"All gave some, and some gave all"
Howard W. Osterkamp, Korean War Veteran
Have you driven past the Aurora Memorial Library and wondered how it got its name and who or what it memorializes? Have you wondered why there is a cannon and huge boulder sitting on the front lawn? The parents of nine young men from Aurora who died in World War II wanted to honor their sons who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
In 1947 the families purchased three lots at a sheriff’s auction. The flag pole, boulder and cannon were placed on the land as a memorial to their sons. The families deeded the property to the village. It was intended that eventually a "library, a museum, or a veterans’ club or a combination of all three" would be built on the site.
A building fund was established with $500 left from the proceeds of the scrap drives conducted during the war by Aurora’s Civil Defense Committee. The flag pole, cannon and plaque were dedicate on July 4, 1947 during the Village’s Sesquicentennial celebration. In 1964, the Chapman family contributed funds for the construction of the library in memory of George Chapman.
A bronze plague on the boulder lists the names of the nine young men.
Ralph Edson (Eddie) Hurd, Jr., a 1939 graduate of Aurora High School, was 23 years old. He was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 493rd Bomber Squadron, 7th Bomber Group of the Army Air Force. The squadron concentrated its attacks on military and industrial targets in Germany. Hurd’s plane was shot down during a raid. He was survived by his parents and wife Evelyn.
Willis John Eldridge, a 1939 graduate of Aurora High School, was 23 years. He was a Lieutenant in U.S. Army Air Corp Field Artillery. He was killed in action during the Normandy D-Day Invasion near St. Lo, France. He was accidentally killed by American bombers while at an advanced observation post. He was affectionately called "Pee Wee" by his friends. He was survived by his parents and wife. He had been married for one year.
Edward Robert Eichler resided in Geauga Lake. He was a U.S. Navy Radioman 2nd Class. He was confirmed lost at sea.
Merle A. Fisher, a 1938 graduate of Aurora High School, was 22 years old and resided in Geauga Lake. He was Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. He fought in the South Pacific and participated in the campaigns of Guadalcanal, New Georgia, New Heberdies, and New Britain. He was killed in the battle for Cape Glouster.
Albert R. Korecky, a 1939 graduate of Aurora High School, was 22 years old. He was a Machinist Mate 2nd Class in the U.S. Navy on a sub-chaser. Korecky accidentally drowned after falling from a gang plank that had given way while crossing from one ship to another. Two of his shipmates dove into the water in a futile attempt to save him. We was survived by his wife and young son Richard, who he had recently seen for the first time while home on leave.
Jack F. Lyons (John Francis), resided in Geauga Lake. He was a Sergeant in the United State Marine Corps. He was killed at the Battle of Guadalcanal.
Donald F. Marvin, was a 1935 graduate of Aurora High School, he 28 years old. He was a Captain in the U.S. Army, 866th Bomber Squadron, 494th Bomber Air Corp. He is buried at Honolulu, Hawaii.
Fred R. Upner, was 38 years old. He was a Private 1st Class in the United States Army. He died while home on leave in an auto accident coming home from a party at Jack & Heintz.
John Guy Shaw, was a 1942 graduate of Aurora High School, he was 19 years old. He served in the United States Army and was killed in France.
During the war Aurora resident Jack Childs published a monthly newsletter called the Home Town Bugle which was designed to provide those in the service the "low down on what’s what and who’s who in Aurora" and "any news from the front that’s fit to print…"
In the December, 1944 edition included a photo of the Aurora High School’s 1937 championship football team that was in the 1938 Portage County Schools’ yearbook the Speedometer. The photo’s caption listed the names of each player and the branch of the military in which he served. Of the 26 young men in the photo, 22 were in the service, had been wounded, was missing in action or had been killed.
Two of the team members, No. 31 Pee Wee Eldridge and No. 19 Eddie Hurd are listed on the memorial plague. The caption concludes with "This gang of champions…are now championing the cause of freedom, and they’ll come out on top, just as they did back in ’37."
Even before Aurora was founded in 1799, the men and women of Aurora have answered the nation’s call to duty. While we officially honor their service on Veterans’ Day and recognize those who gave the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day, we should honor and thank our veterans every opportunity that arises.
John Kudley is president of the Aurora Historical Society