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Labor of love: Pa. women look to return WWII letters to kin

Written by Roger DuPuis, Time Leader | Dec 8, 2018 11:30 AM
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(Glen Lyon) -- Nearly 80 years ago, residents of Glen Lyon and surrounding areas joined millions of Americans in mobilizing to fight for our country and save democracy.

Today, two dedicated women are fighting to keep a special part of their legacy alive, and looking to get treasured family mementoes into the hands of loved ones.

Friends Lorrie Materewicz and Sally Billings have become the custodians of hundreds of letters and postcards mailed home from around the globe during World War II.

The largest Catholic church in Newport Township, St. Adalbert's Parish formed a "Service Club" to send the weekly church bulletins, monthly township newsletters telling of current events such as births, deaths, marriages, local sports teams' scores, and local news, and care packages consisting of candy, shoeshine kits, hygiene items, socks, and other gifts to the servicemen and women of the parish.

In response, those on the front lines sent letters and postcards back to the church. They were lovingly placed in scrapbooks, where they lay undisturbed for decades.

St. Adalbert's is now part of Holy Spirit Parish.

"In 2005 or 2006 I was in the balcony with our pastor looking for Christmas decorations, and I came across these," Materewicz said.

"I started leafing through them, realized what they were, and I asked him if we could have them, and he said yes," she said."Raising a young child at the time, I put them in my study and didn't look at them for years. In purging the study a few years ago I came across them again and really started delving into them."

Among the letters were dispatches home from her father, Sylvester Materewicz, and her uncle, Felix Materewicz.

"I just was overwhelmed, I just couldn't control my emotions," she said. "And I thought that if anybody else could feel like this, getting letters from a relative, we need to get them back."

So she and Billings made up a list of everybody's name -- it took work, as the letters had been saved chronologically, not alphabetically. They put the list in the back of the parish and also had it published in the township newsletter.

"Requests started pouring in," Materewicz said.

The women, who are both members of American Legion Auxiliary Unit 539, keep photocopies of each item to save them for the local legion's history.

They are preserved as part of Post 539's Veterans' Memorial Gallery located in the Post home's banquet hall.

Materewicz has served as commander and president, while Billings is auxiliary secretary/treasurer.

The pair very much want to see as many letters reach family members as possible.

"We've given away over 300 pieces of correspondence to over 120 families so far," Materewicz said. There were probably 700 total, Billings added, which means many more remain to be claimed.

"And they only go to family members," said Billings, who keeps a list of who the originals were sent to. "Everything is documented."

The List

The veterans' names are as follows: Babskie, Robert; Bellini, August; Benkoski, Walter; Bolek, Michael; Bozimski, Edward; Bozinski, Sylvester; Brocki, Henry; Brozoski, John; Brutski, Walter; Bukoski, Walter; Bush, Albert; Butka, Albert; Butkiewicz, Edward; Cheski, Max; Chmielak, Albert; Chmielewski, Henry; Dekutoski, Casmir; Dombroski, Gerard; Dombroski, Sygfried; Drozdienski, Joseph; Dudzinski, Frank; Dudzinski, Walter; Fundalewicz, Leonard; Gembusia, Stanley; Gionta, Quinto; Gorney, Walter; Guffrowicz, Emory; Himilefski, Frank; Humphrey, Albert; Kaczmarek, Frank; Kaftanowicz, Stanley; Kalinowski, Leon; Kamieniecki, Frank; Kane, Norbert; Karcheski, Joseph; Kasnikowski, Joseph; Keyeck, Anthony; Keyek, Stanley; Keyeck, Walter; Kleyps, Edward; Koas, Adolph; Kolakoski, Celia; Kornoski, Leonard; Koval, Joseph; Kovaleski, Albert; Kovaleski, Steven; Kowalski, John; Kowaleski, Clarence; Krauser, Leonard; Kriefski, Albert; Kriefski, Eugene; Kriefski, Sylvester; Krzywicki, John; Kwiatkowski, Ted; Lashinski, Joseph; Laskowski, Joseph; Leshniak, Julius; Levulis, Josephine; Lucas, J.A.; Maxey, Albert; Meshinski, Joseph; Meyeski, Margaret; Miara, Chester; Mundgetski, Clem; Myefski, Edward; Namowicz, Edward; Namowicz, John; Nork, Edward; Noss, Alfred; Novak, Alvin; Novak, Barney; Novak, John; Novak, Ernest; Obidzinski, Chester; Olenginski, Henry; Omichinski, Chester; Omichinski, Ted; Ozechowski, Edward; Pawloski, Edmund; Pawloski, Joseph; Petchik, Edmund; Petchik, Leo; Piavis, George; Piavis, Walter; Pish, Chester; Pish, John; Rachunas, John; Rachunas, Frank; Rasmus, Walter; Reno, Wadic; Ringawa, Walter; Robachinski, Fred; Robachinski, Stanley; Rokicki, Edmund; Rule, Chester; Ruminski, Thomas; Russin, Stanley; Sawetski, Jean; Schraeder, Raymond; Scott, Clemence; Shekletski, Zigmund; Shemanski, Clemence; Shemanski, Walter; Skouronski, Clem; Slupecki, Joseph; Smocarski, Edmund; Sobolewski, John; Stankiewicz, Stanley; Stopchinski, Stanley; Stopchinski, Ted; Strzalka, Chester; Strzalka, Frank; Strzalka, Joseph; Stuczynski, John; Stuczynski, Joseph; Sugalski, Paul; Supko, Joseph; Sweeney, Stanley; Talanowski, John; Tarnowicz, Edward; Terkoski, Ray; Terkoski, Sylvester; Tokarchik, Joseph; Trynoski, Joseph; Venslove, Adam; Vinicki, John; Voytkowski, John; Waclawski, Clem; Waclawski, Zigmund; Wintergrass, Frank; Wrona, Eugene; Wuchek, John; Wyda, Edward; Yacuboski, John; Yacuboski, Stanley; Zakrzewski, Clem; Zaucha, Mitchell; Zawacki, Louis; Zawala, Chester; Zawala, Edward; Zawatski, Edward; Zawatski, Eugene.
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