MORE THAN a half-century after Pvt. Jacob Augustus Ely disappeared in the Korean War, the Army is searching for him -- and might have already found him. The Baltimore-born soldier's bones could be among the remains of Americans recovered in recent years from the distant war zone, but the Army can't say yet. A crucial piece of the forensic puzzle is missing.
It's the DNA from a soldier's maternal side, mitochondrial DNA, that makes the identification of his remains possible, and the Army has no record of such kin for Jacob Ely. This column constitutes an appeal to anyone out there who can trace their bloodlines to a woman named Adelaide, who was born a Swartz, lived briefly an Ely, and died possibly a Taylor.
Jacob Ely's father was a Baltimore firefighter named Howard Oliver Ely. His mother was Adelaide Swartz. They lived on South Robinson Street in East Baltimore at the time of Jacob's birth, Aug. 17, 1916. Ely's father was hospitalized in 1920 and might have died at the time; census records show 4-year-old Jacob Ely being placed in foster homes that same year.
The Army had no further information on Jacob Ely's mother. In 1936, when he joined the Army, he listed his foster parents, not his mother, as next of kin.
Ely served this nation for several years, in two wars. He re-enlisted in the Army in 1945. He was listed MIA in Korea on Nov. 28, 1950. He left a wife and two daughters. Fifty years later, as U.S. teams gained more access to North Korea in an attempt to locate and repatriate the remains of some 8,200 American servicemen listed as missing during the war, Army researchers stateside tried to locate relatives of the MIAs.
They were able to find, among others, Jacob Ely's widow and one of his children, Ellen Ely Rice of Cumberland. Though they could provide little of the crucial information the Army needed -- names of relatives on the private's maternal side -- they offered one clue.
"We were told by his wife that his mother, Adelaide, had remarried and borne about seven more children," says Starr Ossman, a researcher for the Army. "Her married name may have been Taylor at the time of her death."
That's where the trail ends.
For now at least.
If anyone out there thinks they're descended from the maternal branches of Pvt. Jacob Augustus Ely's family tree, please give us a call at 410-332-6166, or e-mail at TJIDAN@aol.com. Maybe some day this long-gone soldier will finally come home.
The cell phone sell
TJI reader Sharon Sirota Rubin, having sensed something small and unsavory in a billing statement mailed to her home in Pikesville, files this one under "corporate chutzpah," which is a nice way of putting it.
"I signed up with Cingular for a cell phone on their `Special Olympics' plan, which gives you a decent plan if you contribute $20 to Special Olympics. It seemed like a good idea. The Cingular sales person said I'd be billed for the contribution.
"On my first bill, there was no charge for Special Olympics. But on the second bill, the $20 donation to Special Olympics is listed as an `adjustment to previous balance,' and it's marked as a `past due balance' with a $5 `late payment fee.' So they managed to take an honest charitable contribution, and back- bill it to add on a late charge fee! I called, and they adjusted the bill, but frankly I'm just appalled. How many customers didn't read their bills and just paid the $5?"
And then there's the even larger, more troubling question: How many more unnecessary cell phones did this promotion put into use?
Hold the basil and cheese
Can we all agree that few things are as satisfying as a fresh, juicy, cold tomato eaten au naturel and au jus over the kitchen sink -- or should I say zink? Can we just go ahead and acknowledge that our pathetic lives don't get much better than that? Biting into a tomato while standing over the sink is a life-affirming experience. There's nothing to be embarrassed about.
I've checked with Joey Amalfitano, chief of the cultural affairs desk, and he says everyone has permission, here at the finale of tomato season, to bite into a big one while standing over the kitchen sink, shaking salt on the succulent fruit after each ravenous chomp. It's a Maryland tradition. "If the juice drips down your arm, you're allowed to lick it, too," Joey says, and I agree.
Been there. Done that. Stained the T-shirt.
I read Susan Reimer's column in The Sun the other day. It was about her passion for tomatoes. This is how she said she eats them: "There are scrambled eggs with basil and sliced tomato for breakfast. A tomato sandwich on sourdough bread for lunch, with a sliver of Asiago cheese and some fresh ground pepper. For dinner I can choose from a dozen tomato combinations over pasta. Served with tomatoes and cucumbers vinaigrette, of course."
And that's all fine and Martha Stewart-dandy. If you had to cater a lunch for the cast of a Merchant Ivory film, that's how you might serve the tomatoes.