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Zerbe Collection

Identifier: RH-A-2330

Scope and Contents

This collection contains letters documenting Thomas Zerbe and Walter Boylan’s service in the United States Navy during World War Two. Correspondence between Charlotte Zerbe, previously Charlotte Boylan, and her brother Walter Boylan who served in the US Navy during World War II. Walter Boyland was stationed temporarily at Western Michigan University during 1943 for training. Also includes are five other letters by Boylan.


  • Creation: 1939-1954


Biographical / Historical

Thomas H. Zerbe was born March 30, 1916 to Riley and Mary (Keller) Zerbe in Niles, Michigan. Thomas attended a Midshipman School in Chicago, IL for training in 1942. In November of 1942, Thomas became an officer and moved to San Diego, CA. for more training. He served in the United Sates Navy in World War Two in the Pacific. After an honorable discharge in 1944, he married Charlotte Boylan in Boston and they had four children (James, Ralph, Marianne, and Susan). They had a farm in Kenosha, Wisconsin for a short time and then moved to Ellington, Wisconsin, and purchased their farm on Quarry Road. Tom and his family farmed the land and after his retirement were interested in keeping the farm as a green space. He was a member of St. James United Methodist Church in Appleton, Wisconsin. Thomas Zerbe died in 2005 at the age of 88.

Charlotte Boylan was born in 1922 to Walter and Anne Boylan in Boyne City, Michigan. She attended Michigan State University for a teaching degree.

Walter Boylan was born in 1923. Walter served in the United States Navy during World War Two. He was stationed temporarily at Western Michigan University during 1943 for training and was housed on campus.


4 boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Description

The collection is approximately two cubic feet and made up of four boxes. Within these boxes are letters to Charlotte (Boylan) Zerbe, two photographs, and a few miscellaneous items (dinner menus, newspaper clippings, etc).

The collection is in good condition. Many of the letters are bent due to how they were originally stored. In addition, there are many envelopes missing their original letters.


The collection was donated to Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections in 1988 by Thomas and Charlotte Zerbe.

Zerbe Collection Finding Aid
Katie Jones
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490