Toby Oothoudt never knew his father, U.S. Navy Radioman 1st Class Marvin Dewayne Oothoudt.
Toby was born in Minot three weeks after his father was killed in action in World War II.
Marvin Oothoudt lost his life at age 20 on Oct. 24, 1944, when the Japanese destroyer Harukaze sunk his submarine, USS Shark II.
The submarine was lost in the Bashi Channel, a strait between the Y'Ami Island of the Philippines and Orchid Island of Taiwan, said Toby.
Toby, who lives in Ohio and last visited Minot in 1992, said he didn't have much involvement with his father or his history for many years, until 1990.
"In 1990, my interest took a new turn and my father and his memory took on a much larger role in my life and with my involvement with USS COD, it has continued to grow," he said.
Toby is on the board of directors and vice chairman of the USS COD Submarine Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio.
"We maintain the Gato class USS COD submarine as a memorial to the more than 3,500 officers and men who gave their lives for their country while serving aboard U.S. Navy submarines during World War II," he said.
He's also an active member of the Historic Naval Ships Association.
Toby and his aunt (Marvin's sister) Nona Mosvick, of Mendota Heights, Minn., recently visited with The Minot Daily News about his father and her brother.
Nona's brother, Dennis Oothoudt, who lives in Minot, said he doesn't remember his brother Marvin. Dennis was only 3 years old when Marvin died. Another brother, Kipton Oothoudt, lives in Luck, Wis. The other Oothoudt siblings are deceased.
"My mother told me the basics about my father, but at exactly what age, I can't remember," Toby said. "We didn't talk about it much, although by the time I was a teenager, I understood who he was and what had happened. Beyond that, I really didn't have much involvement with him or his history. Growing up, going to college, marrying and raising kids combined with the fact that I lived so far away from the rest of the Oothoudt family, pushed his memory into the background. I did, however, have the artifacts, including his medals, papers and other memorabilia, that mom had saved for me. My grandfather had two sets of uniforms (blues and whites, plus a Dixie cup) that for some reason my father had sent home from his locker in Pearl Harbor and I had those as well."
Nona said her brother, Marvin, was five years older than her.
"In most ways, he was a typical boy growing up," she said. But she said he did spend time helping their mother with chores around the house and caring for the younger children. There were seven children in the Oothoudt family. She said their father worked for the Great Northern Railroad and often was out of town.
Marvin went to Minot High School and was active in football and on the track team.
"Right after Pearl Harbor, Marvin and two of his close friends enlisted and became very patriotic right away," Nona said. She said they enlisted before completing their senior year.
"I can remember the day they left. We didn't have room enough in the cars. We all couldn't go so I stayed home. The last thing my brother said was 'you're a good girl." He left Minot from the Great Northern Depot, now the Minot Amtrak Depot.
Marvin and his friends went into the service before graduation but still got their diplomas.
"My father persisted and they were awarded their diplomas from Minot High School," Nona said.
Nona figures Marvin's interest in ham radios when he was a teenager had much to do with the job he had in the Navy.
"When Marvin was in his teenage years his greatest interest was sending and receiving messages on a small ham radio. This probably prepared him well as a radioman first class in the Navy. I was thinking he probably was doing messages when the airmen were rescued and the sub was hit," said Nona.
"He was my big brother and I looked up to him. Actually, he was my hero long before he became a war hero," Nona said.
Toby's mother, the former Maxine Joyce Pruyn of Minot, graduated from Minot High School in 1943. She and Marvin Oothoudt were married in July of that year.
After Toby was born his birth name is Marvin Dewayne, same as his father's his mother lived in Minot with his father's parents, Maynard and Ella Oothoudt.
Then on Nov. 25, 1944, a Western Union delivery girl knocked on the door, Toby said. "Mom answered it, expecting a telegram from my father telling her that Shark II was back in Pearl (Harbor). Mom told the girl, a Minot High School classmate, that she had been expecting the telegram.
"The girl, who knew what was in it, said, 'Not this one, you haven't.'
"She handed Mom the envelope and when Mom saw the black stars on the envelope she knew my father was dead, rather than 'missing in action' as the telegram stated."
Nona said she remembers when they were notified that Marvin was missing. She said they first received a telegram explaining he was missing and later two or three people visited their house to let them know that it was clear the submarine was lost.
"It was such an emotional time I barely remember it," she said.
She said a newspaper in the eastern part of the state ran an article erroneously reporting the submarine had been discovered "We were led to believe he (Marvin) was saved, but it was not true. It got all of us happy and then we were let down again," she said.
The ordeal was very hard on the family. "My mother just about literally turned gray overnight." Nona said. Nona was 14 or 15 at the time.
Nona said her mother received a Gold Star Mother's pin.
The gold star lapel pin is furnished by the Defense Department to the family members of a soldier who lost his or her life while in active military service.
The family also had a Gold Star for their window, she said.
A service was held for Marvin in St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Minot and the Navy presented a flag to Marvin's mother.
There's a marker for Marvin in the Veterans Section in Rosehill Memorial Park in Minot.
After Marvin's death, Toby and his 19-year-old mother lived in Minot until the spring of 1945 when they moved to Portland, Ore. His mother married Jack Tomkinson, also a World War II Navy veteran, in 1945 and the family moved from Portland to Monroe, Mich., Jack Tomkinson's hometown. Maxine now is in a nursing home in Monroe.
Toby grew up in Monroe and graduated from Michigan State University. He has lived in Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver and Florida, but spent the majority of his life in the Toledo area. He is a writer, director and producer, working mainly in advertising. He also has written six feature-length screen plays. Currently, he's working on syndicating a nostalgia radio show called "Yesterday, Today." He and his fiancee, Louise Fender, live in Toledo.
A few years ago John and Bruce Abele contacted the USS Cod Submarine Memorial in Cleveland, Ohio, for some information about Gato class boats after the submarine USS Grunion was found 3,000 feet down in the North Pacific. The Abeles' father was the submarine's captain.
"John Fakan (late president of the submarine memorial) asked me, in an off-hand sort of way if it were possible, would I like to find Shark II," Toby said. "My response was I know where Shark II is and can see no purpose in seeing the wreckage sitting on the ocean floor. It would not alter the facts, nor would it bring my father back to the world. I am comfortable with knowing that he is with me in spirit and shall be always."
A North Dakotan also was on the Grunion. Sidney Loe, of Sanish, was among the crew of 70 sailors lost at sea in 1942 during World War II when the submarine apparently was in a confrontation with the Kano Maru, a Japanese ship. A marker is in place in his memory in Sanish Riverview Cemetery.
Marvin Oothoudt's short life and sacrifice for his country and family have been a life-long inspiration to his son Toby.
"I would like people to know that my father and millions of other young men and women of 'The Greatest Generation' considered it a sacred duty and the highest of honors to have the opportunity to defend their nation. They certainly did not want to leave family, sweethearts, wives and children, but there was no hesitation, no soul-searching or moral ambiguity over what they were doing. And while my father's letters to my mother were full of his hopes and dreams for their life together after the war was won, he had no doubts about the worthiness of the cause for which he was fighting.
"That said, I have worked with and met many active-duty men and women and I can tell you without exception that they are every bit as dedicated to serving this nation as were their parents and grandparents before them. One only has to have a tour of a U.S. Navy missile boat (as I have) by a torpedoman first class to understand how fortunate we are to have people like this defending our shores and way of life.
"Politicians of every stripe prattle on about how much they love this nation and how dedicated they are to preserving our freedoms, but it is those who freely wear the uniform who, although they have every right to say so, consider it unseemly to have to speak about the obvious.
"It is important to note here that those left behind in war carry an enormous burden, a burden that during World War II was carried mainly by women. It was these women, living with a constant undercurrent of fear and dread, who maintained homes, kept families together, worked in defense plants and who in millions of letters, kept the promise of a life together after the war as a brilliant beacon of comfort for their heroes standing in harm's way.
"For women like my mother, for whom the ultimate nightmare became reality, the war is not over, it will never be over, it is a lifetime of loss that years cannot mitigate.
"In the end what I would like people to know about my father is simply this:
'Greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.'
John, Chapter 15, Verse 13
Now an Oothoudt relative, Toby's second cousin Ethan Adams, of Wilmar, Minn., is pursuing a career in the Navy with submarines. He's at submarine school in New London, Conn. "Since his family told him about my father, he has become very interested in what he did during the war," Toby said.
Toby now is hoping to attend the commissioning of the USS North Dakota, a submarine that is being built and to carry North Dakota's name.