I am Pauline Joan Natividad and I was born in Southampton, England on 2nd January 1945. My parents were Dorothy Allison who served in The Women's Land Army, and Paul Natividad, a WW2 U.S. Army Medic. My early years were spent living at my grandparents home in Swaythling, Southampton with my mother, known as Pat, my Aunty Diann and my grandparents. My mother was one of six girls, the youngest being Diann.
When I was about three and a half my Mum married a Southampton man and we moved to a new home of our own. They had two daughters and we were a really happy family unit until my mother was suddenly taken ill. She was rushed to hospital one day while I was at school. In those days children were not permitted to visit hospitals. I never saw my Mummy again. She had a brain tumour and was only twenty eight when she died just a few days after being admitted. I was so confused and just eight years old. It was decided that my sisters would stay with their father and I would be raised by my Granny.
I missed my family so much, however, I did settle, moving back to live with my grandparents and Aunty Diann. My step dad, sisters and other family members regularly visited us. We enjoyed many happy memorable times spent together.
Around this time I was thinking more and more of my father. I had been told that he was an American soldier. My Mum referred to him as my 'Daddy Paul' but I had no idea where he was from in the USA or indeed if he was alive. I felt it was something I couldn't discuss with my Grandparents. I do recall one particular day, when I was about 10 years old. Without telling anyone, I walked around the corner from home to the local telephone box. I pulled open the big heavy iron door and took the Southampton phone book down from the shelf. I was looking for Paul Natividad in the Southampton telephone book! Of course he wasn't listed there. I must have thought the whole world was in that big book. I also looked on War Memorials in Southampton but did not understand that my American father's name could not possibly be there either! Some time later I went on a family holiday to Devon in the west of England. I must have thought it was another country because very soon after arriving I was heading for the local telephone box!
As I grew up I became conscious of looking different to my English family. I had dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin and a foreign surname. At thirteen Granny gave me a small jewel box that had belonged to my mother. I was so thrilled because it contained two photos of my father and also a couple of letters and greeting cards Paul had sent to my mother. One card was signed 'Kisses for Pauline from her Daddy'. The sentiment confirmed that my Daddy Paul had really existed. I was told that he worked with American doctors in a Hospital Unit in Winchester.
My curiosity was always there but I got on with life and was married for some years until reluctantly a divorce, in my late thirties. I moved into a home of my own and after a while put photos of my parents on my wall. I thought more and more about them and my need to know what had happened to my father became even stronger.
Back in the 80's I had no computer or Internet but was encouraged by two friends at my office to commence my search. One of the first things I did was check the details on my Birth Certificate. I discovered that my father's name, P Natividad, was on my Birth Certificate together with his US Army serial number, and his profession was described as a 'Copper Sampler'. I first contacted the American Embassy in London who referred me to The Military Personnel Records Office in St Louis, Missouri. I wrote to many Veterans associations and newspapers in the USA but all resulted in negative replies, or no reply at all. I also requested help from the Salvation Army, to no avail. I then spent months in local Reference Libraries looking for any organisations that may have been able to help. When trying to find out more about the name 'Natividad' we visited a Mormon Family History Centre in Southampton and learnt that 'Natividad' was a Hispanic name, there were lots in Mexico and more in the USA. I still didn't know whereabouts in the USA to concentrate my search. Months started turning into years but every time a lead seemed impossible we found a new path to follow. My dear friends Ann and Lynda, were incredibly supportive.
One evening Ann and Lynda came to my home and asked if there was anything more I could tell them about my father. They scrutinised the greeting cards and letters my Granny had given me. Lynda then asked why I thought my father's name was Paul. I felt quite indignant and told her everything I had was signed Paul and that I was named after him. Lynda had noticed the name on the back of one photo of my father was signed with inverted commas, 'Paul', suggesting 'Paul' was a nickname. I then considered the 'Copper Sampler' detail on my Birth Certificate. I went to Portswood library near my office and found an atlas with colour coded maps depicting mineral deposits throughout North and South America. There was a lot of copper in Mexico and more over the border in Texas and California. I then found international phone books in Southampton Reference Library. I listed around 150 'Natividads' in Texas and California. I also listed several more from other states. There was no Paul Natividad but I decided to compile a letter to send to them all asking for any information of my father.
My breakthrough came on 22nd November 1988. I had a letter back from St Louis advising me that many records had been destroyed in a fire, there was no information of Pilar Valenzuela Natividad. The Army service number matched that on my Birth Certificate. We had previously written for information advising the Army Serial number, together with the name, Paul Natividad resulting in yet another negative response. This latest letter from St Louis was giving me the name Pilar! For all those years I had been looking for the wrong name, Paul was a nickname. (My mother was in the Women's Land Army and she and her sisters all gave themselves nicknames, Pat was also a nickname, she was actually Dorothy)!
One of the greeting cards given me by my Granny was signed Paul V Natividad. I wasn't sure why, but as a child I thought that V stood for the name Victor. Many years later an Aunt told me my father was married and had a son called Victor. On 24th November 1988, I went back to the phone lists I had made and picked out three I just had a hunch about. A friend was with me when I decided to make some calls. Two had never heard of Pilar Natividad. The third was a Victor Natividad in El Paso, Texas. My friend then called Victor Natividad and explained that he was calling on behalf of a woman in England. She was searching for an American GI called Pilar Natividad who had been known to her family during WW2. Victor listened to all he was told and finally said 'Oh Boy'! From everything he had been told he said I must be his half sister! He then said it was Thanksgiving Day and that our father was alive and well, celebrating Thanksgiving with family in California. Victor told me all about our father and family then gave me the phone number for the address where my father was staying. A young person answered and said Pilar had gone to Arizona! I recall how I was cold and trembling once I finally had the phone number for my father. It was surreal. I was scared to make the call, petrified of rejection.
A few minutes later all those years of wondering were over. I was almost forty four and about to speak to my Daddy Paul. My friend made the call and asked my father if he had been based in Winchester during WW2. 'Yes he had'. Did he remember the 'Allison family' in Walnut Avenue, Swaythling, Southampton? 'Yes, he did', and did he remember Pat Allison and his daughter Pauline. 'Yes, again'. He was then told I had been searching for him for years, was he prepared to talk to me or would he prefer that I wrote to him. I was so scared and petrified of rejection. Maybe he didn't want to know me, but my father said 'please put her on'. It was just wonderful, so much to talk about, so much to say.
We finally agreed to write to one another and exchange photos. I would then make plans to visit El Paso the next Summer. This was not to be... The day after talking to my Dad, my wonderful work colleagues collected £500 for my air ticket! They wanted me to go to El Paso for Christmas. First I checked with my new family that it would be OK, then less than a month later I was on my way! I took 3 planes, London to Atlanta, Atlanta to Dallas, and finally Dallas to El Paso. The flights seemed to go on forever. I was so nervous, travelling alone, but also excited and filled with apprehension knowing that I was about to meet my father and American family. Victor and our sister Josie, were waiting for me in El Paso Airport together with other family members and friends. There were also some little children holding up a sign 'Welcome Pauline, we love you'! I scanned the group and spotted my Daddy Paul. I absolutely knew it was him and rushed across and just hugged him! What joy!
The next two weeks were so busy, getting to know my Dad and new family, together with Christmas, New Year, my nephew's Wedding and my Birthday! All that and our reunion! Dad introduced me as 'my daughter from Great Britain'! I soon learnt that my Dad was a WW2 US Army Medic based in Winchester and my Mum was in the Women's Land Army working on local farms. They met at a dance in Eastleigh and dated for some time. When my Dad was sent to Normandy to partake in the D Day Landings my Mum was already pregnant. They continued to stay in touch by letter. Dad said he later sustained a shrapnel leg injury. After initially being hospitalised in France he was transferred to Devizes in England to convalesce. He then saw me for the first time. As soon as he recovered he was sent back to France and subsequently returned home to his family in the USA.
My stay in El Paso was a life changing experience. I had no idea how bad I was going to feel when the time came for me to return home. I was devastated to be leaving my Dad, absolutely heartbroken. At that point I had no idea that Dad and his second wife Nina would be visiting me the following Summer. It was a wonderful experience to have them stay with me at my home in Southampton. So many people wanted to meet them including family, friends, neighbours and work colleagues! We went to Winchester, London, the Isle of Wight and some of the villages Dad remembered visiting during WW2. We also spent a few days in Cornwall. The highlight for me was to take Dad and Nina by ferry to Normandy. A truly memorable trip for all of us, ... That is another story!
I have been back to see my Dad and family regularly over the years. I'm fortunate that I have warm loving families both here in England, the USA and New Zealand. I love them all dearly, they are very precious to me. Now when I am asked where I am from, I have all the answers and a wonderful story to tell. There is no longer a void, the last piece of the jigsaw is in place, I am Pauline Joan Natividad.
Proud daughter of Dorothy, .... and 96 year old WW2 US Army Omaha Veteran, Pilar Valenzuela Natividad.
My beloved mother passed away on the 18th October 1953 and my father passed on the 30th July 2015. I returned to El Paso to attend a beautiful church funeral service for my father. This was followed by a Military Honors Guard, Flag presentation and Taps at Fort Bliss National Cemetery. A day I will never forget.
🎶'Yours to the end of life's story'🎶
Very sadly, GI TRACE was informed that Pauline passed away on 23rd October 2020
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