Based on the letters of Earl Philip Reinhalter (1922-1953). Edited by his son, Earl Philip Reinhalter (1950-).

Aftermath: The Family Carries On


      In the years to come, Yvonne would marry and have three children. Kitty, already married by 1953, also had three children. Phyllis (“Phus”) remained single, forever known by her nephews and nieces as their beloved Aunt Phyllis.

Yvonne, Phyllis (“Phus”) and Kitty. Year unknown.

      Loretta married twice more. She bore no other children, but was stepmother to several boys during her third marriage. She made up for quitting high school by earning her high school equivalency certification (GED), and then received a B.A. in philosophy from Pennsylvania State University (“Penn State”) on August 18, 1984. She was an extra in the 1998 John Waters movie Pecker, appearing briefly in one scene in which she walks up to a pizza parlor where there is a photo exhibition and looks in the window.

Loretta and Little Earl in February 1954 (colorized).
Notation on the rear of the photo says that it was 72°F.

Loretta on graduation day at Penn State.

In her later years, Phyllis was a secretary at a subsidiary of Koppers Company. Her
retirement party on September 28, 1978, was attended by a hundred coworkers and
family members. See the emcee’s notes for his amusing “roast”-type speech.

Phyllis (“Phus”) at her door in 1990. [Still frame from video.]

Yvonne in 2002. [Still frame from video.]

Kitty in 2002. [Still frame from video.]

At age 79, Kitty could still do a headstand. [Still frame from video.]

Loretta in 2002. [Still frame from video.]

Aunt Marguerite (right) snaps a selfie with her sister Caroline and “Little Earl”
at her photo studio in San Francisco, circa 1970-71.

Philip Jacob Reinhalter (“Phil”) (May 6, 1887 - August 5, 1958)

Earl’s father in Saint Agnes Hospital. He died there on August 5, 1958.

Obituary from the Baltimore Sun, August 5, 1958.

      The death of my grandfather, who I knew as “Poppy,” resulted in many changes for the family. Phyllis (“Phus”) moved out and got her own place. Also, the large family Christmas parties ended. The last one must have been in 1959. I recall that everyone was doing the twist, a dance craze which was popular that year.

      Eventually, Catherine Reinhalter moved out of 4408 Frederick Avenue and by the mid-sixties had bought at a house at 1252 Sulphur Spring Road in Arbutus. (The post office now considers that address to be in Halethorpe.) She lived there, along with Yvonne and her family, until her death in 1985. It was in this house that my grandmother first showed me my father’s letters, along with his Purple Heart.

From a February 14, 1965, real estate ad by A.L. Stromberg Co.

1252 Sulphur Spring Road, in a still frame from 1990 home video.

Catherine Evelyn Reinhalter (February 11, 1900 - April 26, 1985)

Obituary from the Baltimore Sun, April 28, 1985.

Meadowridge Memorial Park, 7250 Washington Blvd., Elkridge, Maryland 21075 - plot 6C.

      After Catherine Reinhalter died, Yvonne continued living in the house at Sulphur Spring Road for a time. Then, for several years she rented it out while she was living in California with a man she had met through correspondence and married. My father’s war memorabilia had been left behind, stored in a closet. Upon her return in 2001, Yvonne discovered that many things were missing, including my father’s home movies and Purple Heart medal. During my visits there in 2018 and 2019, I was also unable to find his original 1942 audio record (which I had fortunately copied to cassette years earlier). His correspondence course certificates, likewise, were gone. But the letters remained. Yvonne gave them to me, along with the album of my father’s wartime photos, on September 24, 2018.

Phyllis Marie Reinhalter (“Phus”) (September 4, 1913 - March 25, 1998)

Obituary from the Baltimore Sun, March 26, 1998.

Loretta Joanna Antczak (February 8, 1931 - April 30, 2012)

      Loretta died after a long physical decline. In her final months, she had been at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, followed by a stay at a rehab facility, which is where she died of heart failure.

Loretta (left) on April 27, 2012 - days before she died - with her friend Marian.

Catherine Christine Reinhalter (“Kitty”) (May 5, 1923 - August 8, 2012)

      Kitty died after a short battle with uterine cancer. Her body was cremated, and her remains interred at New Cathedral Cemetery.

Yvonne Cecille Reinhalter (June 9, 1935 - August 21, 2019)

      At the beginning of this story, Yvonne was the youngest member of the Reinhalter family. Eventually, she was the eldest, the last surviving member of the family that lived at 4408 Frederick Avenue during World War II.

      I last visited Yvonne on the occasion of her 84th birthday. Knowing of her love of cats, I gave her a musical card which had the sound of cats meowing the “Happy Birthday” song.

      She laughed and said, “That is precious.” Putting the card back in the envelope, she remarked, “And I bet it's my last one. I do. It's my last one.” Referring to the video that I was making, she added, “You can play that next year and remember what I said.”

      Two months later, she was in the hospital, followed by a week in a rehab facility, where she died on the morning of August 21st.

      Aunt Yvonne was the only one left who could answer my questions about early family history. Now whenever there’s a gap in this narrative, it may forever remain a mystery.

      There was one family secret that Yvonne revealed to me in the final year of her life. She was not the youngest child. Another daughter was born after her. The girl was unwanted. Her father either did not want to assume the burden of another child, or perhaps suspected that it wasn’t his. The family doctor raised her as his own until she died of cancer at age nine. Her mother kept a photo of the girl on her nightstand for the rest of her life.

Yvonne was cremated, and her ashes, along with those of her beloved cat Tipper, were interred near her mother’s grave at Meadowridge Memorial Park.

4408 Frederick Avenue as it looks today.

Like Father, Like Son?

      Like my father, I also served three years in the U.S. Army. Similarly, I joined the service rather than wait to be drafted, so I could choose my specialty. I wanted to learn electronics, so I opted for the Signal Corps. I too served in Asia, only this time the war was in Viet Nam. On the flight overseas, my plane made a refueling stop in Tokyo, and later in my deployment I took R&R in Sydney, Australia, so I partly retraced my father’s footsteps. Like him, I had an army buddy from Baltimore named Fred. By coincidence, Fred’s father was named Earl, while my step-father at the time (my mother’s third husband) was named Fred.

      My father was a graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. I attended the same school for one year, and likely would have gone on to graduate from there, but my family moved out of state and I finished high school elsewhere.

      Like my father, I am a light drinker and don’t smoke.

      I also like to take lots of photographs. And in the days before everyone had a video camera in their cell phone, I was frequently hired to record events with my camcorder, thus echoing my father with his movie camera.

      My father loved roller skating and ice skating. I generally didn’t go out for sports, but I did love to play ice hockey.

      Unlike my father, I was not at all interested in mechanics or airplanes. Although I was good at math and science, my passion was music. I started playing guitar at age nine, and eventually learned how to write songs and had my own band, performing under the stage name Electric Earl. My father, on the other hand, only played accordion “a little bit,” his mother told me, and had no interest in taking piano lessons, as kids in those days often did.

      One reason my father flunked out of Officer Candidate School (O.C.S.) was reportedly because his voice “lacked commandability.” As a singer, the same could probably be said about my voice, which may be why I never had much success as a musician.

      My father, according to his letters, had plenty of girlfriends. And he eventually had a wife and child. I, on the other hand, am still single.

      When I first began this project, I scanned all of the original letters into the computer, cleaned up the images with a photo editing program, and printed out the scans as a large book so that my Aunt Yvonne could more easily read them. Noting my attention to detail, she said that in this way I resembled my father. He would often say, she told me, “If you can’t do a job right, it’s not worth doing at all.”

“Little Earl,” photographed by Marguerite Kilroy (Aunt Marguerite)
at her photo studio in San Francisco, circa 1970.

“Little Earl” in the backyard with his first guitar, circa 1960. This is actually a “selfie.” The camera, sitting atop a step ladder, was operated by means of a string attached to the end of the guitar. The string can be seen in the lower right side of the photo.

Electric Earl on stage in January 2013. (Photo by Henry Tokar.)


The Kindle book includes Earl Reinhalter’s World War II letters; all 23 issues of the unit’s wartime newsletter “The Squadron Pulse,” which was originally edited by Leonard Stringfield; all 12 issues of the “Pennant Parade” newsletter that Stringfield published while sailing home after the war; complete text of the U.S. government booklet “Pocket Guide to Australia,” which soldiers heading Down Under were given to read; more than 200 photos; pre-war and postwar family history; and over 700 explanatory endnotes.


This page established: October 9, 2020             Last updated: May 5, 2023

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