The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
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    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
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    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
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    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Memories from the War: Del Gasche collects veterans' recollections from World War II

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

They didn’t come home to grief counselors and psychiatrists, says Del Gasche. They just came back home and got married and opened up a gas station or went to school. They got on with their lives.

These are the men of World War II, the often unsung veterans of “the great war” who did their job overseas and returned home to resume their lives when the job was done.dell

Gasche, a resident of rural Morenci, has collected the stories of 23 area veterans and published them in a book titled Memories of War: World War II.

The men featured in the book were previously the subjects of feature stories in the Farmland News, a weekly publication in Archbold where Gasche is a staff writer.

“Since I’ve been working at the Farmland News, I’ve talked to so many people who spoke about their war experiences,” he said.

The original story might have been about a person’s woodworking experience or life as a farmer, but when they talked about their lives, they brought up what Gasche sees as the most intense experience of their lives: combat action during the second world war.

“I decided to pull those stories out separately for a book,” he said.

This collection of stories is combat oriented, Gasche said. A second volume due out by next spring, incorporating 50 veterans, includes one World War I soldier in addition to men who served in Korea and Vietnam.

Variety of experience

The range of war experiences told caught Gasche by surprise.

“I thought it was very interesting for a group of 23 veterans to have experiences in so many different areas,” he said.

Gerald Otte of Defiance was one of the first Frogmen, the Navy division that later became known as the SEALS. Roy Kishpaugh of Weston flew a P-51 Mustang fighter plane over Germany.

Jack Jennings of Edgerton ended his service in China as an honorary major in the Chinese army. Jim Huff of rural Liberty Center was captured on the Philippines shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor and spent the entire war as a prisoner of the Japanese.

Keith Whitehouse of Morenci served as a Navy medic and witnessed the terror of kamikaze attacks by Japanese airmen. Don Thrasher of Wauseon was a victim of the war’s first radio-controlled glider bomb developed by the Germans.

As a member of the Navy Air Corps, Bob Switzer of Wauseon was part of the effort that resulted in the only capture of a German submarine during the entire war. Richard Seibel of Defiance, a Lieutenant Colonel with the U.S. Army, was put in charge of liberating the last concentration camp in Europe.

Omaha Beach. Bataan. The Battle of the Bulge. Liepzig. Remagen Bridge. Guadalcanal.

It seems that all the big names of World War II were covered among those 23 veterans.

“This many people within 50 miles of Archbold,” Gasche said, amazed at the wealth of experience—and horror—from the men he interviewed.

One of the most touching tales for Gasche was the plight of Art Rorhs who grew up near Liberty Center. Less than a year after he married, he was inducted into the Army.

While training in Louisiana, he received a telegram stating that he was the father of a baby boy. Another telegram soon followed informing him that his wife died in childbirth.

He returned home to bury his wife on the day of their second wedding anniversary, kissed his newborn son good-bye and headed back to the business at hand. A few months later, he was on his way to Europe aboard the Queen Mary.

Like others in the book, Rorhs was relieved to return home at the end of the war and get back to his regular life as a farmer.

For Gasche as a writer, he most enjoyed telling the exciting story of B-29 tail gunner Robert Franz of Deshler who was forced to bail out of his burning plane over Japan.

“For me, it was a moving experience [to collect the stories],” Gasche said. “I was born in 1938 and the first thing I can remember is the war.”

Gasche describes his book as “the memories of men comfortable with the word ‘duty’ but never with the word ‘hero’.”

“But, of course, they were heroes,” he writes. “They were ordinary people who did extraordinary things under dangerous conditions and that, by definition, is essentially heroic.”

It wasn’t always easy for the men to tell their tales. Tears sometimes flowed, and many had never before recounted their often horrifying experiences.

“You certainly can’t judge the morality of the individual acts unless you were part of it,” Gasche said. “You just had to be there.”

They left home, jobs and family to fight an army that was terrorizing the world.

“It was asking a lot from people,” Gasche said, “but that was a lot more of a clean cut war than any we’ve had since.”

Like Art Rorhs, who lost his wife, left behind his son and returned to duty, the suffering of many veterans was unfathomable.

“That’s the sort of thing that nobody gets a medal for,” Gasche said.

• Copies of Memories of War are available at the Farmland News office in Archbold. For information about ordering, call 1-888-445-9456.

Quotes from the book... 

It was a big war and some parts were pretty bad. But I believe it was something that needed to be done. It’s history now and I’m proud that I’m part of it.
    – John Bates (Arthur, Ohio)

It’s difficult to explain to anyone what we went through in World War II. We were trained to do something and we did it, one step at a time.
– Robert Franz (Deshler, Ohio)

Everybody in it just did their jobs and nobody expected any thank you certificates or medals. Those of us who lived through it came home and started doing different jobs. It’s hard to believe now, but that’s just how it was at the time.
– J.R. Frey (Pandora, Ohio)

People who weren’t in combat just don’t realize the things that happened. Your buddies get all blowed to hell and there’s blood soaked into the snow. You don’t forget stuff like that, you never forget, not as long as you live, not ever.
– Frank Miller (Walbridge, Ohio)

As we moved through the camp, I saw bodies stacked like cords of wood. For a small-town fella from Ohio farm country, it was utterly overwhelming. I cannot describe my feelings, except to say that my heart is still sick with sadness.
– Richard Seibel (Defiance, Ohio)

The Japanese, European and Russian civilians suffered terrible hardships. Those of us serving overseas in the military understood those hardships, but I don’t believe that the Americans at home ever really understood what the war was like.
– Bob Greek (Montpelier, Ohio)

Right from the start, I felt completely at home in a fighter plane. the flying just as natural to me as anything I’d ever done, including farming.
– Roy Kispaugh (Weston, Mich.)

I was discharged from the Air Force in October, 1945, and I haven’t been up in a plane since.
– Clair Lehman (Strkyer, Ohio)

I was so happy to see good old Wauseon. I wouldn’t have believed any town could look so good.
– Frank Fauver (Wauseon, Ohio)

[Upon his return home…] I got my barracks bag and started hitchhiking home. It was snowing and a guy picked me up right away. There simply are no words to express how glad I was to walk back into my father’s and mother’s house.
– Feroen Betts (Bryan, Ohio)

    – Nov.6, 2002 

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