Andrew Stuckey is a black American veteran/hero who served his country through three wars. He wrote a book about his life called, Of a Black American Born. His wife, Marcelle Stuckey was captured by Nazis during World War II because of her connection with the French Resistance.
They are my grandparents, and their story is my story.
From when I was 8 years old to 13, my great grandparents lived with my family due to their Alzheimer diseases.
My great grandmother suffered from short-term memory loss and would tell us her life story repeatedly throughout.
Her real father ran out on her mother around the time she was born, and in his absence her mother remarried. The man she re-married was an abusive alcoholic.
At the age of 12, her mother passed away, and she was on her own as she had to raise her five brothers and sisters. She left school to work in a factory because her stepfather refused to take care of them.
Years later after finally escaping the grip of her evil stepfather, Nazi Germany took over France, including her hometown of Vesoul.
Germans arrested her brother, and a couple of days later, they came for her.
Both were imprisoned inside the Citadel of Besançon, which is a 17th-century fortress located in Comte, France. He was arrested and accused of being a member of the Forces Francaises de I-Interieur (FFI), and she was arrested for knowing the address of the man who denounced her brother, and for allegedly supplying the FFI with that information.
The German soldiers interrogated her, but she didn’t give up, as she tried to save her brother.
“They proceeded to beat me severely and pull my hair. With a special Baton, they hit me all over my body and paid special attention to my breasts and sole of my feet,” Marcelle said in a written note detailing her experience.
Listening to these stories as a kid was eye-opening. It’s hard to complain about not having the latest toys that my friends had when listening to the struggles that she went through.
After several months of imprisonment, the interrogators tried to trick her by taking her out of her cell and informed her that a friend would take her back to her hometown—she didn’t recognize the man. She escaped by using her knowledge of a coffee shop in Vesoul that they stopped at by walking through a door that only people who lived there would know about. She made it back home to her Family—everyone, except her brother Abel, was there.
The Germans sent him to a concentration camp and killed him.
She didn’t speak to her family about what had happened to her, because, “it was so unbelievable.”
My brother and I spent hours listening to these stories every time as if it was the first time we heard the story.
We tried our best to get the same stories out of my great grandfather, but he told us little about it. And despite the book about his life, he shared little about his experiences.
I looked up to him and would find reasons to be around him.
He grew up in Florida during the 1920s and 1930s. During this time, he endured racism, which forced him to leave for the Army.
He left to find equality.
Unfortunately, the military was segregated when he first joined, so equality wasn’t immediately found.
He shared little about what he went through during the wars; he joined a trucking company, and from historical research, black Americans were presented with this job, because the military believed that black troops weren’t as capable in combat as white troops.
His service took him to North Africa, and finally to France to where he met my great grandmother after the war.
They met at a dance, even though they both hated dancing.
Years later he wrote his book and continued to share his belief that, “people of unlike cultures can be friends.”
My great grandfather wanted to be better. There was no hate in his heart, even toward the racists who tormented him, and it’s because he never accepted racism or hate. Instead, he chose a life of love and understanding.
My great grandparent’s life story is in the back of my mind every day. They chose kindness and love despite living in a dark world that sometimes rejected them.
My great grandfather passed away in 2012, and my great grandmother in 2015.
But in me, their legacy lives on.