An Honor Roll cabinet with the names of all Park Ridge citizens who served in the military during WWII previously stood on the site of today’s American Legion War Memorial in Hodges Park. This is the story.
In 1942, the Mel Tierney American Legion Post, and its Auxiliary unit, worked with Legion Vice Commander Victor Soderberg to begin sending holiday greeting cards to every son and daughter of Park Ridge serving in the military forces. The Auxiliary unit compiled a complete record of sons, daughters and husbands of its members serving in the military at the time. A walnut plaque was prepared for the names of 56 service personnel so identified, with each name on a small bronze name plate attached to the plaque, and it was installed in the Legion Hall on Grace Street.
These efforts were so well received that the Legion began collecting names of other Park Ridgeans serving in the military. The Legion’s Service Men’s Committee joined the effort, and all such names were entered into an index card system, and newspaper clippings for each person attached to their index card as they were published. These records were retained and are the basis for the Park Ridge Library’s Mel Tierney American legion Post Collection. Service personnel names were also supplied through the Selective Service System and by family members.
As the weeks and months went on with the extended war effort, there was an increasing call for more Park Ridgeans to enter the service. The Legion’s Service Men’s Committee worked to find a place of honor to respectfully display the names of all of those residents. A community effort arose. A large cabinet was designed and built to hold the now multiple walnut plaques holding bronze name plates, thanks to funding by the Legion, Kiwanis Club and Chamber of Commerce. The Park Ridge Park District provided space in Hodges Park for the cabinet, and the Park Ridge Lumber Company a sturdy base to support it. See early photograph of the Honor Roll with the ‘Remember Them, Write Them’ side bars. The Honor Roll was in the same location as the contemporary 1965 WWII Memorial in Hodges Park, as confirmed in the 1951 aerial image shown here (upper left-hand corner).
Under the direction of Legion Commander Rufus Holbrook, the Park Ridge Honor Roll was dedicated on Sunday, July 9, 1944. Guests included Mayor James Tierney, John Carroll, President of the Chamber of Commerce, Frank Rehder, President of the Park Ridge Park Board, and W. F. Argabrite, President of the Kiwanis Club.
Rev. Walter Spangler of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church delivered the Invocation, and Rector John Hubbard of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church was the Speaker.
In April, 1945, Albert Buchheit, our first Mayor, arranged for exterior and interior illumination of the Honor Roll. By that time over the names of over 1,200 Park Ridgeans had been placed on bronze name plates on the wooden plaques in the Honor Roll cabinet.
The fate of the Honor Roll is still under research. Obviously it was gone by 1965, when the sturdy concrete American Legion War Memorial was installed in the same location. We’re told that the name plates were removed from the walnut plaques and offered to the service personnel named thereon. U.S. Army serviceman Jim Trecker recalls that time and proudly retains his Honor Roll name plate to this day.
– Compiled by Paul Adlaf – June 2015
February 2019 Addendum: We report here the passing of Jim Trecker and his wife Luella since this monograph was published. They were good friends of the Society and always available to answer questions of Park Ridge history, and with regard to the Honor Roll. We are pleased to report that their daughter, Sandy Hillenbrand, located Jim’s Honor Roll name badge, and has donated it to the Society. Along with its photographic, print and personal correspondence regarding the inception of the Honor Roll, the Society will be able to now include a tangible element of that time in our community when we honored every Park Ridgean serving in the WWII effort.