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Military roll of honor found in church attic

Henry County Memorial Park Supt. Laurie Davis (left) stands with Rev. Tom McGilliard, Cathy Hamilton and Don Hinshaw (left to right). They holdan interesting discovery from the New Castle First United Methodist Church attic. Names of all church members who served in World War II are listed here. A few with gold stars next to their names never returned home, making the ultimate sacrifice.

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Just two days before the 77th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing that propelled America into World War II, a group of people were examining a relic found in the New Castle United Methodist Church attic.

A large brown scroll had 464 names in gold. Four of the names had gold stars next to them. All had dual significance to the Rev. Tom McGilliard, minister of the New Castle First United Methodist Church. Each person listed had served in World War II. Each was also a member of the church congregation.

“It was just in the attic of the church,” McGilliard said. “I don’t know when they moved it up there. My hunch is it was after the war because some of these people were killed in that war and all the names are listed in alphabetical order.”

“I’d say it’s been up there a good 60 years,” said Don Hinshaw, a long-time member of the church who also served his country during the Korean War.

Actually, the roll of World War II honor was literally rolled up. In order to display it, Hinshaw worked to attach each name to a 4 x 4 sheet of plywood so it could again be mounted on a wall.

The church members named on the board were among more than 4,000 Henry County residents to serve in World War II, heading into battle after the “day that will live in infamy” proclaimed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Dec. 7, 1941.

The service and sacrifice behind each name on the board inspired and humbled Rev. McGilliard.

“It just helps me remember how much has been given and to not waste the freedom we have,” McGilliard said. “Those men and women sacrificed a lot and for me to live selfishly is just plain wrong.”

McGilliard himself is a veteran, having served in the Coast Guard. He said his father served in the Pacific during World War II.

Those listed on the board read like a Who’s Who of New Castle and Henry County.

Lloyd Beall, a well-known merchant of yesteryear, is there. So is Clifford Joe Crane, a late county councilman and father of current Henry County Judge Kit Crane. Scoutmaster, junior achievement leader and cabinet maker Horace Himes’ name was also there, not far from that of Harmon Hoy, a well-known jeweler in New Castle for decades.

Last names like Baker, Caldwell, Cronk, Gray, Hudelson, Morris and Van Zant also appear.

Each name, whether prominent or not in New Castle during that time, no doubt had a unique story behind it, one put on hold or changed forever after the day which still lives in infamy.

A few – those with gold stars beside them – gave the ultimate sacrifice. Those names included Kenneth Gwinn, Elizabeth J. Howren, Elmer M. Pfenninger and Claude Van Zant.

Rev. McGilliard and Hinshaw said they didn’t know of anyone on the list who is still living. Perhaps the last to pass was Dr. William C. Heilman, Jr., who practiced family medicine at The Clinic here for more than three decades. He died Sept. 21, 2013.

The recent find will become part of a new museum in the lower level of the W.G. Smith Building, already equipped with impressive, larger than life, images on the walls honoring the various branches of military service.

Park Supt. Laurie Davis said future items to be displayed at the new museum include pants once worn by a World War I doughboy, a weapon made in Anderson and a pair of World War II uniforms.

Cathy Hamilton is hopeful the museum will also include items to honor those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as well.

More discussion about development of the museum is expected at a committee meeting this Thursday.