Lest we forget...
'Honor Rolls' created to honor servicemen disappearing from communities
This article was provided and written by Hector Allen, Town Historian of Oppenheim. It appeared in The Sunday Leader-Herald on July 11, 1999. It is transcribed here with his permission.
Many villages and towns had monuments over 50 years ago, during World War II. These monuments, or "Honor Rolls", were usually put in prominent places in the community.
Most of these monuments were made of plywood, so they did not last long. By 1950 most of them had warped, rotted away or collapsed. They often were inscribed with the words "Honor Roll" or "Roll of Honor" at the top.
Oppenheim, had such a monument to the residents serving in the armed forces. It was composed of one sheet of plywood, with a scroll and decorations at the top. Like all of the others, it did not outlive the war it was designed to commemorate. (St. Johnsville, where I grew up, had an Honor Roll in front of the Methodist Church on Main Street. I don't think it lasted more than a few years after the war. There is now a permanent War Memorial in St. Johnsville, but it only contains the names of the men who were killed in action, whereas the original had probably two hundred or more names.)
When I heard about the Oppenheim Honor Roll I tried to locate a picture, thinking that there had to be several taken of the prominent landmark. It took a few a years, but Bill Elwood, whose name is on the monument as a World War II veteran, came up with one. Bill told me that he took the picture shortly after returning from service in 1945.
Oppenheim's Honor Roll was set up on the lawn of Lloyd and Edna Brown at the intersection of Route 29 and Route 331. This area, with the general store, Methodist Church, District 10 school and Town Hall was once referred to as "Oppenheim Center". It was a fitting place for the Honor Roll.
In May this year there was a meeting to try to decipher some of the names on the Honor Roll that the photograph did not pick up. There are 108 names on the roll, but some of them are too blurred to read. At the meeting were Mr. and Mrs. Elwood, George Strait, Leona and Clifford Perkins and Everett Quackenbush, town supervisor. Also involved in this project, but unable to attend the meeting were Herb Bowers, Bob Brown, Clayton Montana, Marguerite Finch and Katherine Strait. During our deliberations we realized that there were quite a few veterans whose names were not on the roll, and so we have added these in a separate list.
Here is the Town of Oppenheim Honor Roll, as it existed in 1945: (we have added first names where we could, as the roll only had initials)
Acker, W. Mamrosh, John Atkins, Donald Mang, Dewey Atkins, Edwin Mang, Kenneth Bailey, John Montana, Clayton Ballatore, D. Mosenteen, Al Ballou, Frank Mosenteen, Richard Bauer, J. Mosenteen, William Belden, Andrew Nemyj, John Belden, Earl Olsen, Herbert Bicar, Jack Olsen, Earl Bowers, Edson Perkins, Harry Bowers, Herb Perkins, Howard Brosat, Otto Perkins, Ralph Brown, Everett Perkins, Wayne Brown, Robert Polansky, Alex Chukayla, Steven Polansky, William Clemons, Arthur (not clear) Crowell, Homer Reitz, James Curtis, Oliver Reitz, Robert Daley, Roland Reitz, Walt Darling, H. Schulenburg, Burt Darling, Kenneth Scott, Alvin Darling, Lee (not clear) Darling, Stewart Sidoran, Andrew Davis, Everett Sidoran, Michael Davis, Rudy Sidoran, Paul Decker, Paul Sidoran, William DePiazza, Charles Sleezer, Robert DePiazza, Joseph Slopka, John Dunderdale, Phil Slopka, Steve Ellis, Jacob Smith, Robert Elwood, Bill (not clear) Ennis, John Spofford, A. Fical, Everett Stennach, John Finch, Floyd Stennach, Michael Franz, Lorenz Stowell, Elmer Frye, Raymond Stowell, Russell Griffith, Robert Strait, George Hall, Charles Terlicak, Andrew Hall, Milton Terlicak, George Hess, Howard Upton, Willard Hunt, Albert Warner, Burnham Hunt, Raymond Warner, Howard Ingraham, Clark Yauney, James Ingraham, Edward Yauney, Sam Jacquay, D. Youker, Allen Jacquay, Stanley Youker, Kenneth Johnson, Harold Youker, Larry Kelly, Francis Youker, Ted Klime, John (not clear) Leavenworth, William Zelesniak, Edward Levarn, Jackson Zelesniak, Steve Lofstrom, Oscar (not clear) Looman, Grant Paul, Elmer MacArthur, Robert
According to Bob Brown, the sign was painted by Herman Eaker. We do not know who commissioned this monument, perhaps the town board or maybe just a group of local citizens. We also don't know what became of Honor Roll after it was taken down.
After the meeting, and in some sessions afterward, it was determined that several Oppenheim men and women (there were no women on the Honor Roll, despite the fact that at least three served), were in service but not on the roll. Here is a list of these men and women, as we have compiled it:
Werner Tiedman Wyman Dooley John Reardon Ken Pryme Lyman Peets James Madison Bill Fredericks Phil Lein Clarence Hauser Ralph Hauser Elmer Hauser James Montana Jesse Johnson Felix Zelinski Edward Zelinski Warren Schuyler Katherine Youker Marie Dennison Ruth Hoxsie Harold Mosenteen Harry Slopka William Stenach Cariton Weaver Herbert Ballou Andrew Chukayla Charles Hunt John Hunt
I do not believe that this list is complete. It is likely that more veterans will turn up in time.
These men and women came from a rural environment. When they were growing up in the 1930's our nation was in the grip of a deep depression, and they did not generally have many material possessions. They were educated in the numerous one-room country schools, and some of them traveled into Dolgeville or St. Johnsville for high school. Yet, they would see a great many things during their military service; some were in the South Pacific, some were in the China-Burma-India Theatre, some in North Africa and the Italian Campaign, and some landed on the beaches of Normandy and crossed France into Germany, fighting all the way. These Oppenheimers were nearly in all of the major battles of World War II, from Guadalcanal to the Battle of the Bulge. What stories they could tell, if they would. They had front-row seats for many of the historic battles of the country.
Two young men from Oppenheim paid the supreme price for defending our freedom. Lt. Willard Upton, who lived on North Road, was killed in action in New Guinea. He was an infantry platoon leader, and was killed by a Japanese sniper. Herb Bowers, an Army veteran who was also in the New Guinea campaign, visited his grave in the Suputo cemetery near Buna. Oliver M. Curtis was killed on March 28th, 1945, in the Ruhr Valley, Germany. In a little over a week the war in Europe would be over when the German army surrendered.
One additional death of an Oppenheim serviceman came in May of 1945. Corporal Harold Johnson, who had served two years with the Marine Corps in the South Pacific, was killed in an auto accident near Naval Air Station, Patuxent, Md.
We can reflect on the families, the children that these three men might have had but for the war. In so doing, the terrible cost that a war can inflict on individuals and society becomes clear.
As I have stated, there are no women's names on the Oppenheim Honor Roll. Our group did locate three local women who served. Katherine Youker was in the WAC, (Women's Army Corps), and so was Marie Dennison. Serving in the Army Nurse Corps was Ruth Hoxsie, who attained the rank of Captain. Capt. Hoxsie has written a book on her experiences in North Africa and the Italian Campaign. I have no idea why their names were not included.
The World War II Honor Roll may be the first and last one erected in our town. Although 182 men served in the American Civil War from Oppenheim, there were no monuments built here. The Spanish American War and World War I left no monuments in Oppenheim. There were none erected for the Korean War or the Viet Nam War either, and vets of those wars will not be surprised to hear this.
September, 1999 will be the 54th anniversary of the end of World War II. This tremendous event, which changed our nation as well as the lives of so many our people, is receding from our consciousness. I heard recently that approximately 1,000 World War II vets are dying every day. I have no idea how many are left from the 13,000,000 who served.
One day, as with the veterans of the Civil War, World War I and other great conflicts, there will be no one left alive - those days of pride and glory, as well as grief and sadness, will be but a fading memory.
Lest we forget.....
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In Mr. Allen's letter he additionally mentions: "A few days ago I received another name from the WWII rolls. Emmett Snell served in the army...That leaves us with four blanks to fill from the original sign."
Return to Fulton County NYGenWeb
Copyright ©1999, Jeanette Shiel, Hector Allen
All Rights Reserved.
Last updated Tuesday, 13-May-2008 13:37:04 PDT