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This biography is dedicated to the Grandfather I never knew.

Lyle Van Volkenburg


Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg “The Lip” – Pilot Army Air Force

I am a student of Sociology and Psychology. I have spent the greater part of my life learning about others, helping people and helping their families. As life progressed for me, I neglected to learn about my family before many of my elderly relatives began dying. The fact that there were a lot of dysfunction and skeletons in the closet within our family is an understatement. It is common for older family members to avoid discussing their history because it can evoke negative memories. The cousins merely drifted apart.

The internet has allowed me to reconnect with some of my known cousins and with some cousins that I never knew or met. Time has faded many of the bad memories to leave a new generation looking at the skeletons with fresh eyes yearning for our past and taking the good with the bad. The net has also made it easier to find valid records online about my ancestors. This has helped me piece together Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg‘s short life and given me a sense of the man my grandfather was and the hardship he endured.

Lyle Daniel Vanvolkenburg passed away 19 years prior to my birth. I had no real interest in learning more about him until 1997. This was when my first child was conceived. The idea of having a child made me question where she and I fit within our family and the world in general. The genealogy bug bit me. The bug bit me even harder when I recently had my DNA tested. It strengthened my biological relationship with Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg and the Van Volkenburg family in general.

Lyle was never discussed in my presence by any member of my immediate family. In my opinion, it was a case of denial to avoid generating negative memories. For those, like me, who never met Lyle, it was simply out of sight and out of mind. Lyle became a point of reference for family members as they moved on with their lives.

Like any family, there will be skeletons in the closet. Two varieties are available. There are documented Skeletons and the family lore skeletons that I like to call the hearsay skeletons. The documented skeletons are simply any written records that can be found. Hearsay skeletons are usually a mixture of photos, documents, family gossip, and family traditions that have been handed down between family members. The Hearsay Skeletons typically lead me to the Documented Skeletons. To me, the truth lies somewhere in between.

I will make an effort to keep the family hearsay to a minimum. However, I will interject my own speculations regarding certain things that make sense in a chain of events or things that I question. I found that some of the facts I discovered left me with more questions about Lyle’s life than the answers I received. I am open to re-interpretation and rewrites.

Lyle’s death was commemorated by the government with a mock funeral five years after he was assumed dead. At that time, my mother Darleen Van Volkenburg and her sister Nancy Van Volkenburg were very young. Their knowledge of Lyle was limited to what they were told by the family and government. Lyle’s body was never recovered. The government placed a small grave marker in Arlington Cemetery, Washington DC for Lyle and his three crew members involved in the crash. What little my mother may have known never got passed down to me.

I began to question my mom about Lyle. She did not know much about him. I reached back a generation and had a conversation with my great Aunt Thelma Van Volkenburg. Lyle Van Volkenburg was her brother. Aunt Thelma was a little guarded due to the family skeletons. Although it may have caused her a lot of negative emotions, she was kind enough to provide me with enough information to begin to piece Lyle’s life together. Unfortunately, I was busy with my own life and didn’t spend enough time talking to her. I had two discussions with her about her brother and family. The third time I called her, she never answered. I then learned Aunt Thelma had passed away.

What I did discover is that Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg had a life that was emotionally complicated and he was a War Hero. I do not think the family ever realized this or they would have spoken about him more. I know for a fact that my mother, his daughter, did not realize this. She just knew him as her daddy who went off to the war and was killed.

As I gather new facts or need to make corrections, this page will be updated. I also realize there is a lot of information and can be quite boring. For me, I like to use the “read aloud” function that is found in most modern internet browsers. This helps me make sense of what I write.

Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg
Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg “The Lip” – Pilot Army Air Force


Lyle Daniel “The Lip” Vanvolkenburg was born to John “Jack” Van Volkenburg and Mildred A. Baker on the 20th of June 1916 in Niagara Falls, New York. Lyle was their first-born and only son.

Lyle suffered a lot of setbacks and tragedies in his life, but he never gave up his will to make something of himself. He was a smart and ambitious young man. He was motivated to achieve success and become the best he could be. He was able to become a decorated Flight Officer in the Army Air Force. He ultimately sacrificed his life for his country.

Lyle’s Parents

John “Jack” Van Volkenburg

Lyle’s father, Jack Van Volkenburg, was a Canadian immigrant. Jack was born on March 19, 1889 in Kennebec Township, Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada, to an unwed Mary Van Volkenburg. John’s birth registration listed him as an illegitimate child.

Jack and his mother, Mary Van Volkenburg, lived on the family farm with her father Sylvester Van Volkenburg. Jack had a rough childhood.

Jack’s mother, Mary, died on February 27, 1895, when Jack was 7 years old. Jack’s illegitimate birth left him in the care of his 66-year-old grandfather, Sylvester Van Volkenburg.

Sylvester passed away in 1901 when Jack was 12 years old. We are not sure where Jack lived from 1901 to 1910. On the 1910 and 1920 census, Jack states he moved to the US in 1904 and submitted papers for US citizenship. He would have been around the age of 15 when he immigrated to the US.

Jack declared on his 1917 World War I US draft registration that he served “2 weeks in 2 years” as a bugler in the Canadian Military. Back then you could serve when you were sixteen years old. This was a voluntary service at that time since there was no conscription. He most likely served between 1905 and 1910.

On the 1930 US census Jack reports he immigrated to the US. in 1910 and was naturalized. This means he would have been 21 when he became a US citizen. I believe he may have been going back and forth between the US and Canada to work. He was living and working at a factory in 1910 in Victor Village, Ontario, New York.

At some point between 1910 and 1912, Jack left his factory job in Victor Village, Ontario, New York, and moved to Niagara Falls. In 1912 Jack is listed living at 340 Main Street, Niagara Falls, New York. This area is long gone and is now replaced by hotels and the entrance to the US/Canada Peace Bridge. During this time, Jack was employed as a chauffeur. This is where he would meet his future wife.

Photo of John “Jack” Van Volkenburg – Photo Courtesy of Cousin Henry Palmeter
Photo of Mildred Baker and Howard Locker – The back reads “Sunday, April 25, 1915. Went down to Devil’s Hole. Came home up the tracks and nearly froze” – Photo Courtesy of Cousin Henry Palmeter

Mildred A. Baker

Mildred A. Baker, was born on November 4th, 1897 to Daniel E. Baker and Mary Dean(Dehn) of Potter County, Pennsylvania. Mildred’s father, Daniel E Baker, was a respected Constable for many years in Austin, Pennsylvania. He later became the Chief Deputy Sherriff of Potter County.

Mildred’s grandfather was the well-known Potter County, PA pioneer Amandan Baker. Amandan was a Civil War Soldier and the first to be buried in the Fishing Creek Cemetery in Potter County, PA. Local folklore has it that Amandan Baker haunts the cemetery to this day. His ghost has been seen carrying his war boots over his shoulder.

Mildred’s mother, Mary Dean (Dehn) died on April 17, 1909 at the age of 38. Mildred was 12 years old. Mary’s biological parents were Mary Tauscher and Michael Dean(Dehn). Mildred’s father was from Germany.

Side Note: Mary Dean was adopted by the prominent Charles and Caroline Tauscher. She went by the name “Mate”. It is unknown what became of Mary’s biological parents.

The Daniel E. Baker Family Moves to Niagara Falls


Daniel Baker remained Constable of Austin, Pennsylvania after Mary Dean Baker, Mildred’s mother, passed away. According to the 1910 census Daniel, Mildred, his two sons, and a married “housekeeper” were residing at 13 – B Rugaber Street in Austin, PA. The housekeeper was 36 year old Anna Vanetten and listed as married. Daniel was listed as a 40 year old widower.

Daniel ran for the 1912 Potter County Sheriff election. He lost the election. The Potter Enterprise newspaper states he most likely would have won, but attributes his loss due the catastrophe of the “Austin Flood.” Much of the town of Austin was lost due to a dam failure.

It is possible the family may have lost their home. There is a marker at the site within feet where his home would have stood. I truly believe if this did not happen that Mildred and her future husband, Jack, would have never met.

Despite losing the election, Dan was immediately appointed as deputy sheriff by the newly elected sheriff Ned P. Clark. In January of 1912, Dan relocated his family from Austin, PA to Roulette. PA to begin his new career. Mildred Baker was 14 years old at the time. Dan and Anna must have gotten married sometime in 1911 because the newspaper reported that Dan was moving to Roulette with his wife.

On or around August 28, 1913, Daniel resigned from his position as Deputy Sheriff of Potter County. Dan and his three children and Anna and her three children moved to Niagara Falls, New York. It has been said he moved there to become a police officer. Mildred Would have been 15 years old at the time.

I contemplate that Daniel was burned out living in a very small Town. His life and every move were aired out in the local paper. I believe he just needed a change for him and his children.

Jack Meets Mildred

It would have been between 1913-1915 that Jack met his future father in law, Daniel E Baker, and his future wife, Mildred Baker, in Niagara Falls, New York. There is no one left to tell me how they exactly met, so I have to go on the records at hand.

Jack was working as chauffeur when he first arrived in Niagara. Daniel took a job as a police officer in Niagara. Most likely Mildred stayed at home and watched her younger brother.

To recap, what we know is that Jack was a bastard child and the documented whereabouts of his father was unknown. Jack lost his mother at the age of 7. His elderly grandfather raised him from the ages of 7-12. We do not know where Jack lived from the ages of 12 to 15. We know Jack voluntarily served a couple of weeks in the Canadian Military prior to 1917. Jack makes his way to the US in 1904 at the age of 15. In 1910 at the age of 21 he was working in a factory in Victor, Ontario, New York. He then shows up in Niagara Falls, New York in 1912 at the age of 23 working as a Driver/Chauffer. He was living at 340 Main street which is now a park, hotels, and businesses.

When Mildred moved to Niagara Falls with her family, she would have been 15 years old. She and her family lived at 454 Elmwood Ave, Niagara Falls, New York. What we know about Mildred’s childhood. Mildred’s mother died when she 12. She remained living with her family. Her father was a well respected Constable. Her father moved the family from a small town to a large, bustling city where work was plentiful. I would love to come up with a beautiful love story between Jack and Milfred, but this is all I have. We do not know when or where they exactly met. We just know they met between 1913 and 1915.

Jack and Mildreds family lived about a mile from each other. There was a trolley that ran to their residences. There were many places for them to meet and hang out. Niagara was a thriving city.

Niagara Falls, New York has a rich history of population and commerce. Electricity had been in production since the 1880s. With the advance of the Second American Industrial Revolution, Niagara Falls grew tremendously between 1900 and 1920.

By 1900, Niagara Falls had 265 manufacturing plants of all types in the Mill District and 20,000 people living in the Village. It provided electricity for the residents of Niagara Village and the power plant became a tourist attraction. This converted Niagara Falls into a boom town. By 1920, the population of Niagara Falls had increased 160% from 20,000 to approximately 50,000 people.

Jack and Mildred were living in a modern world with modern conveniences for the era. Plenty of work was to be had. This would have been a great time and place for any young family. It must have been exciting for Jack, Mildred, and the children to live in the middle of the Village during this time.

*************************************************************Clean up Below

Doing the math, we know that Mildred became pregnant 2 months prior to her marriage to Jack. Mildred became pregnant in September of 1915. She and Jack got married two months later on November 3, 1915. Baby Lyle was born June 20th, 1916.

In 1915 Dan was found to be working as a Motorman for the International Railway Company in Niagara Falls. The family was living at was living at 922 Main Street.

454 Elmwood Avenue, Niagara Falls, New York at the time. The home is no longer there and is a vacant lot.

After Jack and Mildred were married, Jack moved in with her family and they were all living at 922 Main Street, Niagara Falls New York.

My thinking is that Daniel and Jack both worked as Trolley Drivers during this time.

The family continued to live there until Mildred’s death in 1923

Daniel Baker and Wife Pluma
Daniel Baker and Wife Pluma Photo provided by cousin Henry Palmeter

. The home is no longer there, but it was across from the historic Niagara Falls Armory.

At some point Daniel began dating Pluma Jones Turner. Pluma was a widow living in Potter County, Pennsylvania with her grown-up daughter Peral. Pluma was 4 years older than Daniel.

Daniel married Pluma Jones Turner on May 15, 1918 in Buffalo, NY. She was living in Mt. Jewitt, Pennsylvania at the time of their marriage. They both moved to Buffalo sometime after.

We know that Daniel and Pluma were good folks. It had been said that Pluma was steadfast in her Christianity. Mildred would have been around 16 years old at the time the family moved to Niagara Falls.

In 1920 the census showed Daniel and Pluma were living at 367 College Street in Buffalo. Daniel switched jobs at some point and was employed at The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in Buffalo as a Watchman. They also took in boarders to help pay the bills.

1917 The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company

Daniel Baker working at the The Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company was most likely the reason that his grandchild, Lyle, became interested in airplanes. Lyle later worked at the factory.

I can just imagine Daniel as the night watchman of the factory taking Lyle into the plant after hours to look at all the marvelous machinery and airplanes in various states of build.

The 1914 Niagara Falls, New York, City Directory shows Jack was living at 551 Fifth Street, Niagara Falls, New York as a boarder. There is no longer a house there and it is just an empty lot.

According to the 1915 New York Census, Jack was a lodger in a boarding house on 513 Walnut Avenue, in Niagara Falls, New York. This was just around the corner from the Fifth Street House he lived in previously. The census reported he was working as a Chauffeur. This would have been Jack’s first driving job and it would not be his last. Him living here must have been right before he married Mildred. She is not listed as living at the residence.

It is obvious that Jack moved to Niagara Falls to find work and be closer to Mildred. He must have had a good relationship with her father Daniel. Jack Van Volkenburg and Mildred Baker married on November 3, 1915, in Niagara Falls, New York. She was 18 and he was 26. We are not sure if Jack lived with Mildred and her father temporarily after the marriage.

It is interesting to note that the Marriage registry for Jack and Mildred lists Sylvester Van Volkenburg as Jack’s father. This was probably for appearance’s sake. Sylvester was Jack’s grandfather. It would have been embarrassing for Jack to say he did not know who his father was and to explain that he was an illegitimate child. The slang term in those days was “bastard” child, which carried a negative stigma, especially in the religious farming communities where he lived. People and churches, in those days, tended to look down on these children and their families. This kind of thing would have been part of the Town gossip.

Jack and Mildred ended up having a total of 5 children; Lyle, Thelma, Mabel and Margie (the twins), and Doris.

Jack and Mildred continued living in Niagara Falls, New York to raise their family. The census of 1920 shows the family living at 922 Main Street in Niagara Falls, New York. Jack was a mechanic at a local garage and Mildred stayed at home and took care of the children. Lyle was 3 years old, Thelma was 2, the twins were 1 year old, and Doris was just born in January of 1920.

Tragedy Strikes

Jack’s wife and the mother of his children, Mildred Baker Van Volkenburg, died on December 5th, 1923 in Lockport, New York. The family thinks that Mildred may have contracted tuberculosis and died at a sanatorium in Lockport, New York. We will need a copy of the death certificate to know for certain, but this is totally plausible.

Lyle was 7 years old at the time. It is unknown, at this time, how Midred died. Mildred is buried on her family plot, next to her mother, in Lyman Cemetery located in Roulette, Pennsylvania.

This tragedy left Jack to take care of Lyle and his 4 siblings. During this time Jack was traveling back and forth from Niagara to Roulette on the weekends. During the Week he continued working as a mechanic. He may have left the children with family members during the week so he could work. The local news shows the children visiting with various family members over the next couple of years.

Garage where Jack Vanvolkenburg worked and the family lived in the apartment upstairs. Photo from Google Maps 2023.

New Beginnings

Jack was a respected hard-working man. He was a provider for his family. He was most likely a proud man and did not want to have to depend on his in-laws and family members to care for his children. He probably did not want to move back to Roulette, PA since job opportunities were scarce.

At some point, Jack moved from Niagara Falls to Buffalo to work as a mechanic. In the 1925 Census, he was shown to be living with all his children at 728 Kensington Ave in Buffalo, NY. This was a garage with an upstairs apartment.

The family likely lived in the upstairs apartment of the garage while jack maintained the business downstairs. He had a lot of mouths to feed. The building still stands as seen in the photo.

This would have been the perfect setup for Jack and his children. Jack would get the children up and the children would have walked to the nearby school. Jack would just have to walk downstairs to begin his workday. Doris was the only child not in school at the time. She was 5 years old. Jack would have been able to handle watching her and working at the same time.

Jack and Olive

Jack and the kids would typically travel to Roulette, PA on weekends to visit family. The kids stayed overnight with various family members. This gave Jack the time and chance to strike up a romance with the divorced Olive Corsaw Yentzer. The pair were perfect for each other in regard to their circumstances.

A bit of Olive’s background. Olive was raised in Roulette, PA, and became pregnant by Charles Yentzer when she had just turned 12 years old. Charlie was a 33-year-old farmer at the time. In those days this was legal but still would have been frowned upon because he did not marry her, and their child was born out of wedlock. In this day and age, guys like Charlie are arrested for child abuse and statutory rape.

Olive became pregnant with their second child sometime in July 1904. Charlie and Olive got married 3 months later. This would have been a scandal at this time, in the religious community, that would not have been openly talked about. Charlie was 36 and Olive was 15 when they got married.

Olive and Charles had three children together. The first two children died. Those children were Eva Yentzer who died in 1914 and Berdina Yentzer who died in 1918. Both children happen to be 13 when they died. At some point, Olive and Charles divorced.

As you can see, both Jack and Olive were two emotionally damaged individuals when they met. Out of the union they would form, Jack got Olive out of Roulette and Olive could watch the children. Jack Van Volkenburg married on December 23, 1926, in Roulette, Pennsylvania. Jack was 37 years old and Olive was 38 when they married. Lyle would have been 10 years old at the time. Olive and Oleada moved in with Jack. Jack became the foster parent of Oleado.

Sometime between 1925 and 1930, the blended family decided to move to a house in the Village of Buffalo, New York. The 1930 census shows the family living at 342 Herman Street in Buffalo. Lyle would have been around 14 years old at the time. This photo is the house the family lived in and as it stands today in 2022.

Lots of positive changes were happening for the family during this time. Olive bought a commercial Truck for Jack that was listed in her name and therefore both ran a trucking business making deliveries. Jack would haul goods with his assistant and Olive stayed at home and took care of the children.

The house was in a wonderful commercial area. It was within walking distance of many businesses which Lyle would later form business relationships with.

342 Herman Street, Buffalo New York – The house Jack and Olive Van Volkenburg lived in

Lyle Coming into his own

Employment as a young man

Lyle was a hard worker. As a young man, Lyle worked the years between 1930 and 1932 at the Baltimore Fish and Oyster Company located at 792 Genesee Street in Buffalo, New York. Lyle was around 14 or 15 years old at the time when he worked there.

The business was only a 5-minute walk from the Van Volkenburg household. Mr. Flinter stated that Lyle was “reliable and trustworthy. A good worker and steady in his habits”.

Mr. Flinter and the business are long gone, but amazingly the building and sign are still standing in 2022. This photo was taken from Google Street View.

Photo of Baltimore Fish and Oyster Company
The Baltimore Fish and Oyster Company where Lyle worked as a young man

Lyle and his father were very enterprising men. Work was hard to find. They were living in the Depression era. Many people were unemployed and trying to make ends meet. Lyle and his father Jack started an Ice Station Operator business in 1932. Lyle was 16 at the time.

There was a lot of competition in this business. There were no government handouts in those days. You either worked or starved. Lyle would literally have to canvas and knock on doors to strike up business.

Running an Ice Delivery business was very laborious work. It consisted of sales, accounting, and physical strength. You had to work 7 days a week from early morning until late in the evening making deliveries.

Being the strong young man he was, I’m sure Lyle took on a lot of the manual labor while his father drove the truck. This type of work would have gotten him ready for his future military enlistment.

Lyle’s and Jack’s day consisted of getting up around 4 am to line up and pick up and load the 20 -100 pounds blocks of ice from the Culliton Ice Company located at 72 Jewett Street, Buffalo, New York. This was about a 10-minute drive from the family house.

The photo of the building with the murals on it was the Culliton Ice warehouse where the ice was held. This is exactly where Lyle and his father would have picked up ice. This ice warehouse took up the whole block.

After leaving the warehouse Lyle and his father would have delivered to their accounts which would have included, families, local businesses, and farm outside of the city. The work would last well into the late evening. He and his father would have had to work 7 days a week to keep customers happy.

Culliton Ice Company

Dark Times for Lyle

I’m sure Lyle losing his mother, dealing with teenage hormones, and being thrown into a blended family had taken its toll on him emotionally. It is known that the children did not like Olive. Lyle and his siblings really never had time to process the death of their mother or grieve properly.

It had been reported by some family members that Olive favored her son Oleado over Jack’s children and that Olive would not feed the girls. They would end up scavenging food from the trash cans. When Jack and Lyle got home from work, the girls were already in bed. Olive would say she fed them. It was also reported that Olive would allow her son have relations with the girls.

At some point, Lyle began to act out to the point he was sent off to a boy’s “refuge center” by the courts. I do not have access to his juvenile records, so we will never know what crimes Lyle committed as a Juvenile.

Lyle was sentenced to Randalls Island in 1933 for his bad behavior. This was an island used as a “refuge” that kept juvenile delinquents, and orphans, and there was an insane asylum on the grounds. It was known that the guards were drunk and abusive to the inmates.

Laverna Villone Van Volkenburg

Lyle Meets his future wife

How Lyle and LaVerna came to meet is speculation. There are a few possible scenarios of how Lyle and LaVerna could have met.

Both Lyle and LaVerna had families that lived in the Niagara Falls and Buffalo, NY areas. Their families possibly knew each other.

Laverna and her mother Jeanette Heintz Villone were living in Buffalo between 1930 and 1935. During this time, Lyle and LaVerna only lived 4 blocks away from each other. They may have gone to the same grade school and/or played together in the neighborhood. This is the most likely scenario.

Lyle could have met Laverna when he owned his Ice Station Operator business. Laverna, her mother Jeanette Heintz Wolf, and stepfather Henry Wolf owned and ran a 100-acre Dairy Farm at 527 4 Rod Rd, Alden New York. There was an ice house on the farm and they would have had to buy ice in order to keep the milk from spoiling. Lyle may have been their Iceman.

Whatever the scenario may have been, they met and fell in love.

Jeanette Wolf was my great-grandmother and this author remembers her telling how her daughter (my grandmother) Laverna would run off to Buffalo to meet boys. Apparently, Lyle, the Iceman was one of those boys.

Tragedy Strikes Again

Jack Van Volkenburg Death

On July 25th, 1934, Jack Van Volkenburg and his assistant were hauling a load of 100-pound bags of fertilizer. Jack lost control of his truck going down a deadly steep hill on NY Route 17 Known as Wurtsboro Hill. There was a sharp curve at the end of the hill and Jack could not get the vehicle stopped in time. The authority, at the scene, speculated that Jack ran the truck deliberately into the mountainside instead of endangering others. Upon hitting the embankment, the momentum of the 100-pound bags of fertilizer continued forward crushing the cab of the truck. The assistant was alive, but Jack most likely died instantly. Jack was only 45 years old. Lyle was 18 years old at the time his father died.

It was told to this author by my grandaunt, Thelma Van Volkenburg, that when her father Jack died, their stepmother Olive Corsaw Van Volkenburg abandoned the Van Volkenburg children. The girls were scattered among family and community members back in Roulette, Pennsylvania, and Port Allegany, Pennsylvania. Lyle remained in Buffalo with his grandparents Daniel and Pluma Baker.

Cousin Henry Palmeter clarified that his mother Marjorie went to work as a nanny for the Barron family in Port Allegany, Pennsylvania and her twin Mabel went to the Lawrence Gallup family in Port Allegany. this was done so the twins could finish high school together. They were close. Thelma went pregnant at the time and was sent to live at a sanitarium to have her son. We are unsure (at this time) where Doris ended up living.

Olive Corsaw Van Volkenburg later married Philip Kujaneck on March 29, 1936. They later divorced. Olive passed away in 1949 in Oswego, New York. She and Jack Van Volkenburg are buried in the same plot in Fishing Creek Cemetery (aka Durward Cemetery), Potter County, Pennsylvania. The family debates whether or not Olive really is buried there. The tombstone was never completed with her death date.

What now?

The Home where Lyle lived with his grandparents Daniel and Pluma Baker. 47 College St, Buffalo, NY Provided by google maps 2023.

1934 would have been an extremely rough year for Lyle. He was legally a man at 18 years of age and his world has just been torn apart. He lost his father, his stepmother moved, and his siblings were sent to Roulette, PA to live with family. Many people would have easily been overcome with depression and acted out at that age. Lyle could have easily gone down the wrong path. Lyle persevered through it all and came out as a stronger person. Lyle was driven to make something of himself.

Daniel and Pluma Baker
Daniel Baker and Wife Pluma Photo provided by cousin Henry Palmeter

Since the family Commercial Truck has been totaled and his stepmother Olive Corsaw Van Volkenburg left the area, Lyle had no means to keep the Ice Station Business going. Lyle moved in with his grandparents, Daniel E. Baker and wife Pluma Baker at 47 College Street, Buffalo, NY. He lived there for the next 3 years from 1934 to 1937. He worked, went to church, and continued visiting his sisters in Roulette.

Lyle Van Volkenburg worked for Dupont as a Cellophane technician for the next few years. He worked at the Yerkes Plant in Tonawanda, NY. The cellophane business really ramped up when the threat of war was percolating prior to 1939. Dupont made cellophane to package and keep military rations fresh. Daniel Kept this job at Dupont for the next few years. He would need it.

Dupont Plant in Buffalo, NY where Lyle worked.

While living with his grandparents, Lyle became an active member of the Churchill Tabernacle Church in Buffalo, NY from 1934 to 1937. Pluma his step-grandmother, most likely inspired Lyle to go to church. She was known to be a religious woman. Finding his faith would have been good for Lyle at the time since he was grieving the death of his father and the breakup of his family.

Churchill Tabernacle was a famous church in its day. A Franciscan Fiar started it in 1927 and broadcasted services over the radio airwaves. It was one of the first churches to broadcast religious services to a large immigrant Polish population. The broadcast reached Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Scranton, and Pittsburgh and farther out across much of the US to where the airwaves would reach.

Lyle was a faithful member of the church. He took part in the famous Churchill Tabernacle Choir. His voice would have been heard in the northern parts of the US at the time, as far as the radio waves would travel.

Life in the Fast Lane

Lyle on his own and another brush with the law

At some point, Lyle moved out of his grandparent’s home to live on his own. In 1939 he was found to be living at 245 Sherman Street in Buffalo New York. While living here he was arrested on March 31, 1939, for burglary and larceny of the Liberty Shoe store. Lyle was 22 at the time. It is not known what the outcome of those charges.

Here comes Baby

LaVerna Villone and her mother Jeanette Heintz Wolf Villone had a  tempestuous relationship. Laverna was acting out from the long and legally drawn-out divorce her mother and father went through. Laverna also did not like farm life. LaVerna grew up in the city. LaVerna remained most of her life in Buffalo and died there.

According to Jeanette, Laverna would sneak off to Buffalo. Apparently, it was to meet Lyle. Laverna and Lyle consummated prior to marriage. Laverna became pregnant sometime around June of 1937. She was 15 years old and Lyle was 21.

This would not have sat well with Jeanette. Jeanette and her husband Henry were well-respected farmers in their small farming community of Alden, NY. They were also well respected in their church at Townline Lutheran Church. They knew people would gossip.

Laverna being pregnant out of wedlock would have been a taboo subject in their community. Jeanette would not have allowed this kind of news to make it out into the community. I’m sure there were words between her and Lyle.

Jeanette never swore nor was she a violent woman. She had gone through enough violence in her life with her first husband, to where she avoided it whenever she could. She appeared a pragmatic soft-spoken farm woman, but when her dander was up she could give a look that would make you tell on yourself when you did something wrong.

I’m sure Lyle told Jeanette everything. Lyle had values instilled in him from his own family in which he would have taken responsibility for his actions and done what he thought would be the right thing. The right thing would be marrying Laverna.

Jeanette never spoke ill of Lyle or Laverna. She tried to protect them. She and her husband Henry Wolf took Lyle into their home to help him and Laverna with the baby. Jeanette would have had it no other way.

The Wedding

LaVerna Villone and Lyle Van Volkenburg were married at the Townline Lutheran Church on August 21, 1937. It would have been a fairly small ceremony of close family and friends. Since Lyle’s mother and father were already deceased it would have been mostly Laverna’s family present at the Wedding.

Laverna and Lyle Van Volkenburg would have most likely lived on Jeanette and Henry Wolf’s farm while Laverna was pregnant and in order for Jeanette to help her care for the baby. Soon after, Nancy Carol Van Valkenburg was born March 7, 1938.

On Their Own

Since Laverna did not like farm life, she and Lyle moved back to Buffalo. Lyle and Laverna were found in the 1940 census living in a boarding house at 83 Wadsworth Avenue, Buffalo, NY. There is no mention of their child, Nancy, living with them. This author knows that Jeanette was taking care of the child at her Alden Farm.

We do not know how long Lyle and Laverna lived in Buffalo, but Laverna became pregnant with their second child, Darleen, during this period. The family soon moved back in with their parents, Jeanette and Henry Wolf. Darleen was born on January 9, 1942.

Soon after Darleen was born, Lyle signed up and started his career with the Army Air Force. Laverna would stay back on the farm with her two children. That did not last long as Laverna yearned for the city life. Laverna began to leave the children with her mother and then finally moved back to Buffalo becoming estranged from her children and mother. Jeanette ended up raising Nancy and Darleen. Laverna ended up becoming an alcoholic and died living above a bar in Buffalo.

Culliton Ice Company

The War is Calling

Military Career

Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg


NameLyle Daniel Van Volkenburg
FromErie County, New York
BornJune 20, 1916
DeathSeptember 5, 1945
WarWorld War II
RankSecond Lieutenant
BranchUS Army Air Corps
Group40th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron
CauseDNB – Died Non-battle
Awarded★ Air Medal
Lyle Daniel Van Volkenburg

Click this link to see his Flight School Record

Lyle the Lonely Spy



Leaving a Legacy