- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—Before Richard Allen “Rick” Rolewicz died in June, his wife, Judy, had one thing she wanted to find for him.

A thin piece of wood with his father’s name on it.

The roughly 6-inch brown strip with Chester J. Rolewicz’s name in gold had been part of the Cass County Roll of Honor monument in front of the Logansport City Building. The monument had been placed there 70 years ago, just after the end of World War II, to display the names of the 4,138 World War II military personnel from Cass County.

Locals rebuilt the monument and rededicated the new one in 2011 with more weather-resistant materials. Judy Rolewicz had heard that a volunteer had salvaged the more than 4,000 wooden nameplates in order to give them to the veterans whose name they bore or their loved ones.

“And anybody interested in having a family name on it” could contact the volunteer, she said. “I kind of blew it off a little bit and then my husband got talking about it. A year later then, is when I started working on it.”

Eventually Judy Rolewicz learned she needed to contact Elizabeth McQuinn, who still had hundreds of the nameplates.

And only just in time.

“When Judy called me three, maybe four weeks ago, she told me the doctor had given Rick six months,” McQuinn said last week.

McQuinn, a volunteer connected with area veterans’ advocacy organizations, had the leftover wooden nameplates stored in her apartment. Alphabetized in a couple dozen recycled pizza boxes, about 1,300 of the nameplates remained to be given to family members.

One of them bore the Rolewicz name.

“It was beautiful. The way she presented it to him was very honorable, which meant a lot to him,” Judy Rolewicz said.

“It broke my heart — I mean, he had tears in his eyes.”

Rolewicz didn’t live out the six months doctors gave him. A few days before he passed away on Father’s Day, he indicated to his wife with only a few words that he wanted to pass it along to his brother — “you know what to do,” Judy Rolewicz remembered him telling her.

So she did.

“His brother didn’t even know anything about” the monument or the old nameplates, Judy Rolewicz said. “So I went and I got that envelope and I said, Steve, we want you to have this. And he opened it up and his eyes were like half-dollars.”

And that’s just one of the hundreds of times a World War II veteran’s family member has told McQuinn how much it means to them.

“Oh there’s so many heartwarming stories,” McQuinn said. Once, she recalled, a “sweet little lady” asked for a man’s nameplate, telling McQuinn there weren’t any other family members left who’d want it. She’d been engaged to the man, but he was killed in action one week before he was scheduled to return home.

Each time McQuinn turns a nameplate over to a family or close friend, she asks in return that a form be filled out showing the named veteran’s service record and other information. She keeps the completed forms in a three-ring binder she calls “my little Bible.”

She hopes to distribute as many more nameplates as possible before an upcoming 70th anniversary rededication of the Roll of Honor, slated to take place on Veterans Day this year.

And any WWII veterans who are still living, she said, will be invited to take an honored seat at the event.

About 120 such veterans were present when the new Roll of Honor was rededicated in 2011, McQuinn said. She guesses maybe half that number are still alive.

She plans to have a few names added to the monument that had been left off before. She encouraged families of local WWII veterans whose names are not on the monument to mail copies of the veteran’s discharge papers to her at P.O. Box 69, Logansport, IN 46947, by Oct. 15 so she can add them to the list.

And if someone wants to receive one of the nameplates still in McQuinn’s possession, she’s anxious to give as many as possible to veterans’ families before eventually turning over any that are left to the Cass County Historical Society. She can be reached at 574-727-1880.

“The people I have met … especially the World War II veterans, it’s so important to record their stories,” McQuinn said.

But more important to her is that the veterans’ legacy continue to be honored. It’s why she affixes each nameplate to a cardstock backing before presenting it to a family member.

“He just felt so honored to go and receive this,” Judy Rolewicz said of her husband, “something that belonged to his father.”

Reach Sarah Einselen at [email protected], 574-732-5151 or on [email protected]

Want to pick up a nameplate?

About 1,300 wooden nameplates from the old Roll of Honor monument in Cass County are available for family or close friends to claim. To claim one, call Elizabeth McQuinn at 574-727-1880.

Want to add a name to the Roll of Honor?

If your loved one’s name belongs on the Roll of Honor but isn’t there, mail a copy of the WWII veteran’s DD-214 service record to Elizabeth McQuinn at P.O. box 69, Logansport, IN 46947. DD-214 papers are obtained through the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration; records more than 60 years old may be requested by anyone.

Families of veterans whose service record is unavailable through the Records Administration may contact Cass County Veterans Service Officer Larry Lowry at 574-753-7860 for an alternate route to confirming the veteran’s service history.


(c)2015 the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Ind.)

Visit the Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Ind.) at www.pharostribune.com

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