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Letters from my Grandmother

By M Davies   /     Feb 21, 2018  /     Into the Void, Rusyn  /     0 Comment

Christmas time every year just seems to get increasingly more stressful for me. The shopping, the decorating, the cooking and baking, endless parties and writing Christmas cards. Everyone expects so much with what little time there is between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. No matter how hard I try to plan I always end up last minute shopping or wrapping or decorating, etc.

While I was home over Christmas break, I ended up being added to a NEPA Star Trek fan club on Facebook. Like most Facebook groups, I usually get added without my permission. Nothing against Star Trek or its fanbase, I just never really got into it. HOWEVER, back when I was working at the big red telephone company (around 2002), I found enjoyment in reading blogs and writing my own. I was always out looking for new content. My friend Jeff (who I’ve blogged about before) kept harassing me to read Wil Wheaton’s blog. Wil played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I really couldn’t care about that, but what I did find fascinating about him was his blog. At the time, he was in some kind of heated feud with William Shatner. I don’t know why, but I found this feud highly entertaining. I guess it’s because I always found William Shatner to be a little pretentious. I bought a copy of Wil’s first book and I even paid for an autographed copy of his Star Trek photo. Getting back to the story, a few years ago, I scanned the photograph and put it on my Facebook page.

It’s signed “Wil Wheaton’s Biggest Fan (that’s never seen Star Trek)” Since I was added to this Facebook group (again, without my consent) I decided to share this with the group since it’s really the only thing I could possibly have to contribute to the conversation. It got a few likes or comments. Whatever.

I told that story to tell you another one. One of the sleepless nights before Christmas, after being added to this group (WITHOUT MY CONSENT, PLEASE FIX YOUR WEIRD POLICIES FACEBOOK) I decided to go looking for the actual autograph in my various filing cabinets and boxes in my basement. It sparked my memory that maybe I should do something to protect it so it doesn’t loose its color or get ripped. I couldn’t find it anywhere…but I did find a curious envelope with my name written on it. Not being able to remember where it was located, I put it aside and continued to look for that damned Wil Wheaton autograph. Spoiler alert: I didn’t find it, and still haven’t.

After wrapping all of the Christmas gifts after midnight on Christmas Eve, my suspicion got the best of me, and I went to find the envelope to see what the hell was in it. To my complete astonishment and after I read letter after letter, I realized these were letters my grandmother from years and years ago. Probably 20+ years if not more. It was Christmas Eve and I found the best present ever that’s probably been hidden for years. Some of this stuff was just what I needed to see and hear at the right time.

As some of you guys know, I’ve been trying to trace my families ancestry which has been proving downright impossible due to the variations in last name spelling. My grandmother single-handedly confirmed on the right track from beyond the grave. If you don’t mind indulging me for a minute, I figured I would share some of these letters with you. My hopes are that maybe, just maybe one of my long lost relatives will come across this blog post and something will ring a bell with them as well.

First…the letters. My grandmother was always sending us money and telling us “to be good.” She wanted my brother to be mayor and me to have a safe trip to Norway. The year on this letter is from 1995. I’m putting these in the order I think they were written, although I cannot tell because she didn’t properly date all of them.

I’m putting these ones next…I don’t know what the dress was for? But I know that if she signed both her and my Grandfather’s name that it must have been sometime in 1995 before he passed.

 

I feel like this one was right before my trip to Norway, because I remember wearing a vest there, IT WAS REALLY COOL LOOKING AT THE TIME, SHUT UP.

Something about a library book. I have no idea what book it was, but now I’m really interested to know.

Next up, a series of more undated letters with more money. Talks of behaving and clothes shopping. None of these have my grandfather’s name signed to them, so I’m assuming they were after he passed, but I could be wrong.

 

And now, the crown jewel. The ancestry information:

 

As you can see there are some family trees, and then a written out biography for my grandfather. It says: “My Grandfather Russell Hryvnak was born 9/23/19 in the Hanover Section of Nanticoke. He was educated in Public School. Went to Church in St. Peter & Pauls Church in Plymouth. Went in to CCC Camp in 1936. Stayed there 1 year. Went back to graduate from Hanover Twp. High School. Went to work in the Buttonwood Collery of the Glen Alden Coal Company as a brakeman on the motor. Went into the Army March 15, 1945 and was discharged May 28, 1945. Worked for the Ridon Glass Company 38 years. Retired and did odd jobs.”

While I knew some of these details, I did not know them all. This paints a broader picture and gives me clues where the case otherwise has gone cold. The lineage was mostly stuff I had, but there are some new leads as well that I’m following up on. The biggest haul from these documents was that Dmytro was my great Grandfather’s brother. I always had assumed that was the case, but didn’t have any concrete facts. I have shared this with a few of my relatives overseas to see if these names ring a bell. By the way, if you have a smart phone, I highly recommend the Google translate app if you have to translate something to or from another language. It works VERY well.

So what’s next? I don’t know, but as some of these pages are yellowing with age, I wanted to make sure I found a way of preserving them, even if it’s only online in a scanned file. My recommendation would be if you have aging loved ones to sit down with them and have them tell you their stories of what they remember from their pasts. It a lovely thing to know the history of where your family came from. You never know what kind of amazing things you may learn from them.

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Margaret Nash

By M Davies   /     Feb 12, 2018  /     Community Service, Hobby-ish  /     3 Comments

So I did a thing.

You may remember that I wrote a blog post last year about the Lee Park Honor Roll. As I was researching the information for the post, I fell down a wormhole otherwise known as Margaret Nash. To bring you up to speed, Margaret is the only woman on the wall that was held as a prisoner of war. There are very few names of women on the wall, but she’s the only POW. The back story is that Margaret was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II. She neglected her own health to nurse hundreds of her fellow prisoners suffering from disease and near-starvation in the Philippine Islands. She was still struggling to survive when the camp was finally liberated by US forces three years later. Though doctors told her she wouldn’t survive, she went on to live a long life nursing and teaching.

I closed the blog post by saying “…I believe it should be fair game for a PA historical marker, but I’m not sure what the application process would be for something like that.”

And that’s where the thing that I did comes into play. After extensive research, and talking with some of my history buff friends, I decided to take the plunge into madness. I downloaded the nomination form for a Pennsylvania Historical Marker in June. The document, which can be found on the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website, is a 10 page application that needs to be filled out and returned for consideration. The deadline for submission falls on December 1st each year. The committee then meets at the beginning of the next year to discuss the submissions and select the markers. I carried the form with me for about a month without really reviewing any of the details. I think it was around July or August when I really started to scrape the surface of what was needed to complete the nomination. Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I talked to Tony Brooks briefly about the process, and I think he told me at one point he was a part of the selection committee. He said that people with Masters Degrees and PhDs have written proposals that haven’t been accepted. I didn’t let that discourage me.

Let’s just say the application process is quite extensive. You need to cite sources as you would if you were writing a school paper. It’s been a while since I’ve had to write a paper of that type of caliber, so it hurt my brain. I ended up citing the sources I found in my newspapers.com research as my primary sources. I scoured the internet for some secondary sources and came across a few books that Margaret was mentioned in. I attempted to reach out to the authors of these books, but on a tight deadline, I only heard back from one, Mary Cronk Farrell, who published “Pure Grit”:

Hi Michelle,
What a wonderful project! You certainly may use my book as a resource. Since you don’t have a copy, I suggest you ask your local library to add the book to their collection. You might also let local teachers know that the book is available to students at a reduced price through the Scholastic Book Clubs. $8, I think.
Best of luck! Please keep me in the loop on the historical marker.

All best,

Mary

Mary Cronk Farrell

Take a look at my books here. 

I’m leaving the link to her website in this post. While she writes books for a more juvenile audience, I still think they contain helpful information should you find yourself needing to research history’s most bad ass women! We exchanged a few more emails and she admitted that Margaret was one of her favorite nurses in the book and that she recently did a presentation on Margaret (as well as others) in San Diego.

Speaking of presentations, my good friend Kathleen Smith shared a Facebook post with me about a presentation at Misericordia’s Center for Nursing History that happened in November. My jaw immediately dropped. The presentation was all about nurses during WWII and Margaret was one of the featured nurses! As matter of fact, the person who spoke during the presentation was Margaret’s nephew, who happens to be a Reverend at Saint Faustina Parish in Nanticoke. I honestly had no idea that Margaret still had family that were local. From what I read, she moved to California and taught nursing there. Through some friends who happen to attend that parish, I was able to get a letter to Father Nash who seems excited and interested to learn more about why Margaret’s story fascinated me so much. I’m still waiting to hear back from him, but he’s a very busy person. Kathleen did put me in touch with Donna Snelson who runs the Center for Nursing History. I sent her an email and waited to hear back for more information.

In the meantime, the deadline to submit materials was rapidly approaching. I put together what I had in a document (Read: 56 pages) and had 3 or 4 people proofread it. After making some suggested changes, I sent it off to the presses. I should point out – you need to make twelve (12) collated copies of the document to send in for the committee. For those of you keeping score, 56 pages x 12 copies = 672 pages. Since I don’t have access to a large copier, I sent these off to Staples. It cost $47.65. I picked up the order early on Black Friday and the clerk wished me good luck. After that I headed over to the Wilkes-Barre post office and using two boxes, shipped the 12 copies to Harrisburg (another 20 dollars). Margaret Nash arrived just shy of the December 1st deadline.

After the holidays were over, and a few emails were exchanged, I met up with Donna Snelson over lunch. I shared with her my application and she read it over and loved it. She asked if I would be open to changing the location of the marker and I said that I was (if the PHMC will allow me). The marker cost will be $1675 to have made and installed, which clearly I don’t have sitting around. Donna thinks that she can find the money through the Nursing College’s alumni network and possibly the local hospitals. We shall see, that’s about 5 steps ahead at this point. The committee meeting for the selection process hasn’t happened yet!

The committee meets on March 7th and the markers will be selected then. The winning applicants will be notified via email. Even if my application doesn’t get approved this first go round, the commission sends you their notes and you’re allowed to resubmit for a period of 3 years. Donna said that her staff and students would be willing to help with further research and re-writes if needed.

This process has been so overwhelming, it was truly like giving birth. I can’t thank everyone enough who has helped me along the way to get this project off the ground and also to help get me in touch with the right people. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have good news in another month. I promise to keep you all updated either way.

I will leave you with a copy of the application for review. I blotted out my contact information, but everything else is the same. This is a 24 meg document, so it may take a little while to load. Keep your fingers, eyes and toes crossed for me!

Margaret Nash (full)

U.S. Navy Nurses Margaret Nash and Bertha Evans enjoy a chocolate shortly after liberation (U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine, Office of Medical History) Source: Amazing Women In History, all the kick-ass women the history books left out.

 

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Rock this Town (a photo blog)

By M Davies   /     Dec 12, 2017  /     Hobby-ish, NEPA  /     6 Comments

On a particularly rough morning recently, I was walking out to my car for work and saw something out of place. It caught the corner of my eye because it was a bright orange blob. My immediate thought was that someone next door forgot something while packing their car for the day and that I should go try to find the owner of whatever it was. Here’s what I found:

 

As luck would have it, it turned out to be a specifically placed painted rock which I discovered after picking it up and turning it over. I say it was a rough morning because I was on the verge of tears as I sitting in my car. It was just a really bad week all around. Seeing the cutely painted rock made my day a little bit brighter and more interesting.

I placed the rock in my purse and took it to work with me to research further. Once I got to work, I realized there was an entire group on Facebook dedicated to decorating basic rocks and hiding them in public places as a sort of hide and seek game. I was a member of a similar group for Luzerne county, but I didn’t realize that every community had their own group. This particular rock was painted by a person in the “Steel Valley Rocks” group. I decided to take a photo of the rock with a statue at work. I think you’ll recognize this famous bird.

At the end of the day, I collected my photos and wrote a thoughtful post on the Steel Valley Rocks page. The rules of the group are pretty straight forward…

Practice RAoKs – Random Acts of Kindness!  Paint a rock and place it where someone will find it. Bring joy and smiles to the finder!  Painting and finding rocks is for EVERYONE, not just children.  

Please post pictures of your painted rocks before you hide and when you find, or you can participate anonymously if you prefer. If you find a rock, you can choose to keep and replace or re-hide for someone else to find.  If you choose to keep a rock, you are encouraged to hide a new rock in its place.   If you find a painted rock from another group, either post on their page or please let us know in your post so we can share the FIND with that group! 

I decided to take the rock back with me on my weekly commute to Northeast PA and hide it somewhere there. Seeing it travel across the state may bring the original painter (probably a child) some joy. But where to hide it….where?

Then it hit me. I saw a news article earlier in the week that cracked me up unintentionally: 11/20/17 “Signs installed in W-B to help visitors navigate city” via the Citizens’ Voice Newspaper. If you’ll look closely, one of the signs photographed in the article is misspelled. I don’t know why, but for some reason the sight of this image brought me laughing to tears. Mostly because of its glaring error and that no one noticed it until after it was already up on a pole. See for yourself:

(Image Courtesy of the original CV article linked above)

Federal Courthose? What the shit? How does this even happen? I mean, it would have had to pass through several editors before making it to print, right? By the way, I’m talking about the officials that drafted the sign text, the sign designers, printer, and the folks who hung the sign — not those at the newspaper. Your taxpayer dollars hard at work, ladies and gentlemen.

Anyway, I decided that I needed to go and inspect this misspelled sign myself to make sure the CV wasn’t trolling us all with a photoshopped picture. This was going to be the place where I placed the rock. On Thanksgiving morning, my son and I ventured down to Wilkes-Barre in search of the sign. I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult to locate as I used the Franz Kline historic marker for a point of reference via the ExplorePAHistory.com website. Of course, by finding this point of reference to the sign, I had to do a Google deep dive to find out more about Mr. Kline.

The gist of what I read was: Franz Kline a painter who was born in Wilkes-Barre. He was most famous for his black and white abstractions. His father committed suicide when he was just 7 years old. You can find most of his work by checking out Google images. However, if you’d like to read up more on Franz’s life, I recommend starting here: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-kline-franz.htm. To me, this seemed like a perfect location to leave the rock. Franz Kline had done a lot of black and white paintings. I felt he needed some color and joy in his life, just like I did on the morning I found the painted rock.

The location of Franz’s sign was near River Commons on River St. between South and Northampton Streets, Wilkes-Barre. As you can imagine, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads on Thanksgiving morning, my son and I circled the block where the sign was located and had no trouble finding a parking spot on nearby Northhampton Street. We moved quickly because it was FRIGID that morning. In no time at all, we re-hid the rock.

Also, I must note, that in the weeks time it took me to get out and check out the misspelled Luzerne county visitor sign, it had been fixed. I was kind of disappointed. I guess it’s for the best. We don’t want any visitors coming in and poking fun at us for spelling errors.

At any rate, it was a fun adventure. Laughing at signs and learning about historic figures. I posted the end result of my story in the “Steel Valley Rocks” as well as “Luzerne County Rocks” groups on Facebook. As of yet, I haven’t seen anyone post that it was found, but I’m continuing to monitor for further developments. I think the leaves and snow may work against it, but it is pretty obviously colored and hard to miss. A little while after I posted about where I hid the rock, a school teacher from Plum came forward and said that it was her daughter who painted the rock and she was happy to follow its journey online. The rock was painted and first hid back in June.

So now it’s my turn to pay it forward. I’m trying to paint a rock to re-hide somewhere in the Pittsburgh area, location TBD. I’m having mixed results on the painting situation. An artist, I am not. I tried to kind of recreate the rock I found with mixed results:

It’s not great and it takes the paint forever to dry with multiple coats needed. I have to finish it up (maybe tonight) wait for it to dry (AGAIN) and then it will be ready to hide. I probably won’t get an opportunity to place it somewhere until next week. This is a process for sure.

If it even makes one person smile, I think it will be worth it.

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The Knee Needle

By M Davies   /     Dec 08, 2017  /     Medical Issues  /     0 Comment

I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me.

Wait. Let me back up, because that’s an open ended question and the answer is always “a lot.”

My knee has been clicking since August. I don’t know why or what happened to produce the clicking, but here we are. Every time I walk up a flight of stairs it clicks after ever single step. You can hear me coming at least a mile in away and my career as a serial killer is now ruined.  Thanks Obama.

Anyway. After polling my friends, I decided to see a specialist. About 3-4 weeks ago I saw an Orthopaedic specialist. The actual spelling of “Orthopaedic” feels unnatural to me, just like my experience at this doctor’s office. I will preface this post and say that if you know me well enough, I’ve seen the same doctor in the past, around 2005 and he fixed up a broken ulna for me. He has an odd bedside manner and sense of humor, WHICH I TOTALLY APPRECIATE.

All signs point to a torn meniscus or some kind of awful knee thing that requires rehab or surgery, but he can’t prescribe any of that shit until he does “A PROCEDURE” first to satisfy my insurance’s needs. Fine, whatever. Except its actually not fine according to my body. (what I’m about to say is probably 1000000000% exaggeration because I hate medical procedures) He comes in with a 12 inch needle that he proceeds to jam into my knee cap without warning. Not only did it feel like an alien probe, but I didn’t mentally prepare myself for a needle that day. I circled the drain on the procedure table. I started hearing things and seeing spots. All color drained from my face. I saw angels hovering over my body calling me home. Oh the joy of having vasovagal syncope.

After the dagger was removed, and upon noticing my ghost like appearance, a nurse came into the room and asked if I wanted smelling salts. What are smelling salts? NO IDEA. I imagined it was something like bath salts (the kind you snort and not soak your feet in). I declined and asked to lay down and have cold water to drink. After about 10 minutes, I was able to get up and move around. I was alone – 30 minutes from my house – and was allowed to drive back home. I felt drained and limped around the rest of the afternoon.

Reflecting back on this experience weeks later, it made me remember my tolerance scale of medical procedures. Getting a knee needle, or whatever the fuck the official scientific medical term is, reminded me a lot of getting an epidural. It feels like an alien probing your body. Someone is jamming a long needle in your body and its the most weird uncomfortable feeling ever. I have a follow-up appointment next Thursday. I’m terrified of getting another one of the alien knee probes. My knee is still clicking ALL. OF. THE. TIME. It’s all that is occupying my thoughts all of the time. I wake up and think “Oh shit, only  6 days until they jam a huge ass needle into your leg today!” I think about it so much that I actually get nauseated because I’m a weirdo sadist.

In talking to a friend from High School, I decided that I will make a “Knee Needle” bucket in my life. Anything I hate gets a needle straight up in the knee. Taking out the garbage? KNEE NEEDLE. Winter months? I’m jamming a dagger into your leg. Playing Nickelback music much? Bitch please, I will Lieutenant Dan you.

 

I don’t know. I just need to get through next Thursday. This helps?

Maybe?

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The Telltailgate Turkey Fryer

By M Davies   /     Nov 24, 2017  /     Hilarity  /     0 Comment

I’ve been working in Pittsburgh for about 6 months now. Over the last few months, I’ve come to find that Pittsburgh is a very friendly city. I often find myself in conversations with complete and random strangers. Usually when people learn I was born, raised and live in Northeast PA they react in horror. “Oh god, you’re not a Philly sports fan are you?”

I’m not a Philly sports fan, but I’ve been to several events in Philly – baseball included. I thought since it’s Thanksgiving and everyone is telling cautionary tales about Turkey Fryers, I would tell mine. The Pittsburghers I’ve talked to love this story because they hate Philly.

It was 7/16/05. The Phillies were playing the Florida Marlins. I was attending a tailgate party with my friend Jeff Lamana who was larger than life in personality and size (may he Rest In Peace). 
Jeff ran a popular Philly sports community forum called PhilaPhans.

PhilaPhans was hosting the tailgate on this day to bring the online community together offline for a day of fun. I tagged along because it after 6 months with a colicky baby, I needed a day away with human adult interaction. We even made the Jumbotron (or whatever it is).

The website is still up and running to this day though Jeff died of cancer in 2006. I’ve talked about this in past posts.

Anyway…
I think it was a later game. I can’t remember for sure exactly what time it started. It had to be a 4pm or 7pm start. We started our day out at the Ikea in Conshohocken and ended up in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park. Jeff had known some of the people from the forums, but not everyone. People started to file in, setup and assemble a cookout near the trees in the front. One by one, we met people from the forums.

There was a grill, coolers and tables being setup. Then some guy arrived with a turkey fryer. Turkey fryers weren’t nearly as popular in the early 2000s as they are now, at least in my opinion.

The guy in the red Phillies shirt is standing in front of where the fryer was setup. If you look closely, you can see he’s opening up a bag of chicken wings. The plan was to deep fry the chicken wings and toss them in hot sauce. Sounds delicious, right? One minuscule problem and minor detail: the wings were still frozen.

I don’t know if this was this man’s first experience with a turkey fryer or if he was just drunk and didn’t care, but let me just tell you, in the 5-10 minutes after this photo was shot, disaster happened. I never got to shoot a picture of it because it was so sudden and shocking. It was one of those fight or flight situations you always hear about. I got the hell out of the vicinity. And quick.

Once red Phillies shirt guy determined the fryer was hot enough, he dropped the wings in. Let me preface this by saying that everyone was drinking and there were no thermometers being used. This wasn’t Alton Brown’s Good Eats by any stretch of the imagination.

A microsecond after the wings hit the hot oil, you can guess what happened next. A huge mushroom cloud fireball shot up out of the deep fryer. There were cars nearby. Cars filled with gasoline. Cars with decent paint jobs. By some miracle, none of them caught on fire or melted. Still a bigger problem: the tree above the fryer. The fireball shot up as high as the tree branches. Then the tree caught on fire. So to recap…here I am, at my first Phillies tailgate ever, and there’s a tree on fire in the parking lot. A security officer or a police officer saw what happened and made their way over. Details are a little sketchy, because this happened over 10 years ago, but I remember thinking “Oh Jesus. Here we go, we haven’t even gotten into the game yet and we’re already getting kicked out.” The fire went out as quickly as it started and the security guard/officer let us get away with a warning to be more careful. *Phew* It ended up drizzling on and off for a little while throughout the afternoon which helped the tree situation, but shut down the fryer situation. I think God was pissed that we burned his tree.

In case you’re wondering, the Phillies ended up winning 10-5 in 9 innings. All in all it was a good day.

…And that my friends is how I almost got ejected from a Phillies tailgate. As I said, the Pittsburghers I meet and talk to get a big kick out of this story because of their vehement hate of Philly sports. The people have spoken, so I have to retell the cautionary tale.

I hope yinz had a happy Thanksgiving. Don’t drink and fry.

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The Lee Park Honor Roll

By M Davies   /     May 29, 2017  /     Family, Hobby-ish, Into the Void  /     4 Comments

Some of my favorite memories from childhood go back to spending time with my Grandparents. Whether it was taking walks, shopping trips or simply spending time together, we always seemed to have a good time. At least early on in my childhood, my Grandparents would usually have us over for Memorial Day for a sleepover and somewhat of a cookout. This was probably about 20 years ago, so I don’t remember all of the details clearly, but I do remember very vividly that my Grandfather would walk us down to the end of their road to watch an annual ceremony that would take place each “Decoration Day” at the site of a memorial wall. After the ceremony ended, there was normally a short parade. Later in the morning, my cousins always found it a trip to look for the spent bullet shells in the gun salute that happened during the earlier ceremony.

To give you a little background, Memorial Day was initially called “Decoration Day” because it is customary to decorate a soldier’s grave with flowers – dating back to ancient times. I won’t get too preachy about the background of the holiday, but there is a lot of good information about it on the Wikipedia page with sources cited. One thing that seems to be a pet peeve among my media friends is the confusion between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. To clear it up, Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. I think it’s always a good idea to honor the memories who served or died for our freedoms regardless of the day of the year, but especially on those two days. I’m going to write a bit about the memorial wall where we would observe the annual ceremony each year with my grandfather. His name, as well of a few of his brothers appear on the wall and I always wanted to know more about it. Thanks to newspapers.com, I found a WEALTH of information. I definitely recommend getting a subscription if you are trying to research any genealogy or history topics. You won’t be disappointed.

Here’s a look at the “wall” which is called The Lee Park Honor Roll on a bright day in 2012:

There are a few other memorials setup on the site.

The area where the memorial sits is in Hanover Township on Lee Park Avenue. It is directly next to the old Lee Park Hose Company #4 (which will eventually close, if it hasn’t already, when the fire stations consolidate into their new building on the Sans Souci Parkway), it is across the street from Grace Assembly International Church and the Lee Park Elementary building, and caddy corner in either direction from the Lee Park Towers (High Rise) and Regina Street. It overlooks a recreational park below. The land that the memorial and the park sit on used to be owned by the Glen Alden Coal Company and bordered land owned by the Jersey Central Railroad. Allegedly, this area was named “American Legion Park” after the Lee Park American Legion Post 609-320, according to old newspapers, but I cannot find any other source to back this up as Hanover Township removed the section of their website regarding the area parks. If you happen to know the details, shoot me an email or leave me a message in the comments and I will add it in.

The memorial movement was just starting to gain traction in early 1943 as a committee was formed and meetings were held to raise funds for the granite statue. Women were urged to take an active role in the fundraising and many of them went door to door collecting goods and monetary donations.

By April 1943, the funds raised by the community exceeded 1,000 dollars. 1k doesn’t seem like it would go far these days, but of course this prior to a buttload of inflation that happened over the years. A quick check of the US Inflation Calculator shows that 1k would equal roughly $14,000 now. If you consider that most of the people in this community were the working poor — housewives and general laborers (most coal miners) that is pretty impressive.

Lists were posted in local businesses to collect the names of men and women who served in the various ranks of the military. Initially, around 500 names of men and women who served were collected in the districts that represent “Lee Park Proper.” After later meetings of the committees, it was agreed that the Marion Terrace, Carey Terrace and Inman Park sections of Hanover Twp. would also be included. You could just guess that there was going to be some hurt feelings and controversy over people who may have been left off the memorial. The committee agreed to make it right, but not until 1944 as noted below.

Reverse the clock to 1943 for a moment. A ground breaking celebration was held in July followed by a 10 day Bazaar to raise funds for the sandblasting of names to go on the granite memorial.

As a comparison, here’s the same angle the above photo was taken, present day (albeit slightly further back from the original spot…I wanted to get the entire church and school in the shot)…

The plan was to have the wall unveiling ceremony/dedication in time for Labor Day, but the Lee Park Honor Roll Association ran into some snags with the vendors providing the granite. The initial company that the Association entered into a contract with – Summit Hill Marble and Granite Company – wasn’t the one that they ended up going with in the end (July 1943).  Summit Hill grossly under-estimated their price quote and withdrew the bid. Later in July, the Association took bids from another organizations and decided upon the Green Valley Marble Company located in Vermont.

While having a vendor back out was controversial enough, It turns out the the Green Valley Marble Company had some issues of their own. The dedication ceremony of the wall was pushed back yet again due to issues with cutting the granite to the specification provided by the Association. The article below was posted to a local paper in November of 1943.

 

FINALLY at long last, on December 12, 1943, the wall was dedicated at approximately 1:30 in the afternoon. There was a parade around Lee Park comprised of 5 divisions before heading back over to the park for the dedication service. The local school’s band and chorus played music and sang before the wall was dedicated. Initially 500 names were placed on the wall, but there were room for an additional 200 or so to be sandblasted on after the fact.

If you compare the above photo to the one I originally posted of the wall, you’ll notice that it is missing a few sections. They were added after the fact. My grandfather’s name appears in one of the add-on sections (spelled wrong, because of course)…”Russel Hrevnack.” The truth is that my Grandfather’s family came to America speaking no English, so whoever was taking their paper work at the port they came in on or the census workers probably had NO IDEA how to spell it properly, nor did my ancestors know how to communicate with them to spell it correctly.

My Grandfather’s two brothers appeared in the original sections of the wall – John and Peter.

As of 2001, there are now over 850 names on the wall. If you look closely at some of the names on the wall, you may notice a star or an O before their name. The O signifies that they were a prisoner of war, the star indicates that they were killed in the line of duty. Here are a few of the panels of the wall showing examples of each. Source

One particularly interesting story, is that of Margaret A. Nash. I specifically came to the wall this afternoon looking for her name because I believed she was the only woman on the wall that was held as a prisoner of war – I was right. There are very few names of women on the wall, but she’s the only POW that I was able to see. I’ve visited this wall probably a zillion times and I never knew or noticed the markers before the name. Of course when I found this little nugget, I was down another Google wormhole and researched all about Margaret A. Nash. Without getting too far off topic, Margaret was a Navy nurse. She was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Japanese during World War II, she neglected her own health to nurse hundreds of her fellow prisoners suffering from disease and near-starvation in the Philippine Islands. She was still struggling to survive when the camp was finally liberated by US forces three years later. This woman came from your backyard NEPA…how truly incredible.

Below is a quick article snippet from when she was well enough to come back home in 1945. Margaret has since passed away, but not before moving to California and teaching an entire new generation of nurses at the University of California in Berkley.

After the wall was built, the Lee Park Honor Roll Association continued to raise funds through community picnics, bingos, dances, and other events to build the park and pavilion that exists between the Hose Company and the Lee Park Towers. I know they eventually turned their attention to creating recreational parks in other areas of Hanover Township. It continued to remain a civic minded organization throughout the years.

So what now?

Well the last time I visited the wall, It wasn’t in the best of shape landscaping-wise, but to be fair, it was a fall day when most lawn care equipment has been packed up and stored for the season in preparation of the cold weather.

As I mentioned earlier, the Lee Park Honor Roll Association still seems to exist and may be headed up by members of the Lee Park Hose Company or the American Legion. The caretakers are probably getting up there in age – and the younger folks will likely be moving away when the Fire Departments consolidate. Some of the things in the memorial park have been removed, such as a memorial bench. I am unable to find any reasons why this may have happened, but can only imagine that it was because of decay and age. I know that the wall has been hit by graffiti vandals at least once, but I’m sure it’s probably happened more than just that one occasion and that hurts my heart. Why would you destroy a piece of history?

The parades and memorial services that would be held at the site (the ones that I remembered from my childhood) no longer happen. I do know there are neighboring communities (such as Ashley for example) that observe the holiday. Still in all, I wish that even if for just one more time, the site could be honored in some kind of way because it is truly special and the history behind it is fascinating. Maybe I will send this blog post along to some local community leaders to see what can be done, but I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. Just based on the Margaret Nash story, I believe it should be fair came for a PA historical marker, but I’m not sure what the application process would be for something like that.

At any rate, whatever your plans are today, take the time to remember the men and women that sacrificed so much for your freedoms.

Have a safe and healthy Memorial Day weekend.

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