On April 23, 1928, Paul "Dick" Bickley died suddenly at his parents' home at 1138 Second Street in Sandusky. Although you won't find his name on a list of war dead, Dick Bickley was a casualty of World War I, "the war to end all wars." (!)
Dick Bickley was born in Sandusky on August 1, 1892, the son of Charles and Elizabeth Bickley; he lived with his family on Second Street. It was a large family -- three sisters and five brothers. When he reached adulthood, Dick went to work, first as a clerk in the Manhattan Clothing shop, then into the factory, like many men of the time. By 1917, Dick Bickley was a machinist in the Dauch Manufacturing Company factory on First Street, working on farm tractors and motors.
Although Americans were experiencing peace and relative prosperity, all was not well in the world. Since 1914, Europe had been trapped in a terrible, stalemated war; by 1917, the United States of America could no longer resist the pressures to enter this foreign war. Like thousands of other young American men, Dick Bickley left his home and work in Sandusky, and entered the Army.
Private Paul J. Bickley (known as Dick by his friends) entered service with Company K of of the 329th Infantry in September 1917; in June of 1918, he was sent to Europe with the American Expeditionary Forces to join the fight.
Around October 9, 1918, death approached Dick Bickley in a trench on the front lines, although it didn't finish its work until nearly ten years later. Like thousands of other men on both sides of that war, he was victimized in a poison gas attack. It was most likely mustard gas that wounded Dick Bickley, although many gases were used in the Great War, including phosgene and chlorine gas. The principal effects of mustard gas are severe burns and difficulty breathing. Discharged from the military in May 1919, Dick spent much (if not all) of his remaining service time in hospitals.
Even after he returned to his homeland, his war injuries kept him from spending much time at his home. He travelled to several government hospitals in the United States for treatment. It was only in his last year of life that Dick Bickley was able to live consistently at home. Despite the destruction of his body, his spirit remained strong, as we can see in the memorial article a friend wrote for him in the Sandusky Register (April 24, 1928): "he had a sunny disposition and it carried him through many a siege of sickness." It seems that his death was quick and merciful.
Dick Bickley's story is one of many personal stories preserved in the collections of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. Although he was not wealthy, highly educated, or well-known beyond his circle of friends, his story is an important one. If you have records documenting other important community stories, please consider donating those materials to the Sandusky Library.