In April of 2000, our daughter, Rachel Torres, asked the La Cañada Flintridge City Council to install three new plaques on the gazebo at Memorial Park. The first plaque would bear the names of the five La Cañadans who died in Vietnam. It would be followed by plaques for those who died in World War II and Korea. The project would be funded by voluntary donations at no cost to the taxpayers.
Rachel was 16 years old. She called her proposal, Project Remembrance.
When the Memorial Park gazebo was installed in 1990, the city installed a plaque with the city council members’ names: David Spence, Carol Liu, Jim Edwards, Joan Feehan and Jack Hastings.
Ten years later, as a result of Rachel’s project, on Memorial Day of 2000, a plaque went up with the names of five local men who died in Vietnam.
The next year, on Memorial Day 2001, the names of three local World War II casualties, John Edmund Doherty, Joseph Connor Doherty and Richard P. Munroe, were added to the memorial. Several younger Dohertys attended the ceremony — they were touched that our town would remember their uncles, after so many years of silence.
The World War II names were discovered by word of mouth. In those early days of the World Wide Web, there was limited access to online databases and news archives.
Suddenly, it was September 11, 2001. The gulf between local military and civilian societies receded. When Todd Bryant, a La Cañada High School graduate from the Class of 1998, was killed in Fallujah, the city paid for the installation of a new plaque for the War in Iraq.
As more archives and databases go online, new doors open into the past. My friend, Denise Hovland, (she is a fellow Thursday Club member) researched newspapers, both on- and off-line, screen-by-screen, and bit-by-bit. She then confirmed her results with the NARA online archives. The results were shocking.
One would think that there might be a missing name or two of men and women from La Cañada who died in World War II, but Denise has located the names of six more La Cañadans who died in combat. She also found a female officer who died, not in combat, but during her service in the war zone.
One man’s funeral was on the cover of Life magazine. His mother was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times. Another man was awarded the Silver Star, the second highest honor for a soldier. Four of the fallen lived on the same block of Lasheart Drive. Another lived around the block, on Encinas Drive.
When does a community remember? And what makes a community forget? By 1950, a playground had been named for one man and a park for another. The years rolled by. The plaques came down.
Perhaps it is better form to say they will now be remembered.
Killed in combat: Staff Sgt. Lewis Arthur Salmon, U.S. Army; 2nd Lt. Roscoe E. Woodbury, Jr., U.S. Army; Tech 4th Grade Harold E Lotze, U.S. Army; 2nd Lt. Daniel R. Shuler, U.S. Army; 2nd Lt. Donald J. Kanoff, U.S. Army; and 2nd Lt. William Curland, U.S. Army.
Lt. Anne G. Hemphill, WAC, “died not in combat” in Italy in the war zone.
Published Thursday, July 3, 2008 4:15 AM PDT