My Third Great-grandfather, Dr. Benjamin Carter, wrote in the early 1800s from his cabin on Carter's Creek, Tennessee:
"There are few persons but who desire to know something of the history of their ancestors. Yet there are but few who can trace back their ancestors to more than the second or third ancestory. And I myself am not able to tell you anything relative to my Great-grandfather or Mother. As far back as I can go is to make you slightly acquainted with my Grandfathers and Mothers, and I do hope that some of my children will continue this imperfect History which I have commenced, and not leave their offspring in the same state of ignorance relative to their ancestors which we find ourselves."
My Grandfather on my Father's side, Wallace E. Durst, created giant parchment scrolls and extensive typewritten notes detailing our family history.
I have always been very close to my two older sisters, Dana Jeanne Durst Grassi, and Mary Margaret "Peggy" Durst Stromenger. People ask me why I moved from Hawaii to New York City. It was because they live here.
Dana lives in New York City with her husband, Robert Grassi. They are both retired senior VPs of HBO.
My sister Peggy divides her time between Florida, where she lives with her husband Phil, and New York City. Peggy is a professional tennis player.
Here I am sandwiched between Dana, on the left, and Peggy, on the right.
They are keeping me from falling over.
Here is the family, with my Grandmother, Mary Lesey Pope, in the middle.
Virginia Cartall (1921-1996)
My Mom, Virginia Cartall Durst was born in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Her Dad died while her mom was pregnant with her.
Her Mom, Mary Lesey Pope, moved the family to Marfa, Texas, and became a teacher.
My Mom met and married my Dad while he was stationed in Ft. Hood, Texas.
Mom's brother, my uncle Louis Cartall, MD, and his family, are very close with us. Louis recently died on his large ranch near Austin, Texas, 5 days shy of what would have been his 92nd birthday. He had a great life.
He put himself through school and graduated from the University of Texas in 1939 and from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston in December of 1942. Upon graduating he joined the U.S. Navy and completed his internship at the Naval hospitals in Spokane, Washington, and Oakland, California. He was assigned to the 7th Fleet in the Pacific as Medical Officer on the Destroyer USS Charrette (DD581), where he served during 1944 and 1945. On August 3, 1945, the USS Charrette captured and boarded the Tachibana Maru, a Japanese “hospital” ship suspected of carrying troops and arms. As ship’s Medical Officer he was one of a small boarding party that crossed over to inspect the Japanese ship. When below deck Dr. Cartall and his Marine escort quickly discovered that the hundreds of allegedly sick and wounded Japanese soldiers were in fact combat-ready troops; the ‘bunks’ were actually cases of weapons and artillery shells! Dr. Cartall was awarded the Order of the Purple Heart after being seriously injured that day when a beam pulled loose from the Japanese ship, hitting him in the back and crushing several vertebrae. For his 1945 report on the boarding of the ship, click here.
Dr. Cartall and his family moved from Marfa to Del Rio in 1948 and went into practice. He later spent his summers for three years at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, training in trauma surgery. Dr. Cartall was a beloved physician to the people of Del Rio for more than 40 years, during which time he delivered more than 4,000 babies, performed countless surgeries and saved the lives of many. He was known by his peers as one of the best diagnosticians in Texas and was frequently called on to mentor young physicians starting practice. In 1989, Louis and Deb moved their primary residence to Dripping Springs but maintained a presence in Del Rio, as they founded Visiting Nurses of Del Rio, a home-health care enterprise with more than 800 employees. While Deb ran her business, Dr. Cartall, who was not ready to retire, opened another practice in Dripping Springs where he worked until the age of 78 when he officially retired, although by the volume of calls and visits to his home by former patients for medical advice and moral support, it didn’t seem like it. He was “doctoring” and teaching medicine to his family and friends to the end of his life and will be missed by thousands whom he helped over the years.
He was very active in the civic affairs of Del Rio, serving on the Del Rio Independent School Distict School Board for many years. He was a life member of the Rotary Club, a 32nd Degree Mason, the Chief of Staff at the Val Verde County Hospital, served on the Vestry of St. James Episcopal Church, and was a long-time member of the San Felipe County Club where he was a scratch golfer.
Louis's wife Debbie and her two daughters, Mary (also a doctor) and Teri, live in Texas.
My cousin Bryan
Cartall is a trial lawyer with his own firm, The Cartall Law Firm, in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife Rebecca He is an expert on train litigation, and specializes in FELA cases. We work on cases together.
Louis's daughter, Cynthia lives in Texas with her husband Charlie Robinson, where she carries on the name of a long line of Cynthia Carters.
My Dad, Col. John Edmond
My Dad graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Physics in 1940, and was an officer in the Army Artillery during the war.
My Dad was in the second class to go through the Ft. Bliss Army Missile School, and graduated second in his class.
As a young child, I was as likely to hear "Little John", "Honest John" (antiaircraft guns),"Nike Ajax", "Nike Hercules", "HAWK" and "Thor" (antiballistic missile weapons and rocket booster systems), as I was to hear Amos and Andy or Bugs Bunny.
My Dad spent lots of time at White Sands Proving Range, testing new rocket designs. He is one of the early pioneers in rocket science.
In 1958, my Dad was transferred to the North American Air Defense Command ("NORAD") in Colorado Springs. It was the first year of NORAD's existence, and my Dad was one of 15 officers in the Future Plans Department, responsible for planning the US and Canadian Air Defense System for the future 15 years.
My father died in 1987. Reagan had started the SDI, or "Star Wars", defense program in 1983. I asked my father, then retired for 13 years, what he thought of it, and he said "we just couldn't get it to work." He didn't think that the current administration could get it to work either.
The problem was obvious - you can shoot down one missile, maybe, but you can't shoot down a mass attack. So neither side can survive a nuclear attack.
The Bush Administration has changed that policy. It is a potentially cataclysmic reversal of fifty years of nuclear deterrence - a policy which I'm proud to say my father played a role in creating, and which is being reversed by Bush, much to the chagrin of the old school weapons men.
While my father was working at NORAD, he found the time to coach our 9-10 year old Little League baseball team, the Philco Phalcons. We came in second place in the State of Colorado.
Rita Kathryn Durst Blum (1921-
My father's sister is Rita Kathryn Durst. She is alive and well in Framingham, Mass. Goes to show what clean living, working for good causes, and a liberal political approach does for a person.
Kathryn Blum (1951-
My cousin Kathyrn is the daughter of Rita Durst. She is a Nurse Practitioner in Newton, Mass. Her husband John Castillot is a Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical School. They have three kids, Michael, Ben and Jenna. Michael graduated from Brown in 2005, Ben is a student and star soccer player at Tufts, and Jenna goes to Andover.
The picture shows four generations of Durst Women: cousin Kathryn, Aunt Rita, Grandmother Jeanne Marie Mouledoux, and my Great Great Great Grandmother.
My closest cousins, Bryan, Cynthia, Kathryn and her brother Michael, and I share a similar 60's generation background.
My cousin Michael, Kathy's brother, now called Mukta, was one of the early devotees of the Krishna Consciousness movement in Boston, and now sells flowers in Pennsylvania.
My cousin David Blum, born October 1, 1949, passed away in Massachusetts on September 16, 2000. It's a source of great sadness.
Col. John Edmond Durst, Col. Wallace Edwin Durst, and Col. Wallace Durst, Jr.
Wallace Durst, Jr.
Dad's half brother, was a test pilot and pilot instructor in the Air Force.
His daughter (my cousin) Cathy graduated from the Air Force Academy and was a test pilot and commercial pilot as well.