Hudson’s World War II Honor Roll is played on the Clock Tower 75-Years Ago

Christopher Bach
Hudson Heritage Association
Grace Goulder Izant (1893-1984), seeing-off her son, 2nd. Lt. Jonathan G. Izant (1923-1945) at LaSalle Station in Chicago in 1941.

The 75th anniversary of the end of World War II was commemorated Sept. 2, three quarters of a century following the grand ceremony in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. Aboard the battleship USS Missouri, representatives from the Empire of Japan met with those of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Soviet Union, China, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to sign the document that formally ended World War II.

Here at home, Hudson would honor their World War II veterans throughout the war with a make-shift wood paneled “Honor Roll” that would be temporarily displayed on the west façade of the Clock Tower, facing Main Street.

Since its completion in 1912, Hudson’s Clock Tower has been used as a sort-of billboard for the community, particularly during World War I and World War II, where Hudson has honored and recognized citizens who went to serve their country, by prominently displaying Hudson’s Honor Roll for all to see.

Immediately following the end of World War I, 15 charter members of the newly formed Hudson American Legion (all World War I veterans), would create, dedicate and unveil the World War I Memorial bronze tablet on the west elevation of the Clock Tower, on “Decoration Day”, May 30, 1919.

This past Memorial Day 2019, we honored Hudson’s 81 veterans of World War I and the restored bronze tablet’s original dedication and unveiling on the Clock Tower 100-years ago.

During World War II, a temporary, wood-paneled Honor Roll (approximately 12-ft x 12-ft) was also installed on the west elevation of the Clock Tower.

Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Dante Lavelli served in the Battle of the Bulge.

It was initially filled with 120 names, many of whom were the sons of World War I veterans, like Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Dante Lavelli (1923-2009).

Lavelli, the son of World War I veteran Angelo Lavelli (1885-1982), join the Army as an infantryman and fought in the Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II.

Edith Lavelli was a member of the Women's Army Corps during World War II.

Dante’s sister, Edith Lavelli (1921-2003), is also listed on the WWII Honor Roll. She was a sophomore student at Miami University, when she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in December 1942 and began flight training as an Aviation Cadet at Fort Hayes in Columbus. Edith was one of over 150,000 American women who served in the WAC during World War II. Members of the WAC were the first women other than nurses to serve within the ranks of the United States Army. She was only a handful of women who went from Hudson to serve during World War II.

Jonathan G. Izant (1923-1945) was born and raised in Hudson, a graduate of Western Reserve Academy (’41) and attended Middlebury College, Vt., when he joined the Army as a 2nd. Lt. in Company M, 397th Infantry Regiment, 100th Division Infantry.

Izant was the oldest son of World War I veteran, Robert J. Izant (1887-1971), a reporter at the Plain Dealer, and Grace Goulder Izant (1893-1984), a well-known journalist, author, and historian. Both had met in France during World War I, where Robert served in the Army and Grace served as a YMCA worker. They married in 1920.

Jonathan G. Izant received the Silver Star Medal, the United States' third highest award exclusively for combat valor, for the Battle of the Bulge. Despite the impending end of the war, in April 1945, the 397th Infantry Regiment fought in the nine-day Battle of Heilbronn, where troops found firm German resistance and advanced in house-to-house combat in their march toward Berlin, less than three weeks before Germany surrendered.

At the age of 22, Jonathan was killed in action on April 20, 1945. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Of the 893 Western Reserve Academy alumni who served in the armed forces in World War II, 46 gave their lives. Their names are memorialized on a WRA World War II Memorial bronze tablet that is discreetly displayed along a covered colonnade on the west façade of the Natatorium building.

While many of the names on the Hudson World War II Honor Roll are familiar and remembered by people today, these Hudson veterans and their stories in World War II have yet to be fully understood or told.

The names were hand-painted over time throughout the war, in a hit-and-miss order, neither alphabetically arranged nor listed in the order of entrance into service. When the center Honor Roll wood panel was filled, two additional side panels had to be added, resulting in an Honor Roll that spanned the entire width of the Clock Tower.

These side panels were each filled with an additional 50-60 names before the end of the war, on V-J Day Sept. 2, 1945.

However, this expanded Honor Roll, with now over 240 names listed, still represented an incomplete roll and more space was needed, and the Hudson Village Council and Township Trustees would later agree to relocate it to a newly planned and designated “Memorial Park.”

At the time, the Clock Tower World War II Honor Roll was considered the most impressive of any surrounding community, as nearly every town and village in Ohio had one on display.

After the end of war, the World War II Honor Roll was removed from the Clock Tower and placed alongside a newly constructed American Legion Hall, which was built around 1946 or 1947 by the Hudson American Legion members. The “Legion Hall” was located at the west corner of First and Clinton Streets, where the J. Jill retail store at First and Main is located today, just across from Heinen’s Grocery Store.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, the Hudson American Legion and Hudson Community Service organizations had raised enough money to build a new football field for the Hudson High School. The field was located along Clinton Street, between First Street and Library Street today.

The original plan was to make the area a “Veteran Park”, but this did not materialize, as a lot of the property was later sold to Morse Controls. When Lavelli Field was dedicated in 1972 and used as the High School stadium, Morse Controls expanded their operations by building on the old high school football field. Both Morse Controls and the Legion Hall were later demolished, making room for the new First and Main development, which opened in 2004.

It appears that the World War II wood paneled Honor Roll had quickly deteriorated over time with many of the names becoming illegible. There was a concerted effort by the Hudson American Legion, Lee-Bishop Post 462, to propose a few options for a more permanent Honor Roll, like Hudson’s World War I Memorial bronze tablet, but this never materialized.

Today, we honor our veterans at the Hudson Veterans Memorial Garden at Markillie Cemetery and at Hudson High School’s Memorial Stadium, though the list of the close-to 400 Hudson veteran names that served in World War II seems to have been forgotten.

The Hudson World War I and World War II Honor Rolls were placed expressly on the Clock Tower because this was (and still is today) the center of town and of our community, both physically and symbolically, where the Honor Roll was highly visible and could be seen by all.

While we fondly think of the “Clock Tower Mouse” decorating the Clock Tower during the Holidays, let us also remember that at one time, Hudson proudly honored its veterans here.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Hudson Hub-Times on June 9, 2019, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing operations in Normandy, France.