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School Eyes Memorial Plaque

February 23, 2012

ST. MARYS — A group of St. Marys residents is working to bring a soldiers’ memorial to the newest St. Marys City Schools building.

Mike Makley, Buz Howard, Kathy Sampson and Mary Wilson, as part of a committee through the St. Marys Community Foundation, have been working on placing a soldiers’ memorial plaque that would be placed in the commons area at St. Marys Memorial High School.

According to a release from the committee, the original Memorial High School, built in 1923, received its name to honor Carrie Mae Neely, the late wife of oil magnate Lemon Gray Neely, who had donated the land on South Street for the new school. Carrie Mae Neely had died in 1918.

In spite of Lemon Neely’s touching gesture of choosing the name “Memorial” as a tribute to his wife, St. Marians for years to come often mistook the name as a reference to the community’s war dead. 

Memorial Park, across the street from the high school, had been created for the purpose of honoring fallen St. Marys soldiers from World War I. Moreover, bronze plaques, commemorating fallen soldiers from all the twentieth-century wars, were, through the years, placed just inside the front entry way of the old school.

Today, the name “Memorial High School” has been carried over to the new school, the school board having acknowledged that this time the name will officially refer to the war dead.  

Wilson noted the plaque is an effort to keep the “memorial” in Memorial High School.

“We wanted the school to stay Memorial, and thankfully the school board decided to keep the name,” she said. “Now we’re trying to make a beautiful plaque to reflect that.”

The bronze plaque will list military personnel from the St. Marys area who gave their lives in World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, similar to the plaque near the in-patient entry at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, in the shape of a shield with an American eagle at the top.

“Unlike the hospital’s, ours will hang on the wall,” Howard said.

This plaque would be a culmination of the plaques that were featured in the original 1923 building.

“We are incorporating all of them onto one,” Howard said.

“This way we have kept it alive.”

The committee, known as the St. Marys School Historical Preservation Committee, was created before the 1923 building was torn down.

“The school asked us to form a School Historical Preservation Committee with the idea that we would help to carry over memories from the old school to the new one,” Wilson said.

“We did the display case near the principal’s office with a collection of items from the old building. We also saved the composite pictures of the graduation classes through the years. Now we feel that our main project should be to get this plaque made and installed in the new school.”

Currently, the group is working on the names to be featured on the plaque. Howard has done extensive research the project, including the names, but he noted they want to be as accurate as possible.

“Some people have warned us not to use names because of the danger of leaving someone out — that it would be safer to make a general reference to fallen soldiers,” Howard said.

“But we’ve decided to go with names. Our main sources will be the names on the hospital plaque, and on the plaque at the covered bridge — both of which were compiled painstakingly when they were prepared. We’ve attempted to cross-check these with national military archives and Auglaize County Veterans Services.”

The list, Howard noted, includes 52 St. Marys-area men who died during the wars, not including men from other communities who enlisted in St. Marys or happened to be in the St. Marys National Guard Unit, and it is not restricted to Memorial High School graduates because many young men did not complete high school earlier in the 20th century, especially during war years.

The names the group have gathered so far for its plaque include: World War I — August Bornhorst, Harold J. Ice, Vernon Keiber, Frederick C. Klute, Eddie Lee Lynn, Alra E. McDermitt, Cyrus Reed, James H. Reed, Wilbert Stonerock, Fred Sullivan, Alfred Tobens and Otto Vordermark; World War II — Joseph S. Beale, John P. Botkin, Robert Chamberlain, Raymond Clark, William Connaughton, Dale W. Craft, Garard Cramer, Vernon H. Dickman, Franklin A. Eberle, Doyt W. Faurot, Carl R. Felver, Robert L. Griner, Alvin S. Huston, Lester F. Joyce, Charles V. Kettler, George J. Liggett, Herbert C. Linville, Myron Lutterbeck, Donald D. Makley, Doyt D. Miller, Guy L. Nealeigh, Thomas Reiher, Vernon C. Roettger, Ned Edward Ryan, Walter Schamp, John E. Schelby, Vernon E. Schnelle, Carter E. Sweigart, Orville E. Sweigart, Harold A. Swysgood, Raymond Yahl and Delbert E. Young; Korea — Gene A. Dennis and Clifford Hammond; Vietnam — Ronnie Blair, Clarence L. Coleman, Richard A. Doseck, William Guyer, Charles A. Lauer and Frederick A. Ziegenfelder.

The cost for the plaque is $3,800, and the group has already received multiple donations.

“We’re trying to reach our goal so we can have the plaque made,” Wilson said.

Makley noted the project is one that personally affects a large group of people in the area.

“The committee hopes that the funding will be a grass-roots effort representing a cross-section of the community and not just a handful of major donors,” Makley said. “We have a feeling that a lot of people personally will want to be part of this project.”

The group’s plans are to dedicate the memorial as part as the high school’s Veterans Day program held on the Monday after Veterans Day — on Nov. 12.

“You know, the old school was used for 86 years,” Howard said.

“How many thousands of students walked by the soldiers’ plaques there by the front door? Some of them must have paused and read the names —St. Marys names — and hopefully tried to comprehend the sacrifice such men made.

We just want to offer the same reminder to those who pass through the new school.”  

The group noted their goal is to make the list as complete and accurate as possible, and it will welcome any questions, comments or documented corrections.

Anyone wanting to contact the group to add/correct a name or to donate to the purchase of the plaque, can contact the St. Marys Community Foundation at 419-394-5693 or by e-mailing smcf@bright.net.

Individuals or group willing to donate can also send their donations to Fallen Heroes Memorial, St. Marys Community Foundation, 146 E. Spring St., St. Marys, OH, 45885, making checks out to the St. Marys Community Foundation with the tag “Fallen Heroes.”
 

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