- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 2, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Seventy years after he was left off his western New York hometown memorial honoring local veterans who served during World War II, Carroll Heath is getting his due.

At least one relative and one classmate of Carroll Heath, along with members of local veterans’ organization, will gather at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Gowanda for the unveiling of a new memorial, replacing one that was damaged in a 2009 flood. The 876 names on the memorial will at last include Heath’s, which was left off the public tribute when it was dedicated in 1945.

Heath was a 22-year-old Army private serving in the Philippines when the U.S. entered the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Months later, he was a listed as missing in action. According to the U.S. military, he’s believed to have died by late 1942 while a prisoner of war. His burial place remains unknown.

Although Heath was one of only about 135 members of Gowanda High School’s Class of 1940, classmates said he wasn’t well known. Raised by his aunt, he enlisted in the Army in early 1941 and was sent overseas. How and where he died in the Philippines isn’t known.

Earlier this year, Gowanda native Alan Mesches started compiling information on Heath’s military record after his father, one of Heath’s classmates, mentioned the original memorial’s oversight. Mesches provided the information to Gowanda historian Phil Palen, who organized the replacement memorial, a granite monument located at the historical society’s museum. A photograph of Heath in his Army uniform also has been added to the memorial, along with the photos of eight other notable local WWII veterans.

Heath wasn’t married and had no children. One of Heath’s nieces, Barbara Hutchinson of Gowanda, planned to be at Wednesday evening’s ceremony, being held on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s formal surrender to end the war.

“I am looking forward to him getting recognition,” she said. “It’s been a long time in coming.”

High school classmate Louis Selan of Gowanda also to be there when the new memorial is dedicated.

“He should be on there, yes,” said Selan, an Army infantry veteran who served in Europe. “He deserved it very much.”

Earlier this summer, military officials said Heath was posthumously authorized for several decorations, including the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals.

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