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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Gentry experienced Pearl Harbor attack

  • Not all Hannibal natives who have provided first-hand reports of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, were in the military. The late Virginia Clayton Gentry recorded her memories of the attack in letters to her local relatives.
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  • Gentry experienced Pearl Harbor attack
    BEV DARR
    bev.darr@courierpost.com
    Not all Hannibal natives who have provided first-hand reports of the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941, were in the military. The late Virginia Clayton Gentry recorded her memories of the attack in letters to her local relatives.
    And 40 years later, Gentry combined some of the letters for a "Report on Pearl Harbor Day." This is being published today, along with a photo taken after Gentry retired and returned to Hannibal.
    This "Report" was provided to the Courier-Post by Susan Clayton Stark, Gentry's niece, who inherited the papers after the death of her mother, Marietta Clayton, Gentry's sister.
    Stark explained that her Aunt Virginia Gentry had taught home economics at Eugene Field School in Hannibal before deciding to join the faculty at the Kamehameha School, "a well known school in the mountains" at Honolulu.
    "She wanted something different," Stark said. Gentry also was joining a Hannibal friend, Dorothy Martin, who already taught at the school in Hawaii. Gentry stayed for many years, Stark added.
    Stark was 10 years old when Pearl Harbor was attacked 72 years ago today. "I remember my parents talking about it and being very concerned about Virginia," she said. "I remember my mother worrying about it.
    "It seemed far away," Stark continued. "I remember being alarmed and concerned. I knew it was something really serious."
    The Clayton family kept in touch with letters, and after Pearl Harbor Day, Stark recalled, Gentry wrote letters that "were censored, and whole sections would be cut out."
    Because the school where Gentry taught was in the mountains, Stark said, "It was several miles from Pearl Harbor, but you could look directly down on it."
    Gentry's "Report" mentions a baby being bathed at the school on Pearl Harbor Day. Stark explained that the school had a unique program to teach the Hawaiian girls home economics. "Every year a Hawaiian family would give a baby to the school for the whole year and the school used the baby to train the girls how to take care of a baby. The baby was living at the school and she (Gentry) had quarters there."
    Stark visited Gentry and stayed at the school after attending college. "I don't know how many students (were there), but it was a huge school and had a life skills program. It was quite an honor to have your baby chosen."
    In Honolulu, Stark said, "we went to Pearl Harbor and went out on the ship, and several ships that were bombed are still there."
    Years later Stark returned to Hawaii with her two children when they were young.
    Gentry returned to Hannibal after retiring from teaching in Hawaii.
    Page 2 of 2 - Gentry lived on North Seventh Street, Stark said, before her death in 1991. "She did a lot of volunteer work with the Levering Auxiliary. My grandmother came and lived with her."
    Stark and her aunt had a close relationship, she said. "We kept in touch, and she would come back here some in summer and would take a sabbatical. ... She loved to travel. And she was intellectually curious.
    "I have a lot of things in common with her, and we were always real close," Stark said.
    Gentry influenced Stark's love of cooking, which led to her writing food columns and publishing several cook books. She noted local people still talk about Gentry's recipes, and she uses her aunt's recipes "all the time."
    Stark's home also is decorated with keepsakes from her aunt. "I have things here she sent me from Hawaii, and Chinese porcelain," she said. "She was a big influence on me. ... She was very bright. She loved to travel by herself. She had more of a sense of adventure than I do."
    Kamehameha Schools campuses
    Kamehameha Schools website, ksbe.edu/campuses.php, reports the school was founded in 1887, and now Kamehameha Schools is a statewide educational system supported by a $9.06 billion trust, endowed by Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. The system includes K-12 campuses on Oahu, Hawaii and Maui, and 31 preschool sites statewide. The combined 6,715 preschool through grade 12 student enrollment makes Kamehameha the largest independent school system in the United States. Kamehameha Schools gives preference to children of Hawaiian ancestry to the extent permitted by law.
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