Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day at Ss Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Cemetery - 27 May 2013

Below you will find my remarks from Ss Peter and Paul Cemetery on Monday 27 May 2013 in honor of Memorial Day.  It was my honor to piece together these snippets of history on the men and women who served our country and are buried here.  Thank you for the opportunity. 

 (Please check back as I have more pictures of these individuals on the way.  If you have a loved one buried here, please contact me and I will include any pictures you'd like with their story.  Thank you.)

"There is a lesson here, among the hundreds of stories that lie with the men and women who served in the United States Military.
Donna Blauch - Her dad Don Blauch served in
Korea.  "Summer Went Too Soon."  Donna
died in the VA Hospital in Wilkes-Barre,
succumbing to the effects of Multiple-Sclerosis.

This small, peaceful cemetery is the final home of over 150 veterans.
There’s a Civil War Veteran, a Spanish American War Veteran, fourteen are from WWI, nineteen are from the Korean War, and fifteen are from the Vietnam Era.

But most impressive of all is the roughly 100 who served during WWII.
Some served in more than one war, a few served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
Anthony Dougher lived on Alum Street in Lehighton before the war.
He was born in Wilkes Barre on 15 October 1895 with blue eyes and black
hair and was working here as a Switchman on the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
His serial number was #1960-414 and he enlisted 15 May 1917. 

 Anthony Dougher Jr is buried here.  He was a World War I veteran, recovering from the wounds of the war at Camp Sherman Ohio in October of 1918.  Over 5,600 of our soldiers were sickened by the Spanish Influenza at Camp Sherman alone, 1,176 died there, so many, they were “stacking the men like cordwood” in places like the Majestic Theatre.  Anthony Dougher Jr of Lehighton was one of them.

I found two husband and wife veteran teams here:
Frank Bayer’s parents, Frank and Mary, are buried here too.  They met because of WWI.  Mary was Mary Kennedy from Mauch Chunk, a nursing student who signed onto the Canadian Nursing Corps, serving in England before the U.S. got involved. 
Mary was a Kennedy from East Mauch Chunk.  She
died at an early age of cancer.

Frank Bayer owned and operated "Bayers Paints" in
Lehighton, while together with his brothers owned
two movie theaters in town as well as a 500+ acre farm
in Beaver Run that which became the Ukrainian Homestead.

Frank Bayer Sr, was gassed and cut down, shot in both legs during the war.  It took a year at a veteran’s hospital in Carlisle for him to recovery.  It was his future wife Mary who took care of his wounds, and from there is where love bloomed.

Another husband and wife veteran team was Helen and Gerard Kelleher who both served in WWII. 

The Bubick family, Mahoning Valley farmers, first generation Polish Americans produced nine children from 1916 to 1936: six sons and three daughters; five of them served in our armed forces are buried here: Walter, Anthony, Joseph, Michael all served in WWII; Anthony receiving the Purple Heart.  Youngest son Edward served in Vietnam.

Another Polish American family lived in Packerton, two sons John and Stanley Szpak fought in WWII.  They had a neighbor Ed Kelowitz who also served, he died at the age of forty-four.  All three are buried here.

There is no telling why Ed Kelowitz died so young, we do not know the unwritten toll service can take out of a person.  

As one grave comments, “Summer Went Too Soon.”

On average, only six out of the forty-five or 13% of the veterans of WWI, WWII and Korea died before reaching the age of sixty.

There are still many Vietnam Veterans among us (I was happy to be able to say hello to “Ski” Savitsky today at the cemetery after last seeing him so many years ago.)  But the Vietnam War seems to have taken a particular toll among these veterans:  Of the fifteen buried here, ten died before reaching the age of sixty.  That’s 66% died before the age of sixty, most were in the thirties and forties, only two reached their fifties.

Marie Conroy served in both WWII and Korea.  She was only forty-seven.

One Vietnam era veteran who died before her time was Donna Blauch
Donna is the daughter of Don Blauch, who was one of six Lehighton High School  friends who enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1948 and fought in Korea.  One of those friends was my Dad, Randy Rabenold.

Donna Blauch was a dental hygienist in the Navy during the
Vietnam era.  Through her husband and her father-in-law (who both were
ranking officials) she became the hygienist who took care of President Carter
and his family, even making a visit to Camp David with the Carters. 

It is important to know their stories, in doing so we find the humanity that went into their service, we know the sacrifices they made, so that freedom and our way of life here, going forward, can go on.
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They served for us:
These veterans, lying in this field were rare contradictions:
They loved America so much that they were willing to spend long years in foreign countries. 

They loved freedom so much, that they gave up their own free time to serve. 

They valued life so much, though only some of them died for it, ALL of THEM stood ready to die for us, for our future.

They rest here within this soil, in this peaceful corner of town. 
Your presence here honors them.

They have carried it as far as they could,
It lies here, placed at our feet,
This mantle of freedom,
Take it with you where ever you go, for

Freedom too, is a contradiction. 

We cannot see it, though we know what it is like when we don’t have it.
It doesn’t require air or food for sustenance, but it too often requires our living blood to sustain it.

It is to be enjoyed, but comes with responsibility:
Fight for it, labor with it, carry it upon your back, protect it, cherish it, wear it proudly upon your chest,
They can rest here, contently knowing,
That we the living,

Will advance it from here."

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