Photo credit: Abby Van Thullenar
I can't help but use the words from my first book's title, "So, It Happened Like This."
The current book that I am writing has two main characters, Levi and Chloe. Levi's roommate is Van and I have several photos of the two of them, taken between 920 and 1929 when they were both in their 20's. It hit me recently that maybe Van's family had photos of Levi since I have so many of Van. I turned to social media and made two choices of females that were possible descendants.
I am a genealogist so I was pretty sure that at least one of them would be a hit. Turns out that they are both related to Van and are also Aunt-Niece to one another. Abby, the niece, who is Van's great-granddaughter, responded first. Gotta love the youth and technology. She enjoyed the photos that I had of Van and then mentioned that her great-grandfather had been a meteorologist. Yes, he certainly was.
My research showed that Van had been an active member of the American Meteorological Society and in their bulletin No. 4, Volume 58 from April 1977, they listed all that Van had done in his career with the Weather Bureau. I think his highest achievement was becoming the Director of the National Severe Local Storms Research Project (NSLSRP) in Kansas City.
I find it very interesting that the Van that I "know" through researching his life in his early twenties, offers a glimpse into the importance of the man he was to become in the future. His full name was Clayton Van Thullenar and Levi called him either Van or Clay.
At 21 years of age, Clayton accompanied Levi to Bolling Field, July 4, 1925. They were looking at the Martin Bombers from WWI era, which at that time were only a few years old. Levi captioned the following photo, "Clay wants to be an aviator." Little did he know that Clayton, or Van, would oversee the program that sent planes near and through severe storms, collecting data in order to assist in storm prediction.
Since I live near the Gulf Coast of Florida, I am personally grateful for Clayton Van Thullenar's contributions to severe storm detection. This takes me back to the latest conversation online with his great-granddaughter, Abby. Abby shared the American Meteorological Society's article that I sent with her dad, Clayton's grandson. She wrote that he jumped up from his chair exclaiming, "NOW I KNOW WHAT THAT MEDAL IS FOR!" It turns out that the silver medal that the Department of Commerce had presented to Clayton in 1963 for "long and distinguished service in the field of meteorology and for valuable contributions through top level technical leadership in the development and implementation of forecast programs" has been hanging in his office for several years. And now Abby's dad knows the story behind the medal. Congratulations again Van, and thanks!