Silver Maples residents publish booklet to honor WWII Veterans in their community.
For seniors of a certain age, World War II was a significant time in their lives. Not only was the country in a war that defined their generation, but it captured a moment of sacrifice, community, and patriotism.
Silver Maples honored that era, as well as the Korean War effort, with a special program for the 2012 Veteran’s Day, “Remembering Our Vets and How Detroit Saved the World.” Yankee Air Museum treasurer and pilot Randy Hotton shared the history of Willow Run, and a booklet that captured the many stories – both war front and home front – of Silver Maples residents was released.
The project started with a post-Memorial Day conversation between Silver Maples residents Kitty Padgett and Lauralee Lutz about the need to recognize veterans in their community. How many WWII vets could there be at Silver Maples anyway? What other wars had their neighbors fought?
Padgett wanted a way to honor the greatest generation, including her husband PFC. Jack F. Padgett, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1944-1946, and was awarded the Purple Heart.
“I thought, ‘What are we waiting for?’” she said. “This is really the generation who saved the country.” Indeed, the world.
A seed was planted in the mind of Lutz, and it wasn’t long before she was rolling out a project that took on a life of its own.
Seventy-four pages later, the final draft of a veteran remembrance booklet titled “Home of the Brave: War Stories from a Retirement Community” went off to print as words on a page, but came back as a gift to honor those who served, as well as those who supported the war effort at home.
Lutz spearheaded the book project. “I sent out a questionnaire to all of the Silver Maples residents,” she said. “At first I didn’t receive any responses and I thought, ‘Well, that was a bust’, but by the third and fourth week the responses started coming in.”
“At one point we had to determine how to establish a cutoff,” said Shawn Personke, director of activities and public relations at Silver Maples. “They just kept coming in.” Personke and her staff interviewed residents who weren’t able to record their own experiences. There are 74 entries in the booklet, from every branch, who served in every corner of the globe.
The booklet is a treasure trove of service biographies, individual accounts of support on the home front, and a general coming-togetherness feeling of patriotism. Readers will find photos of war posters and snapshots of servicemen and service women in uniform. There are stories of planes shot down and German prisoners of war, as well as planting Victory gardens, working in factories, sending V-mail and saving grease for the butcher.
“We were all in it together back then, everybody did something,” Lutz said. “We wanted to win!”
Noreene Heuser served in the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, and visited Washington D.C. recently as a WWII veteran honoree. “I’m very proud of the work I did,” she said.
Heuser’s nursing uniform is on display in the front lobby of Silver Maples, along with two others, one of which belongs to her husband Jack Heuser, a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
The uniforms are in pristine condition, decorated with pins and patches honoring rank and accomplishments. Heuser is considering donating her nursing jacket to the Nurse Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
The booklet was released to a standing room only crowd during a very special Silver Maples Veteran’s Day celebration. All proceeds from the booklet will benefit the WWII Memorial Museum underway in New Orleans, LA.
For more information about residing at Silver Maples, or to purchase a booklet, visit www.silvermaples.org or call 734-475-4111.
By April Scarlett
Chelsea, MI 48118