Whatever Happened to Lana Jean? UPDATE: Make that Lana Jane Ratliff

lana.jpgWhen I was in the second grade at Irving School in Joplin, Missouri, I was in love with a little blond named Lana. I had to compete with Larry Abernathy for her affections.

I thought her name was Lana Jean Raftler, but any internet name search shows there is no last name of Raftler. There are others that are close, like Rafler and Raffler, but no Raftler.

That was in 1952, and though 55 years have passed, I have always wondered what happened to Lana Jean. With the internet it is easier than ever to search for people using various databases. You generally have to pay a fee for the service and it doesn’t always work. Women get married and change their names; people die or move to another country. Needless to say, I haven’t been successful at tracking down Lana.All I know is that when the third grade began at Irving School in the Fall of 1952, she didn’t show up. Jimmy Janess told me he heard she had moved away to California. I resolved to go to California and track her down. Well I’m here, but I still can’t find Lana.

Lana Jean, if you are out there somewhere, I’d love to say hello and see how your life turned out. I’m sure you married and had children and grandchildren. I’d really like to know, even if it was Larry Abernathy. The Rat.

UPDATE (May 3, 2017):   About a week ago, I became a member of Ancestry.com and also subscribed to Newspapers.com.  I used these online tools to once again search for “Lana Jean Raftler.”  No luck.  On a hunch, I used newspapers.com to search for “Lana Jean R” in Joplin, Missouri.  Voila!  A page came up that showed Lana as a flower girl at the wedding of her Uncle Rob Roy.  I immediately saw why I could never find any trace of Lana.  Her name as not Lana Jean Raftler, it was Lana Jane Ratliff!  All this time I had her name wrong.  After all, I was only 7 when I last saw her, and remembered her name as it sounded to me, not as it is written.

Using Ancestry.com, I was able to determine that Lana had gone to a Missouri high school — she had never moved to California as one of my friends claimed.  Later, she attended Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas, where she was editor of the school yearbook.  Her pictures show that Lana grew up to be a lovely young woman.   That’s her 1964 picture from the college yearbook.

Unfortunately, there is no further mention of Lana Jane beyond 1964. The last mention of her is in the 1963-1964 yearbook of Hutchinson Junior College (now called Hutchinson City College).   Ancestry.com relies a lot of the U.S. Annual Census to locate and identify people (most of whom are dead).  However, the Census details are only released to the public after 72 years.  The latest available at Ancestry.com is that of 1940.  For that reason, the census cannot help me find where Lana Jane has lived.

Other sources of info at Ancestry.com includes birth and death records, marriage and divorce records, but none of these provide any clues to Lana’s whereabouts.

I googled the name of her Uncle Rob Roy (she was the flower girl at his wedding in 1948, according to the newspaper.com account).  I was surprised to see that he is still alive at 91 years of age and living in Maryland.  I wrote him a letter yesterday to inquire about Lana Jane, explaining that I was an old school chum of Lana.  I asked if she is still alive, and might I contact her just to say hello?  I hope that I hear back from him.



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