Originally Published: June 14, 2016 6:02 a.m.
Some have been dead for 98 years and nearly forgotten, but now Yavapai County residents will know the names of the 12 men from World War I who lost their lives in action – and the 20 men from other wars whose names will be added to the All Veterans Memorial plaque.
A dedication ceremony will take place at noon on Flag Day, Tuesday, June 14, with an unveiling of the new plaque on the west side of the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza.
The addition of 32 names to the All Veterans Memorial plaque includes veterans from the following wars:
WWI – 12
WWII – 12
Korean War – 2
Vietnam War – 1
Iraq/Afghanistan – 5
Betty Bourgault, who has spent hundreds of hours since the spring of 2014 delving into military and census records, said she and Phil Goode, who joined the effort in May 2015, located 32 servicemen who were not previously listed on the memorial.
Thanks to generous donations from the community and veterans groups, a new plaque will take its place with what Bourgault hopes is complete and as up to date as possible.
When someone dies in action, people read about it in the newspaper and then they don’t think about it again, Bourgault said. She believes it is important to bring attention to these men so their names will never be forgotten.
To qualify for inclusion on the memorial, a veteran must have been killed while serving their country; and must be someone born, raised or enlisted while living in Yavapai County. Finding these people at times means, in addition to checking military and ancestry websites, meticulously looking through brittle newspapers nearly 100 years old.
It was in the Oct. 18, 1918, Prescott Journal-Miner newspaper that Prescott residents first learned of the death of Howard Draper, 20, a student of Prescott High School and Tempe Normal School (now Arizona State University).
“Another Yavapai youth has fallen in France, a telegram having been received from Washington by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Draper stating that their son, Howard Draper, had been killed in action. This young man volunteered for military duty a year ago last May and joined the 158th Infantry when it was stationed on the Mexican border,” the brief article stated.
A second article, dated June 15, 1921, alerts Prescott citizens that the firing squad of the Buckey O’Neill post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) “will fire the last shot over the remains of Howard Draper…” at his funeral services, a good two years and eight months after his death.
Bourgault said Draper’s nephew, also named Howard Draper, and three generations of the family, will attend the June 14 dedication ceremony. She located Draper’s burial site in Mountain View Cemetery by researching findagrave.com website.
The great-nephew of Admiral George Dewey of Spanish-American War fame – and after which the Town of Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, was named – Corporal Charles M. Dewey, was working in Jerome as a miner when he volunteered for Army service. One account states he was killed in France by a German machine gun bullet; a second story indicates he was gassed. Described as a “bright and popular student,” he enlisted at age 19 and died on his 21st birthday two weeks after arriving in France, where his body remains.
Also buried in a distant land is World War II Army Pvt. Adolfo Barela Fritz, married with two children, who died April 28, 1945, in the Philippines at age 23.
“The government listed him as ‘Frietz,’ but his son asked us to correct the spelling,” Bourgault said. The son, who was born 1.5 months after his father’s death, also will attend Tuesday’s event.
Fritz was the lead scout for an assault platoon and ran into a concealed enemy machine gun in the mountains east of Manila where he is buried.
From the Korean War, another PHS student, Jesse M. Gaitan, died at age 19 in 1950. Bourgault was able to find his high school report cards online. Gaitan’s father also was a Jerome miner.
Billy Bennett’s name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is incorrectly inscribed William. His legal name is Billy, just as his brother’s legal name is Johnny, Bourgault said. Bennett died in 1966 at age 18, and is buried in Tempe. Bourgault called the cemetery and located Bennett’s family; his brother is traveling from Oregon for the ceremony.
Military records indicate that Bennett, a combat engineer from Cottonwood, was pouring gasoline into a container when it caught fire. He died of severe burns en route from Vietnam to Guam on his way to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas.
The entire Memorial Plaque Project Committee has worked very, very hard on this project, Bourgault said. “It’s been emotional, educational, and very rewarding,” she added.
When Goode first learned about the effort to add names, he told Bourgault he wanted to help.
“I said, ‘I can get you the veterans’ support.’ I had the political and veterans side of the project,” Goode, an Army veteran himself, said.
He listed several VFW and American Legion posts and other veterans associations that gave money. Guidance Aviation matched up to $2,000 in donations, and MI Windows and Doors in Prescott Valley conducted a penny war and raised $1,050 which an anonymous donor matched.
Following the dedication event, family members will have an opportunity to meet, talk and share at a private gathering. Two local quilt groups, the Thumb Butte Quilters Guild and the Mountain Top Quilters Guild of Prescott, are donating handmade quilts to each veteran’s family.