Above, Scott High student Tamarra Galloway speaks about Scott alum Navy Lt. William Buderus, who served aboard the USS Gambier Bay, during the second annual ‘Fallen War Heroes’ assembly during which students recounted stories of Toledoans who were killed in World War II.
Virginia Bagrowski rarely talked about how her husband died.
Petty Officer Casper Bag-rowski died Feb. 16, 1945, when the landing craft support ship he was on was struck by Japanese suicide boats in Mariveles Harbor in the Philippines. His wife, granddaughter Shari Beeker said, always seemed to hold out hope that he hadn’t died, that he was out there somewhere. That he never came home nearly broke her.
So when Rogers High School’s Antwaun Brown, 17, eulogized Ms. Beeker’s grandfather, she said it was a special moment.
“He gave his only life for the purpose of freedom,” Antwaun said.
Seeing Antwaun pay tribute to Ms. Beeker’s grandfather would have made her grandmother’s day, family members said. She died in 2010. Ms. Beeker paused, then corrected them.
“I think it would have made her life,” she said.
Toledo Public Schools students in Joe Boyle’s history class presented on Monday the stories they've researched about Toledo’s fallen heroes. It’s the second year that the class culminated its research in a memorial service, where they honor the men by telling their stories.
Waite teacher Joe Boyle congratulates Richard Vardaman, one of his students, who spoke about Joseph Caddarette, who died in the Battle of the Philippine Sea.
While the memorial assembly was held at Waite High School, students from across the district take Mr. Boyle’s class, which uses distance-learning labs.
Mr. Boyle researches the fallen heroes over the summer, using an archive maintained at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library consisting of newspaper clippings that referenced Toledo-area military members who died during the war.
He’s not out specifically looking for compelling stories, it just happens that way. In fact, he chooses the men by alphabetical order. It just so happens that it seems if you research a couple dozen Toledo men who died in World War II, a broad narrative of the war, and this city, emerges.
That’s the kind of lesson that can’t be measured by standardized tests. Doing well in Mr. Boyle’s class won’t help students pass the Ohio Graduation Test. As he puts it, as far as the state sees it, his class is essentially worthless.
But beyond the lessons of independent research and in-depth history, the kids learn something valuable: That they’re part of a larger story, a connected history bound by place. They are Toledoans, and so were these men.
Mr. Boyle helps guide the students’ research, but he lets them learn the stories on their own. It’s not always easy when some of the stories are so rich.
“The hardest part is keeping the secret from the kids,” Mr. Boyle said.
Rick Slawinski, who served as an Army specialist fourth class, salutes the flag during the ‘Fallen War Heroes’ assembly Monday at Waite High School.
There was 2nd Lt. Jacob Chandler, a standout student and athlete who was one of only a handful of black police patrolmen in Toledo when he enlisted in the Army. He served in the 92nd Division, a segregated unit known as the Buffalo Soldiers. He was killed in Italy. Mr. Chandler was awarded the Silver Star.
There was Lt. William Buderus, who was aboard the USS Gambier Bay during the Battle of Leyte Gulf when the aircraft carrier was sunk by a Japanese ship. Wounded, he escaped the ship, said Scott High School student Tamarra Galloway. A life raft he and others used was too small, so they took turns swimming alongside. Sharks bit off his legs, and he died Oct. 24, 1944.
Tom Dellinger was a Toledo Times reporter before he joined the Army Air Corps, eventually becoming a second lieutenant. He flew planes between India and China. He was heading home on leave when the plane he was in crashed in Ledo, India, on March 4, 1945, while trying to land in bad weather.
After the program, Ms. Beeker showed Antwaun her grandfather’s medals, including his Purple Heart, and paperwork her grandmother had kept through the years. There was a copy of the telegram she’d received giving word on how her husband was lost in combat. There were letters she sent the Navy and colleagues of her husband, seeking more information on what happened.
Antwaun said he was honored to pay tribute to Mr. Bagrowski. Having someone who never met her grandfather give him tribute, Ms. Beeker said, is something all families with fallen heroes want.