May chimes, recall our fallen heroes
Memorial Day remember Boardman Ex Servicemen’s Club, remarkable men who recognized sacrifices of fallen comrades and bettered their community. They started with about 160 members, predominately WWI veterans. Club president was Emil Rauschenbach, who fought in WWI, stationed in France and lived on tulip bulbs after his supply lines were cut. Injured in combat, he received the Purple Heart. In WWII, his son was killed by German artillery on Omaha Beach during Normandy invasion. Emil was a Scoutmaster most of his life.
The Boardman Ex Serviceman’s Club’s yearly project was to deliver Christmas groceries to poor families. As veterans got older, Emil recruited Boy Scouts to help. Club members learned about significance of poppy flower, which grew on graves of WWI colleagues in European cemeteries. Flowers appeared spontaneously as seeds sprouted after being dormant, sprouting after being disrupted by trenches, artillery fire and grave digging. The flower symbolized WWI dead after a poem, “Flanders Fields,” was written in 1915 by Montreal Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, presiding over a funeral for a friend killed in battle.
After WWI, there was legislation approved to build a Road of Remembrance for WWI veterans. It would travel from Lake Erie to Gulf of Mexico, through Mahoning County. Route 193 south to Route 7 was the designated route. Large stone markers were to be obtained from Concord and Lexington, Nz.H., by Daughters of the American Revolution, and placed at different locations signifying “the shot heard round the world.” Every 50 feet would be an Elm tree, reminding everyone to pray for fallen heroes.
The Depression and Dutch Elm tree blight terminated the project, but not the intent. Today, historical evidence remains on the route. One stone is in front of Tod Cemetery; another accompanied by three flagpoles marks entrance to Newport Drive on Market Street. Markers are on the flagpole near Forest Lawn Cemetery. WWI veterans were disappointed about the project’s failure, but at least stones remain marking the route.
In the club’s final years, with three WWI men alive, they decided to give annual scholarships to Boardman students and invite them and their parents to dinner.
Their final project was to build the Boardman Ex Serviceman’s Club Pavilion in Boardman Park. At its dedication, April 11, 1983, Congressman Lyle Williams attended and an American flag was raised. They donated their club treasury to Boardman Park.
The last member to die Dec. 3, 2020, was Jack Gustafson, Korean War vet and friend of the Swedish community. His death during COVID-19 was never announced. He and many club member comrades are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.
This Memorial Day, remember sacrifices of all who served, and pray for our country.
DR. CHARLES WILKINS