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Woman’s estranged dad turns up

Discovered in picture with Eleanor Roosevelt

Margo Bartlett of Delaware, Ohio, found this print of a Vindicator photo of her father and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in a tin of old family photos. The caption reads: "Mrs. Roosevelt and Laurence Bartlett, state supervisor, at the Youngstown Vindicator unit of the WPA Newspaper Index Project in the Youngstown Public Library, Oct. 27, 1939." (Submitted photo)

The black-and-white print in the circular metal container that holds the oldest jumble of her family photos surprised Margo Bartlett. It was of the father she hardly knew and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt examining issues of The Vindicator at the Youngstown Public Library in 1939.

Bartlett, now of Delaware, Ohio, welcomes any information beyond what the caption states: “Mrs. Roosevelt and Laurence Bartlett, state supervisor, at the Youngstown Vindicator unit of the WPA Newspaper Index Project in the Youngstown Public Library, Oct. 27, 1939.”

“It’s news to me that my father was the state supervisor of the WPA Newspaper Index Project, though his master’s was in journalism,” said Bartlett, herself a columnist and writer with ThisWeek Community Newspapers in the Columbus area.

Like his post with the Works Project Administration — an American New Deal agency established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to employ millions of Depression-era job-seekers to carry out public works projects — much of her father’s life is a mystery to her, Bartlett said. She knows that her father came from Painesville and assumes that her parents met as students at The Ohio State University in Columbus. Beyond that, his “absence from most of my pictures is striking.

“After his stint with the WPA, my father … who, like my mother, received a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Ohio State, went on to join the CIA. He, my mother and my older sister were in China on the cusp of the revolution — I know they fled from city to city — Shanghai to Canton, I think, and ultimately to what was then Formosa but what is now Taiwan.

“They returned late in 1950, when I was born and my father left,” she said. “I don’t really think I personally influenced his decision, though I suspect my gender did have something to do with it.

“My father told my mother he was leaving two days after my sister turned 3 years old. I had arrived in the world two weeks earlier and had no memories of him to forget or rearrange.”

Bartlett said after that, she grew up in Cuyahoga Falls.

“When he reappeared in our lives 10 years later, annoying and repentant (but mostly annoying), he was a stranger,” she said.

“Fortunately for us all, my mother, who may well have still loved him, had learned in the decade without him never to trust him again. He went away, and although I saw him once or twice after that, his lack of interest in my existence was undeniable. So much for the paternal influence. What I know of my father is that he looked like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“He was smart but foolish, from what I’ve both gathered and witnessed. He’s buried at Arlington National Cemetery with his second wife,” Bartlett said.

According to Arlington National Cemetery records, Laurence Holland Bartlett was born May 28, 1912, in Painesville and died Christmas Day 1966 at age 54.

“I was 15 when he died of a brain aneurysm,” Bartlett said.

Laurence Bartlett’s grave marker lists him as a captain at the headquarters for the 3rd Military Government Regiment during World War II.

Bartlett hopes some readers would be able to shed some light on the event in the photograph.

“I doubt anyone survives who would know him or his people personally. They’d recognize Eleanor Roosevelt, though,” she said.

Send information on Bartlett’s picture or send other Mahoning Valley mystery photos for readers to solve to Cole at the email address below or to Cole at the Tribune Chronicle / The Vindicator, 240 Franklin St. SE, Warren 44483.

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