Bayard Rundle TanksleyOctober 24, 1921 ~ November 8, 2017 (age 96)
Bayard Rundle Tanksley was born in Far Rockaway, in the Queens borough of New York City on October 24, 1921. It was the beginning of the “Roaring Twenties”, a great time and place to be born for one who would come to develop a fascination with history. Perhaps Bayard loved history because he lived through so much of it. One of his earliest childhood memories was of his sixth birthday party being preempted by the ticker tape parade for Charles Lindbergh in 1927. As a boy Bayard could gauge the daily progress of the Empire State Building’s rise into the skies above Manhattan, watch the New York Giants play baseball at the Polo Grounds, and see the Times Square premier of Al Jolson's “The Jazz Singer”, a new kind of motion picture with sound.
Bayard’s father, John Tanksley, was a manager for Macy’s department store, and his mother Bertie was a homemaker. He and his only sibling, younger sister Emma, attended New York City public schools. The innocence of Bayard’s childhood came crashing down with the stock market in October of 1929, and the eight-year-old boy witnessed firsthand The Great Depression. Life became hard, and in search of a better life Bayard’s father moved the family to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. But the culture shock was too much for his mother and she soon returned to New York with the two children, moving into his maternal grandmother’s home in Far Rockaway. Bayard spoke fondly of his grandmother, an exceptionally strong and smart businesswoman who supported the family by selling real estate. A photo from the time shows a young Bayard, already tall lean, looking stoically into the camera with a protective arm around Emma.
Despite the hardships of 1930’s America, there was time for fun. Bayard joined the Boy Scouts, and of course there was always sandlot baseball. The tall, lanky right-hander had a mean fastball and what he would later modestly recall as “a pretty good curve ball”. Baseball remained a love of his life. And when part-time jobs, chores, and homework were done he and Emma could ride the subway to Far Rockaway Beach for a nickel.
On December 7, 1941, life for Bayard, for America, and for the entire world changed forever. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought America into World War II. Bayard enlisted into the United States Navy and eventually boarded a train for the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, Illinois. He later trained as a signalman at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, becoming fluent with signal lamps, semaphore, and signal flags. He was assigned to the attack transport ship USS Ormsby (APA 49) stationed in San Francisco, California and was soon bound for the Western Pacific with the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet. In a historical irony, before heading to meet the enemy, Bayard’s ship made a visit to Port Hueneme, California, where he would decades later have a law practice and home.
As part of the “signal gang” of the Ormsby Bayard’s duty station was the signal bridge, the highest level on the ship. It was the perfect platform for him to become an eye witness to, and participant in, the greatest naval conflict in history. His ship brought soldiers and Marines to many battles in the island-hopping campaigns that eventually led to the Japanese surrender. As the war ended, a new chapter in Bayard’s life was about to begin.
Out of the war came one of the most important pieces of legislation ever enacted by the United States Congress: The G.I. Bill of Rights. Those fortunate enough to have survived the war now had the assistance they needed to attend college. Children of the Great Depression became children of the American Dream. With Uncle Sam’s help veterans entered colleges in droves to become doctors, engineers, teachers, and lawyers. Bayard, now a permanent California transplant, enrolled at Pasadena City College and Los Angeles City College, eventually earning an Associate of Arts degree, then the necessary preparation for his ultimate goal of law school.
While working and attending school Bayard lived in a Los Angeles boarding house, where the tall and handsome ex-New Yorker caught the eye of tall and pretty, and slightly older ex-Minnesotan Geraldine Connoy. Fortunately for future generations, Gerry was not quite as shy and retiring as Bayard, and the two fell in love. They were married in a small ceremony on June 23, 1948.
In August of 1950, Bayard and Gerry were blessed with a son, Thomas John. In steady succession Tom was followed by Jim, Marian, Kathleen, Gerard, Therese, and Ellen. While his young family was growing, Bayard worked days and attended law school at night. He graduated from Southwestern Law School, passed the state bar exam on his first try, and joined the legal department of Occidental Life Insurance Company in Los Angeles. After several years with Occidental Bayard began his own law practice which he maintained well into his 80’s. He called many Southern California communities home, including Sun Valley, Oxnard, and Port Hueneme.
Bayard Tanksley was the least materialistic of men, being more inquisitive than acquisitive. A shy and private person, Bayard had few close friends but was friendly to all he met. He treated everyone as equals and had a soft spot for the underdog. Bayard looked for the good in everyone, and usually found it. He measured his wealth in his family and was immensely proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and the pets he enjoyed throughout his life. Bayard’s most endearing trait was his legendary sense of humor, and it’s impossible for those who knew him to not smile when they remember him. He taught his children, by example, the values of love, loyalty, honesty, kindness, and contentment. He was not a religious man, but loved his Lord Jesus Christ, and spent many hours in Bible study and devotions. Those who knew Bayard are richer for it, and will miss him greatly.
...Family in the care of Erin Arteaga, Funeral Director
Honor Flight San Diego
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