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The story of William Sisson Armstrong

William Sisson Armstrong died on Nov. 19, 1997, of complications following open heart surgery. Bill, as he was known to most of you, was born on Mar. 7, 1926 in Los Angeles, Ca. He was the only child of William S. and Vera SISSON Armstrong. Many of you became acquainted with him, as the earliest US representative for the Armstrong Clan. As the Clan grew in numbers, his job became unwieldy and was reorganized into geographical regions - with additional representatives appointed accordingly. He then continued to serve for several more years, as representative of the Northwest sector. His association with Ted Armstrong of Dumfriesshire, Scotland and the Armstrong founded there in 1970, extended over a 25 year period.

Bill's interest in genealogy was triggered by his older son, who came to him with questions concerning family history. As a social studies project that semester, each student was required to draw up a family tree, and if possible, trace his descent from the immigrant ancestor.

Bill knew little of his family's roots; his parents had divorced when he was 3, and there had been little contact with his father thereafter. He asked for help from his mother, and she provided him with information concerning the Sisson branch, and inter-related families. Also, she was able to give him the name and address of an Armstrong relative still living in Ottowa, LaSalle Co., IL. Bill wrote to this cousin. Marge MOULTON. Among the family treasures she had inherited by default, was an Orangeman's sash, embroidered with the number 921.

Bill then got in touch with the Ulster Historical Foundation and they were able to trace this number to a lodge of the Orange Order at Levelly School, Drumcose, in the parish of Devenish, Co. Fermanaugh. An examination of parish records of nearby villages revealed a date of Jan. 1815 for the marriage for William Armstrong and Sophia Armstrong (both had the same surname). Also included were the dates of birth and baptism for 9 children.

During the famine year of 1847, William and Sophia came to the US together with several of their children. Son, William S. came alone, leaving port two days before his parents' departure. (Ref. The Famine Immigrant Vol. 1, pp. 468 and 471).

Immediately after arrival at the port of New York City, they left for an area of Allegheny Co. PA, near Pittsburgh, where Sophia's brother, William Armstrong had settled earlier, and was then living. The family located nearby, and remained there until their deaths.

Their son, Andrew stayed in the area, but the rest of the family scattered within the US, or went to Canada.

The son, William, settled in Ottowa, IL in approximately 1853. This was Bill's ggf, a veteran of the US Civil War. Bill's gf was born, married and died in Ottowa. After Military service in World War I, Bill's father married a local girl, and within a few years, they left their hometown in IL for the West Coast.

Bill was raised in East Los Angeles, and graduated from Garfield High School in 1944. Within a couple of months he was drafted into the Army and served with the Signal Corps in the Philippines, on Okinawa, and in Japan.

He was returned to the States in 1946, and after a year of Junior College, chose to go back to the Far East, this time as a civilian employee of the Dept. of the Army Transportation Corps. While in Japan, he was a part-time student at Sophia University. He finished the final 2 years at San Francisco State College, where he received a Bachelor's Degree in 1956. His graduate work was done at the University of Michigan in a specialized program of Far Eastern Studies with concentrated courses in the history, art, language, and culture of Japan. He had intended to teach history at the high school or junior college level.

He was married in Ann Arbor on Sept 21, 1957 to Patricia WOOD. She was a third year undergraduate student from Brooklyn, MI, working towards a degree in Medical Technology. Bill received his Master's Degree in June, 1958. Thus, as we were later to quip, "He had gotten his Master's, and I my MRS."

For a year or so after his graduation, he worked as program director and announcer with KAFE, a small classical music station in San Francisco. Bill was unable to teach in CA, as he lacked several education courses required for a teaching credential. The job at KAFE was one with uncertain prospects. By then, he was responsible for a wife and two children - so he gave up his dream of teaching and re-entered government service for the career opportunities and security it offered.

When Bill retired in 1982, he had been an employee of the Federal Government for 30 years. Most of his career was spent in civilian personnel management. He had been hired by the Dept. of the Army as a position classifier; then through cross-training and development, he became familiar with and skilled in several aspects of the field. For approximately, he was acting Civilian Personnel Officer at the Sukiran Area Personnel office in Okinawa; he was chief of the Management Employee relations Branch at the Frankfurt Civilian Personnel Office in Germany; and later, a staff specialist in position classification for the US Military District of Washington. He ended his career at the Office of Personnel Management (previously known as the Civil Service Commission), where he was able to determine the knowledge, skill and ability to do a particular job at the various levels of proficiency, and following and analysis, write the applicable position and qualification standard.

He had various interests and hobbies: He knit sweaters of several styles, intricate patterns and textures. He built models - his finest being a nearly 3-ft replica of the USS Constitution, with rigging that worked. He was an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction, and often whiled away the time doing the NY Times Sunday crossword IN INK! His interest in and enjoyment of music ranged from classical and operatic, through folk music of several cultures, as well as rock groups such as Renaissance, Vangelis, or Yes. He was fond of the radio monologues of Garrison Keillor concerning "Tales of Lake Woebegone" - with references to Bertha's Kitty Boutique, the "sponsor" of that segment.

As remarkable as Bill was, he was somewhat "mechanically challenged". His wife cringed whenever he picked up the toolbox and went off to make some minor readjustment or repair to car or plumbing. She smiles, recalling several of his less successful projects. Clearly his gift and dominant talent was on the creative and artistic side.

In his retirement, he began a project that was to last until his death. It started quite modestly as a compilation of data gleaned from the Armstrong Surname Bulletin, from Clan membership applications, and queries appearing in the Armstrong Bulletin Board. His endeavor grew to include other sources such as Federal Census records; the LDS Surname Index; State and County vital records, probate and land records, etc. He began putting this information on 3 x 5 cards, filed alphabetically and in chronological order. As the files grew, the limitations of this system became apparent. His response was to buy a computer and learn how to use it. This took some time, and even more was needed to transfer the data files into the computer's hard drive. It all came together and became easily accessible when he installed FAMILY ROOTS, a genealogical data base system by Quinsept, Inc. It was like a new toy! He was continuously adding new material (much of it supplied by Bill Armstrong of Kingman, AZ) and was delighted when he could help others find their connections.

While friendly and open, he tended to be rather quiet. He was generous, warmly caring and considerate of others. His attitude was accepting and non-judgmental. He had a delightfully dry sense of humor, and a quick, yet gentle wit. Simply put, he was a kind and decent man - husband, father, or friend.

In addition to his wife, Pat, he is survived by two sons: William Scott Armstrong of Woodbridge, VA; and Kevin D. J. Armstrong, currently serving in the US Navy, and stationed at the Atsugi Naval Air Facility near Tokyo, Japan. Bill also leaves a half-sister, Lora Drew of North Bend, WA, and nephews and nieces in WA, MI, IL, CA, AZ and many friends.