Dan Fuller recently told us the story of his uncle. Ollie was Oliver Sommer, and he would call him Uncle Ollie since that is how he had always known him. Dan wanted to tell us a couple of stories about Ollie.
Uncle Ollie went into the Navy at the end of WWII. He also served in the Korea Conflict. Uncle Ollie was a little bit of a pack rat, so Dan was able to gather quite a bit memorabilia including training manuals, medals, and much of his clothing except for his dress whites.
Dan wanted to talk about two things he inherited from Uncle Ollie. The first was a double heart bracelet which is displayed in the museum. It was made from a downed Japanese Zero. Dan said it was not unusual for Navy guys when an enemy plane went down, they would salvage some part of it and the guys in the machine shop would make jewelry. Dan remembers his mother once had a single heart bracelet, but it had been gone for some time.
When Dan was going through the estate of Uncle Ollie, he found the double heart bracelet and knew immediately what it was because he could remember his mother’s so vividly. Uncle Ollie told Dan him that one time, he jumped into the ocean to salvage something from a Zero, and he didn’t know there was a fuel spill and he ended up getting burns on his legs from jumping into the middle of the fuel spill. That is something Uncle Ollie did as a young man that was wasn’t very smart thinking!
The other piece that Dan wanted to talk about, which was very personal to him, was Uncle Ollie’s Pea Coat. Dan was born on December 7th, and he thinks that date always resonated with his uncle and he had a little bit of a soft spot for Dan. When he went off to high school in Warrenton, he was having a hard time finding a coat he liked. Dan’s mother told Uncle Ollie about it, and he said he had something for Dan, and went and got the Pea Coat.
The Pea Coat he gave Dan was from early in his military career, and it fit Dan very well. He wore it every day in the winter in his Junior and Senior year. It meant a lot to Dan. He could always open it up and the name on the tag inside said who it belonged to, and so that gave him a sense of safety and security and Dan feels that, for some reason, his uncle always appreciated the fact that he wore that coat.
When Dan was gathering the items for the donation to the Museum, he felt it was very appropriate for that to rejoin the rest of the collection, that it kind of rounded it out.
Uncle Ollie was a cook in the Navy. He later became a chef for the Forum and Pope Cafeterias and actually had some of his own businesses. That is the way he reached out to people. Dan said his fondest memories of his uncle were going over to his house for Christmas and seeing a 7-layer rum cake or some other thing that he had spent all day making. That was his way of connecting with people. The St. Charles Community remembers him as Chef Ollie.
Uncle Ollie really slowed down after he lost the love of his life, Dan’s Aunt Naomi. But he continued to teach, continued to educate people, and continued to share his passion for food.
Thank you, Dan Fuller, for sharing the story of your Uncle Ollie. Want to hear more about Uncle Ollie? Come visit the St. Charles County Veterans Museum.