likely retired to Florida. William Oliver died on January 10, 1988 in Pinellas County, Florida.32 Palma Oliver passed away on February 18, 1990 in Pinellas County, Florida.33 They are buried together in Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida.34
5 “1900 United States Federal Census.”
7 “New York, State Census, 1905.”
14 Mark Ethan Grotelueschen, The AEF Way of War: The American Army and Combat in World War I (Cambridge: Cambridge Univesity Press, 2007), 25-26.
15 Ibid., 31.
16 Ibid., 3.
17 “New York, World War I Veterans’ Service Data.”
26 “World War II ‘Old Man’s Draft’ Registration Cards,” Fold3.com, last modified June 15, 2017, https://www.fold3.com/title_765/wwii_old_mans_draft_registration_cards#overview.
30 ”County Red Cross Chapter Elects Bentley Chairman, Presents Awards.” The Troy Record, November 25, 1969 Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/58895175, (accessed July 24, 2017).
31 Edward Glaeser and Kristina Tobio, “The Rise of the Sunbelt”, Southern Economic Journal 74 (2008): 611.
34 National Cemetery Administration, "William Henry Oliver," US Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed July 28, 2017, https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/NGLMap?ID=3314057; National Cemetery Administration, "Palma M. Oliver," US Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed July 28, 2017, https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov/NGLMap?ID=2103557
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