World War II monument in 12th Ward rededicated – Altoona Mirror

May 31, 2017
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec / The 12th Ward World War II Memorial at 28th Street and Pine Avenue was rededicated in a ceremony Tuesday afternoon. The Central Pennsylvania National Guard Veterans Association organized the rededication. Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Keirn, who raised the money for the restoration, will be guiding tours, along with former Army Ranger Vince Hagg, from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays in June and July at the Keirn Family World War II Museum in Loretto.
During Tuesday’s rededication of the recently restored World War II monument in 12th Ward, Monsignor Robert Mazur spoke of the pyramid’s “stone and mortar.”
The 700-plus young people whose names are on the monument went off to confront bullets and explosions with bodies made of softer stuff — and 15 didn’t make it home alive.
People learn in school about World War II in terms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, but monuments like the one in 12th Ward help put such events into a local context, said Jared Frederick, one of about 150 who attended the rededication.
Frederick, a Penn State Altoona history instructor and war re-enactor, was dressed in a World War II-style Navy uniform like the one his grandfather, David Frederick, whose name is on the monument, wore as a signalman in the South Pacific on the destroyer USS Eaton.
His grandfather kept a journal that spoke of Kamikaze raids, typhoons and meeting indigenous people on the islands, said Frederick, whose interest in history grew largely from curiosity about the World War II experiences of his grandfathers — his other one, Thomas Nycum, fought extensively in Europe.
Both died before his 9th birthday, but when Frederick teaches his classes about events his forbearers experienced, he feels as close to them as when they were alive, he said.
Richard McDonough Sr., another attendee, has his own name on the monument, as well as that of two brothers, Joe and Paul.
Joe is one of those with a gold star. He was killed on a base in Alabama by a fellow serviceman who was drunk, Richard said.
Because of a new rule designed to prevent multiple fatalities in a family, Joe’s death kept Richard stateside for the duration of the war.
Joe Keirn, the Army veteran and neighborhood native who raised $18,000 for the monument restoration, after the city threatened to raze the pyramid because of deterioration, ribbed McDonough, recalling the magnetism his good looks exerted on girls in the neighborhood.
The McDonoughs were among several families with multiple names on the pyramid.
There were seven Nagle brothers who served, six Stitts, six Sankers and five O’Keefes, Keirn said.
Two of the O’Keefes were women, and 9 percent of the names on the monument are female, Keirn said.
“They fought to prevent evil and tyranny from ruling this world,” said Mayor Matt Pacifico.
“We owe them one promise,” Keirn said. “Let’s not forget them.”
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.
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