Wayside exhibit is a monument to history
Leading into the Memorial Day weekend, members of the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry District Veterans unveiled a new historical marker on the lawn of Harpers Ferry Middle School.
Association Commander Doug Craze led a ceremony Friday at the school where he shared the story behind the exhibit and those selected to represent their military eras.
“This new exhibit was created to highlight critical historical periods in our nation’s history and the military experiences of certain members of our community during those periods,” Craze explained Friday.
The idea for the marker initially came about because of the deterioration of the markers already in place at the school. The Veteran’s Association, under the leadership of founding member Dixie Wiltshire, installed the first panel recognizing Jefferson County veterans in the early 1990s.
“The first challenge I had was verifying those 200 or so names and the information on the old panel,” Craze said.
Working with David Guiney, Interpretive Design LLC in Harpers Ferry and Ruth Bielobocky of IonDesign in Frederick, Maryland, Craze and his Veterans group set out to create a new exibit.
“We determined that the best way was to match the represented historic period with a specific military service and a veteran of that service who had a connection to Jefferson County and the selected era,” Craze explained.
After hours of research on countless websites and reading records in newspapers and at funeral homes, the selections were made.
Although he was not a Jefferson County resident, Private Luke Quinn, USMC, was chosen because of his involvement during John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry in October 1859. Quinn was shot in the abdomen by one of Brown’s men and later died. He is interred in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemtery in Harpers Ferry.
Frank Buckles, Charles Town resident and the last remaining U.S. Army World War I ‘Doughboy’ served as an ambulance driver in France during World War I. He was born Feb. 1, 1901 and died at the age of 110 on Feb. 27, 2011.
Olen Glaize, a naval aviator during World War II and Korea, grew up in Ranson and graduated from Charles Town High School. He flew missions over Japan in World War II and in Korea during that conflict. On Oct. 2, 1953, he was flying his F9F Panther jet when he became involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft. His body was never found.
Joining in the unveiling ceremony was Glaize’s daughter, Cindy Bassett and other members of the family.
Father George Pucciarelli, who can be seen on the cover of Time Magazine in the exhibit, joined the U.S. Navy Chaplain Corps where he spent nine years as a reservist . He then entered active duty status and was assigned to the 10th Marine Regiment at Camp LeJeune. He became the Chaplain of the Marine Corps where his many duties included the oversight of 271 chaplains and 269 religious program specialists around the world. “Father Pooch,” as he is affectionately known, currently serves at St. Bernadette’s Church in Hedgesville.
The final military member selected for the panel was U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Harry Biller. Biller grew up in Harpers Ferry and was a faithful member of the Bolivar Harpers Ferry District Veterans Association. During his service in Vietnam, Biller flew on 50 combat missions. His expertise was aircraft camera repair and photography. Biller lost his battle with cancer on March 28 of this year, just prior to the placement of the new marker. Joining in the unveiling was his wife, Wanda, and daughter Lynn Folk.
Also shown on the exhibit is a list of Jefferson County residents who were “Killed in Action or Prisoners of War.” Also shown on the marker is the USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49), the lead ship of her class in the Navy’s Amphibious Group 1. The ship’s home port is San Diego, California.
Among the honored guests at the ceremony Friday was Del. Stephen Skinner.
“This is a great example of connecting children of today to our past,” Skinner said. “Harpers Ferry Middle School is an example to our state to link today to the past.”
Wiltshire, along with Paul Ranalli, were honored as a new flag for Harpers Ferry Middle School was unveiled. The two, who have been friends since their elementary school days in Millville, are known as ‘Ambassadors of Friendship’ at the school where, until failing health has kept them away, they have traveled the hallways making friends with each student.
Former Principal Joe Spurgas said of the pair, “Their heart and soul is here. They literally walked the same halls [as today’s students].