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Doris Keirn and Burley Yehnert letters

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: RHC-108

Scope and Contents

Collection contains 21 letters written by Doris E. Keirn to her boyfriend and fiancé Burley E. Yehnert at his various Army Air Force postings in Nebraska, South Dakota, England, and Florida, 13 November 1944 to 4 February 1946. These were addressed from her home at 1113 22nd Avenue, Altoona, Pennsylvania.

The collection also contains 13 letters written by Burley E. Yehnert to his fiancée Doris E. Keirn at her and her parents' home in Altoona and subsequently Phoenix, Arizona after his discharge from the service, 13 December 1946 to 29 July 1947. These were addressed from 1339 Sweitzer Avenue, Akron, Ohio while he was staying with his brother and sister-in-law before leaving for Phoenix. Content of Doris Keirn's letters generally describe everyday life on the home front, including weather, school events, family news, earlier musical talent and hope of performing in USO shows, desire to be married, and the heartache of separation. Burley Yehnert's letters describe the difficulties in finding postwar work with Goodyear or Goodrich rubber companies in Akron; the repair and refurbishing of a small aircraft he plans on selling or trading for an automobile; family outings with his brother and sister-in-law and their occasional bickering. Both Doris Keirn and Burley Yehnert write in each letter copious expressions of eternal love, and refer to each other as husband and wife even before their marriage. Some of the envelopes from her have special notes written on the inside of the flap, and two contain lipstick kisses.


  • 1944 - 1947


Access to Materials

Collection is open for research use. Materials may be accessed by request at Special Collections and University Archives in Seidman House. Materials do not circulate.

Biographical Note

Doris ("Dorrie") Elizabeth Keirn was born on 24 July 1926 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Ira Dean Keirn (1897-1987) and Hazel Margarete Ramsey Keirn (1897-1985); she had one older sister, Erma J. Keirn (b. ca. 1922). In 1944 she was attending the Altoona School of Commerce.

In June 1947 she and her parents moved to Phoenix, Arizona, possibly for her father's health. In late July or early August Burley Yehnert moved to Phoenix, and he and Doris were married shortly thereafter. In 1971 Doris Yehnert was listed as president of Yehnert Helicopter, Inc. located in Upland, California; it was a commercial helicopter service and possessed five aircraft at that time. By 1993 she was living in Montclair, California. She died on 18 July 2016.

Burley ("Burl") Emerson Yehnert was born on 8 April1925 in Salix, Pennsylvania. His parents were Jonas Yehnert (1876-1942) and Stella Crum Yehnert (1888-1963); he was the youngest of seven siblings. After his parents divorced, he lived with his mother in Altoona, Pennsylvania at 718 8th Avenue; Burley and Doris lived about a mile from each other. In 1943 He graduated from the Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps on 12 April 1944 at New Cumberland, Pennsylvania.

By November 1944 Private Yehnert was assigned to Squadron D, C.R.P. Prov. [Control and Reporting Post, Provisional?], 2nd Air Force in Nebraska at the Lincoln Army Airfield. In December 1944 he had been transferred to Combat Crew Detachment K, Rapid City Army Airfield (now Ellsworth Air Force Base) in South Dakota. He was promoted to Corporal probably in February 1945 and by mid-March 1945 Yehnert was in England assigned to the 711 Bomb Squadron (K), 447 Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force flying B-17s from the Rattlesden (Suffolk) air base.

Sometime in late 1945 he was promoted to Sergeant and assigned to Squadron A, 301st Army Air Force Base Unit at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida. On 11 April 1946 he was discharged from the service at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland. In December 1946 he moved from Altoona to Akron, Ohio to search for work, living with his brother Dempsey M. Yehnert (1909-1984) and his wife Ethel J. Frederick Yehnert (1915-1999). At the end of July 1947 he had purchased a car with the intent of moving to Phoenix, Arizona to marry his long-time girlfriend and fiancée Doris Keirn; the marriage took place on 5 September 1947 in Phoenix.

While in Phoenix, he was listed as a watchmaker in 1948 and a shop foreman at Luke Air Field in Glendale, Arizona in 1952. By 1970 they had moved to Upland, California and subsequently Montclair, California. Burley Yehnert died 17 April 1998 and is buried in the Riverside National Cemetery, Riverside, California.


0.24 Linear feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Special Collections & University Archives
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Seidman House
1 Campus Drive
Allendale MI 49401 United States