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Kenneth Armand Parmalee
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Santa Fe New Mexican, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009

World War I Dog Tags
RETURNED TO SOLDIER'S FAMILY

Memento found in Texas woman's estate makes its way to Santa Fe man

By Anne Constable, staff writer

Sante Fe, N.M.-- Ken Parmelee was sitting under his portal in Santa Fe last March when he got a phone call that led to the recovery of a family memento.

Jim Walters, a newspaper editor and Parmelee family genealogist from California, said he thought that Parmelee's father's World War I dog tag had been found among other items in the estate of a Big Spring, Texas, woman.

Soon the dog tag arrived in the mail, registered and certified. Stamped on one side of the quarter-size, coin-shaped tag was "Republique Francaise" and on the other, Kenneth A. Parmelee, the number 773238 and the letters A.E.F., which stand for Allied Expeditionary Force. There were two holes punched in the tag so that it could be hung around the neck on a leather strap.

"It was just an amazing thing to think that this thing is 90 years old and that it survived 90 years and somehow came back around to me," Ken Parmelee said. He added that he plans to pass it on to a nephew who shares the same name.

Parmelee said his father left his home in St. Albans, Vt., at age 16 or 17 to join the Army and was sent to France, where he drove a supply truck. Parmelee's mother, described as a "great Irish raconteur," often said her husband had had "a damn good time in France." Apparently he struck up a friendship with a 17-year-old French girl and brought food to her family.

After returning from the war, he went to law school in Washington, D.C., and worked as an assistant to the librarian of Congress, who would force him to go on weekend outings to Civil War battle sites, reportedly ruining his social life.

Eventually, he moved to the fast-growing city of Gary, Ind., where he was known as "the most eligible bachelor in town," met Ken Parmelee's mother and married her. He died in 1963.

His dog tag was among the items Jim Wood found this year as he was sorting through the estate of a maiden aunt. Wood, who was her executor, said he knew her all his life, and "she never left Texas."

The only way Parmelee thinks the dog tag could have ended up in her possession was the possibility that his father had mustered out of the Army at a Texas fort and the two met. But he doesn't know for sure.

Wood, who lives in Texas and Golden, Colo., apparently searched online, hoping to find a descendent of the owner of the dog tag. He found thefamilyparmelee.com, a Web site operated by Walters, whose [grand]mother is a Parmelee, and contacted him.

The Parmelees founded Guilford, Conn., after immigrating from Lewes, England, a small town south of London, in the 1630s.

Walters, who had once done Ken Parmelee's genealogy chart and had interviewed both Ken and his wife, Carole*, when they lived in Washington, D.C., started searching for him among the 16 Kenneth A. Parmelees known to be living in the U.S. He eventually reached the one in Santa Fe, the man he was looking for because he knew that he and his father shared the same name.

When he reached him, Walters told Parmelee, "You've got to call this guy. Just trust me."


* Editor's note: Ken's wife, Carole (Clemens) Parmelee, was the personal secretary of Secretary of State Edmund Muskie during the Iranian hostage crisis.