GREENVILLE — These long days of summer are far from over, with splendid weather and many outdoor activities to enjoy with family and friends. Yet, sometimes in our quest to find the perfect short summertime outing, we may overlook some unique (and informative) opportunities right in our own community “backyard.”
Last week, the Fort GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) hosted the first of two Veterans Walking Tours at the Greenville Union Cemetery. With over 100 acres, Greenville Union Cemetery hosts many varieties of trees, natural blooms, and beautifully manicured grounds, and serves as the final resting place for over 1551 veterans. Last week’s tour, which highlighted the cemetery’s new section established in the mid-1960s, honors veterans from World War I to the present day. Highlighting the lives of six local Darke County veterans who served as part of “the Greatest Generation,” the Fort GreeneVille DAR encouraged tour attendees to learn about the personal lives of these local heroes.
Welcomed by DAR members Mary Jane Dietrich and Debbie Nisonger at the entrance to the cemetery’s “New Section,” over 20 walking tour guests were invited to visit six designated veterans’ grave sites. At each site, attendees viewed a table with artifacts, photos, family history, and met a surviving relative, along with a DAR tour docent who offered a brief biography and summary of the veteran’s military service and community life within Darke County. As the warm summer temperatures increased, the DAR also provided complimentary bottles of water to all.
Veterans included in this walking tour were Dr. Jack A. Harless, U.S. Navy WWII; Francis E. Lease, U.S. Army-OH National Guard; Richard Gene Grow, Sr., U.S. Army WWII; Charles (“Chick”) Francis Schmidt, Sr., U.S. Army, WWII; Pauline Molyneaux, U.S. Army Nurses Corps, WWII; and Thelma Pauline (Seman) York, U.S. Women’s Army Corps, WWII.
DAR tour docent Cindy Austen introduced Greeville chiropractor and veteran, Dr. Jack Harless. Harless first joined joined the Navy at age 17, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters in World War II, achieving the rank of Shipfitter, Third Class. Harless earned the Good Conduct Medal, and two stars serving in the American, Atlantic and Pacific (China) theaters. Having sustained a back injury early on, Harless later decided to pursue training in chiropractic health care in order to help others.
Veteran Francis E. Lease was introduced by his sister, DAR tour docent Betty Broderick, and his daughter, Nancy Livingston. Lease joined the U.S. Army-OH National Guard in 1948 and served until his retirement, in 1989, earning the rank of Sergeant Major. A gifted musician who played with Dixieland greats such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey and many others, Lease formed the Francis Lease Dixieland Band, playing regularly at the Crystal Ballroom and Eldora Ballroom, as well as hosting his own radio show from Piqua.
DAR tour docent Kathy Bowen introduced veteran Richard Gene Grow, Sr., along with members of his family. Grow served as a Staff Sargeant in Company C of the 44th Armored Infantry Division of U.S. Army in World War II. Serving under General George S. Patton, Grow served at the Battle of Ardennes and in the European-African-Middle Eastern campaigns. One of two survivors in his company, Grow earned four Bronze Stars and a WWII Victory Medal.
Greenville native and veteran Charles (“Chick”) Francis Schmidt, Sr., was introduced by DAR tour docent Linda Riley, along with members of his family. Schmidt served on the battlefields of the European theater in England, France, Germany and Czechoslovakia moving up in rank from Private to Tech Sargeant, having joined the U.S. Army during World War II at the age of 20. Schmidt, Sr. was awarded the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Bronze Stars and a WWII Victory Medal.
DAR tour docent Shirley Hughes introduced veteran Pauline Molyneaux, who served in the U.S. Army Nurses Corps during World War II, earning the rank of Captain. Born in 1912, and having been told she was underweight for enlistment, Molyneaux took it upon herself to eat bananas in order to put on weight to meet the Army’s weight requirement. She served in the European theater, both in England and La Havre, France.
Army Veteran Thelma Pauline (Seman) York was introduced by DAR tour docent Helen Wright, along with members of York’s family. York served in U.S. Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II and the post-War, from 1945 to 1948. As a Clerk Typist 405 under General Douglas MacArthur in Japan, she received the American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Army of Occupation with Japan Clasp, Meritorious Service Plaque with star, and was the only female elected as Commander of the Greenville VFW Post 7262.
The next DAR Veterans Walking Tour, a free event open to the public, will take place this Thursday, July 22, at 7 p.m., in the Greenville Union Cemetery, by the Mausoleum, located at 200 West Street, in Greenville. The tour, which covers the cemetery’s “Old Section” established in the mid-1800s, will include the American Revolution, Civil War, World War I, and World War II veterans. All donations will be given to the Greenville Union Cemetery’s Tree Replacement Fund. Attendees are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes. The Fort GreeneVille DAR will provide bottles of water for this one-hour event.
It is a walk to remember — especially for those who love American history and want to know more about Darke County residents who shaped the events of our past.
Interested in bringing a group or learning more? Phone calls can be directed to the Greenville Union Cemetery office at 937-548-3235 or www.facebook.com/fortgreenevilledar/.