Claude Leonard Navy discharge paper

A U.S. Navy discharge document for Claude Mathews Leonard dated July 3, 1919, was found on Blanche Street in the Inverness Highlands on July 3, 2019 — exactly 100 years to the day afterward. The man who found it is curious about the veteran who served during World War I.  

The identity and whereabouts of the person who last possessed Claude Mathews Leonard’s July 3, 1919, Navy discharge document remains a mystery.

But thanks to a handful of Chronicle readers and ancestry sleuths, we know a few more details about the World War I veteran's life.

On July 3, 2019, Inverness resident Jim Griffin found Leonard’s Navy discharge paper near 314 Blanche St. in the Inverness Highlands after a Waste Management recycling truck came through the neighborhood.

After some fruitless searching of his own, Griffin called the Chronicle to see if anyone had any information — and a number of readers took to their computers and began searching, including Erick Eastes in Carmel, Indiana.

Eastes runs the website and Facebook page "Indiana and the Modern Age of War," which is "dedicated to telling the story of the men and women of Indiana who served their country during peace and war."

Here’s what those sleuths discovered:

Claude Mathews Leonard was born Jan. 23, 1894, to Homer and Frances Esther (Wagoner) Leonard in New Palestine, Indiana. 

Claude was a carpenter by trade, and when he enlisted in the Navy July 10, 1917, at age 23 in Indianapolis, he served as a carpenter’s mate third class.

He served stateside in Norfolk, Virginia, also on the USS Reina Mercedes and at the Naval Rifle Range in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

He was discharged July 3, 1919, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

On that day, he had at least $60 in his pocket and a $18.55 mileage payment to get him back to Indianapolis.

Three months after he joined the Navy, Claude married his sweetheart, Martha Adeline Robinson (some records spell it Robinsen), on Oct. 12, 1917, at First Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Indianapolis.

Martha came from Cleveland, Ohio, born Sept. 10, 1894.

They had two sons, Robert Mathews Leonard, born Sept. 23, 1919 — Claude had made it home in time for his son’s birth — and Raymond Homer Leonard, was born Nov. 16, 1923.

Sadly, Martha died prior to 1930, which meant she probably died in her early 30s.

Information from the 1930 census shows that Claude worked as a carpenter and his marital status was “widowed.” At that time, his sons were about 10 and six.

At age 16, records show young Raymond went to live with his Aunt Ida, who was Martha’s sister, and Uncle Neils Christiansen. Raymond was also a carpenter, like his dad.

During World War II, both Robert and Raymond served in the military, Robert in the Navy and Raymond in the Army.

Robert married a woman named Helen. He died in December 1977, of cancer, at age 58.

Raymond died March 13, 2002, at age 78. 

Claude Mathews Leonard died March 20, 1939, and was buried March 22, 1939, at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis. 

He was only 45.

It’s still not known how his military discharge document got to Inverness, Florida.

Contact Chronicle reporter Nancy Kennedy at 352-564-2927 or nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.

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