2012-12-20 / Top News

THE VETERANS PORTRAIT PROJECT

HONORING AND THANKING ALL WHO HAVE SERVED
BY ROGER WILLIAMS

Portrait project especially points to World War II veterans

This is the story of a thank-you in art, delivered in the brilliant hues of the heart from a few talented and civicminded baby boomers to the Greatest Generation, as television newsman and author Tom Brokaw characterized the men and women who endured and triumphed in World War II.

That planet-altering conflict is now almost 68 years behind us, and the last of the generation fading away. But in the minds of Marco Island portrait painter Malenda Trick, her husband Clark Shaw and Keith Dameron, a Marco Island IberiaBank manager, the Greatest Generation might be represented by any men or women who have served the United States, in any era or in any war. Especially combat veterans.

And there are many in Collier County, they discovered. Those veterans carry on their lives here mostly out of sight, as if nothing had ever threatened the luxurious daily habits the rest of us inherit as beneficiaries of prosperous peace.


The portraits awaiting their debut at the unveiling reception at IberiaBank on Marco Island. 
BERNADETTE LA PAGLIA / FLORIDA WEEKLY The portraits awaiting their debut at the unveiling reception at IberiaBank on Marco Island. BERNADETTE LA PAGLIA / FLORIDA WEEKLY So the artist and her promoters, all 60-somethings, decided to tell the stories of 20 still-living World War II veterans behind the powerful and perceptive brush of Ms. Trick. Their portraits appear in a compelling traveling exhibit, the Veterans Portrait Project, now on display at the Naples Backyard History Museum on Third Street South.

Although veterans of subsequent wars also appear in the collection, the exhibit “is biased toward World War II veterans only because we’re losing so many of them on a daily basis,” Mr. Dameron explains. His bank hosted the first exhibit, and he is now helping it find a much wider audience (it will move to Hodges University in January).

As with so many life-enriching contributions, the idea was seeded and born in the mind of the artist.


On the cover 1) Anthony “Bud” Lamendola, Naples; 2) Herb Savage, Marco Island; 3) Irving “Tom” Smith, Naples; 4) John Kett, Naples 5) Kate Nolan, Naples; 6) Kip Hamblet,Naples; 7) Michael T. Johnson, Naples; 8) Nick Hale, Naples; 9) Owen Carr, Marco Island; 10) Peter Thomas, Naples; 11) Robert Miksa, Naples; 12) Gerry Brynjulson, Naples 13) Thomas Carr, Marco Island 14) Wayne O. Smith, Naples; 15) William D.C. Blair, Marco Island 16) William Duncan, Marco Island; 17) Bedford Biles, Marco Island; 18) Charles D. Hartman, Marco Island; 19) Earl Hodges, Naples 20) Dr. Frank Johnson, Naples. On the cover 1) Anthony “Bud” Lamendola, Naples; 2) Herb Savage, Marco Island; 3) Irving “Tom” Smith, Naples; 4) John Kett, Naples 5) Kate Nolan, Naples; 6) Kip Hamblet,Naples; 7) Michael T. Johnson, Naples; 8) Nick Hale, Naples; 9) Owen Carr, Marco Island; 10) Peter Thomas, Naples; 11) Robert Miksa, Naples; 12) Gerry Brynjulson, Naples 13) Thomas Carr, Marco Island 14) Wayne O. Smith, Naples; 15) William D.C. Blair, Marco Island 16) William Duncan, Marco Island; 17) Bedford Biles, Marco Island; 18) Charles D. Hartman, Marco Island; 19) Earl Hodges, Naples 20) Dr. Frank Johnson, Naples. “I watched the BBC series on the Second World War, and my heart pined,” Ms. Trick recalls.

“Not only for what (millions) went through — the mass murders, the starvation, the terrible combat — but for the American soldier. For the fact that these soldiers gave up their nice comfortable homes here, and they went out and kicked ass, and took names.”


Kate Nolan, who served as a nurse in World War II, and her son, John Nolan, at a reception for the Veterans Portrait Project. At right is Malenda Trick’s portrait of Ms. Nolan. 
PHOTOS BY BERNADETTE LA PAGLIA / FLORIDA WEEKLYKLY Kate Nolan, who served as a nurse in World War II, and her son, John Nolan, at a reception for the Veterans Portrait Project. At right is Malenda Trick’s portrait of Ms. Nolan. PHOTOS BY BERNADETTE LA PAGLIA / FLORIDA WEEKLYKLY (The expression “kick ass and take names” dates to World War II. It describes both the defeat of the enemy and the haunting lists that must be made afterward, naming those who lost their lives defeating that enemy.)

“But unlike other countries,” Mrs. Trick adds, “we didn’t take territory.” Which makes her proud.

Hence the stories on canvas, accompanied by short biographies describing the exploits and difficulties of the subjects, painted from mostly black-andwhite photos of them as servicemen and women.

There is Kate Dolan, for example. Now in her 90s, she is the mother of seven, an Irish-American girl from Worcester, Mass., who moved with her late husband to Naples in 1971 and still lives in the house they bought on Orchid Drive.

Mrs. Dolan weighs about 95 pounds. Those who know her think of her as a vibrant, feisty stick of dynamite.

It started for her in 1943, when she graduated from three years of nursing school and then traveled to Great Britain to prepare for D-Day. She landed at Utah Beach, loaded with gear and in neck-high water, days after the initial assault, when the beach was still under fire. Traveling with the 53rd Field Hospital, she endured five major battles in which the men most grievously wounded and least likely to survive — the ones who couldn’t be moved any distance — were delivered to her unit.

Her memory of those men remains inspired by awe and pride.


Veterans Bedford Biles, center, and Rachael Klein, left, with Mr. Biles’ wife, Faye. 
PHOTOS BY BERNADETTE LA PAGLIA / FLORIDA WEEKLY Veterans Bedford Biles, center, and Rachael Klein, left, with Mr. Biles’ wife, Faye. PHOTOS BY BERNADETTE LA PAGLIA / FLORIDA WEEKLY “They did not expect us to have a good survival rate in the field, but we did,” Mrs. Dolan recalls. “It was 96 or 97 percent, if you could get them to us. And as badly as they were mutilated, they were young and healthy and they had the will to live like you wouldn’t believe. They were so courageous.”

That sensibility, along with her fighting refusal to give up even one of them to death, dances across the contours of her face in portrait — there’s no mistaking spirited courage.

“We had the best-kept secret,” she says. “The very best surgical teams were in the field hospitals. Doctors were seeing things for which there was no protocol, nothing had ever been written up. They had to decide right then and there what they could do to put those men back together — to make some semblance of normalcy.


Owen Carr and his wife, Pat. Owen Carr and his wife, Pat. “Everything was a team effort. Our corpsmen were fantastic. So were the doctors, not like some doctors today. They were humble, living under the same conditions as all of us out in tents. We were getting shelled all the time, even though we had large red crosses painted on the tops. It was a whole different ballgame.”

Faces of history

To evoke such stories in paint or words, first Mr. Shaw and Mr. Dameron (who volunteered his IberiaBank on Marco as the exhibit’s first display space) located and identified highly decorated combat veterans, visited with them and acquired their photos.

Then Ms. Trick went to work in a kind of furious artist’s walkabout that was designed to conclude on or before Veterans Day last month. In 46 days of non-stop effort, she painted 20 images, all of which eventually will go to the veterans themselves or their families.


Denise and Nick Hale in front of his portrait. Denise and Nick Hale in front of his portrait. Her story-telling grace — an idea for thanks that came to her in a morning prayer, she says — supposes a single powerful notion: The human face is a map, a detailed topography of the terrain behind us, and the landscape of the hearts and souls who traveled through it.

Those magnificent maps come with written tales, too, as those who view the exhibit can witness.

Here are reproductions from the exhibit that celebrates Americans, Floridians and Neapolitans of extraordinary distinction, along with excerpts from a few of the veterans’ bios, some in their own words. ¦

BEDFORD BILES, Army
World War II

MY PARACHUTE REGIMENT MOVED TO AIRfields in England on June 5, 1944, ready for combat… As a demolition specialist, I had 10 pounds of C2 explosive attached to each leg, along with other necessary equipment…


Thelma and Earl Hodges with Mr. Hodges’ portrait in the background. Thelma and Earl Hodges with Mr. Hodges’ portrait in the background. My regiment was to be dropped behind Utah Beach, Normandy, France. Around 12:30 a.m., as the aircraft approached the French coast, fog appeared and caused us to lose formation. As we moved inland, flak became intense, causing further loss of formation… Forty-seven of the division’s aircraft were destroyed in the air, costing approximately 850 men their lives. Hundreds of paratroopers were wounded or killed before reaching the ground. Hundreds landed in water and drowned, while others had broken bones from landing and could not move.

My landing was good… Joined by two other paratroopers, we determined our position and started moving toward the Douve River. It was necessary that the locks be captured and opened. If closed, the entire low land would be flooded and thousands would drown…


Herb Savage with his likeness. Herb Savage with his likeness. We continued to move toward the river, receiving mortar fire and small arms fire all along the way. As we approached the river, we met one of our officers with 10 men and learned that our commander had assembled approximately 100 troops and had captured the locks and the area. Our group then dug in to control the locks and surrounding area for the remainder of the day and the night. We continued to receive shelling, mortar fire and small arms fire during the night…

OWEN CARR, Army
World War II

IT WAS AUG. 26, 1943, AND THE CREW OF the B24 bomber Cisco Kid had been ordered to bomb Kahili Airdrome on the southern tip of Bougainville Island in the South Pacific. Moments after dropping our bombs on the target, while I watched them fall from 26,000 feet, we were attacked by 75 Japanese Zeros. As As I fired upon the attacking planes, I felt something tear my leg apart. I had been hit by a Japanese bullet.


Peter Thomas and Malenda Trick in front of her portrait of Mr. Thomas. Peter Thomas and Malenda Trick in front of her portrait of Mr. Thomas. The left waist gunner called the pilot and said, “They got Carr and me.” The bombardier came back to our position in the waist of the plane and started shooting Japanese Zeros from both waist guns alternatively. I was begging him for morphine, but he couldn’t stop firing until we had evaded the attacking planes.

Finally, we escaped by descending rapidly in altitude… I was bleeding profusely and my mate could feel nothing below his waist… I was given morphine multiple times, each empty surette being pinned to my flight suit, all the way back to Guadalcanal…

We were the last plane to land. They handed me out the through the waist window to awaiting medics, who told the bombardier he had done a good first aid job on me, but that one more morphine injection would have killed me.

NICK HALE, Army
World War II

IN 1943, THE ARMY FELT A NEED FOR HUNdreds of graduate engineers. I was one of some tens of thousands selected to attend college to fill this need. Schools nationwide were delighted to be included, and we were advised we would be sent to one close to home… I was bussed to a small college in Texas.

Engineering college lasted 1½ semesters — until the Army decided to eliminate the program. We were shipped to an infantry division. After more training I was shipped, with others, to Europe as replacements, and assigned to the 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) in southeast England.

A couple of months later, on June 6, 1944, we landed on Omaha Beach. It was D-Day.

Once we cleared the beaches, we moved rapidly through Northern France and Belgium. Then the Battle of the Bulge happened. Following a bleak but snowy Christmas, we worked across the Cologne plain to the Rhine, then south to the bombed, but still standing, Remagen Bridge. That bridge was thanked by thousands of engineers who didn’t need all the combat bridges they thought they would have to build under fire.

Once over the Rhine and through the Hartz Mountains, we were in Czechoslovakia and WWII in Europe was over. I decided to stay in for a while so spent three months in college in Biaritz, France (the Army didn’t have the ocean transports to send everyone home). After this delightful seaside vacation, I rejoined my division for guard duty at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, where I served, every second day, as Officer of the Day in the prison wing. I got acquainted with some very bad people there, most of whom were later executed.

I returned to the USA in 1947. Al- though I ended my active duty, I remained in the Army Reserve, again in an infantry division, where I served in various positions, up to regimental executive officer.

I enrolled at the University of Maryland, graduating in 1950. In early 1970s a major reorganization deleted such units from the Reserve. I transferred to an Army Garrison unit, which I commanded as a colonel until I went inactive in July 1975.

EARL HODGES, Army
World War II

WITH THE OUTBREAK OF WWII, EARL Hodges was eager to serve his country. At the age of 17, he seized an opportunity to join the Merchant Marine. After basic training in St. Petersburg, he spent the next two years aboard six tankers and one freightliner delivering oil, gas, coal and other supplies to ports-of-call including Aruba and Bari, Italy.

During one stop in Bari, the Germans had just sunk 17 ships in 17 minutes. As Earl’s ship pulled into port, he vividly recalls the sight of the upended ships sticking out of the water — an ominous reminder of the essential skills and maneuvering required if the mines were to be avoided when entering a port.

Delivering coal in Italy was an endless, dirty job, time and time again lowering the coal off the ship by way of tarps so the workers below could shovel it off.

After finishing his service with the Merchant Marine in 1945, Earl returned to his home in Tennessee and enrolled at Gupton-Jones College of Funeral Services. As his studies neared completion, war was once again on the horizon. This time it was Korea, and efforts were being initiated to organize an Army Reserve unit.

Eager to serve his country again, Earl decided to form his own Army Reserve unit… one that resulted in him being stationed in Kokura, Japan (1951-52), with the Field Operations Services, 8204th US Army, American Grave Registration Services. His unit was responsible for embalming more than 20,000 American veterans…

Earl visited Naples in 1956 and never left.

HERBERT SAVAGE, Army
World War II

I WAS DRAFTED IN 1940 AFTER ATTENDING the University of Illinois for one year. I went through basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and entered Officer’s Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, Va.

I was assigned to the Corps of Engineers school of the Army. After completion I became a commissioned officer and was assigned to teach at the school and, after two years teaching mine warfare and demolition, I was sent to Naples, Italy, to organize and lead a team to teach mine warfare in a military camp for replacement troops arriving from the United States. I was then assigned to an engineering training area in Rome, where I continued to train troops for two more years.

In 1945, while I was en route to the Japanese Theater of Action, the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war. Our ship was diverted to the United States and I was released from service.

I returned to college and obtained a degree in architecture.

In 1952, I was called for duty for the Korean Conflict and was sent to Japan, assigned to be in charge of rebuilding the Japanese area for the Japanese Construction Agency. I was discharged 17 months later.

God bless America.

PETER THOMAS, Army
World War II

PETER THOMAS WAS BORN IN PENSACOLA to Dr. John Thomas and Sibyl Addenbrooke. His Welsh father, a Presbyterian minister, and his English mother, a schoolteacher from Salisbury, stressed the importance of reading, education and memorization to their son.

Peter says that his father always stressed mental images as an important speaking tool. For example, he told his son if he were talking about horses, he should picture horses in his mind.

Peter began his career at the age of 14 as a radio announcer. Since the station could not pay him because he was too young, they arranged for the sponsor, Piper Aircraft, to give him flying lessons in a Piper Cub. Within just a few years, Peter would be hosting big band remote broadcasts.

In 1943, with the onset of World War II, he left The Stony Brook School and volunteered into the United States Army (after being offered an Armed Forces Radio deferment).

He served with the First Infantry Division in five major campaigns, including the Battle of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. He was issued a Battle star for each of the five campaigns and was also awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Unit French Croix de guerre, and the Belgian Fourragère.

Peter has received many awards for his work, but he cites as one of the best the Oscar won by an HBO documentary he narrated. “One Survivor Remembers” chronicles the personal experience of Gerda Weissman Klein, who was interred at the Nordhausen Concentration Camp when she was a teenager. Peter’s unit participated in the haunting liberation of Nordhausen. He and Ms. Klein met during the post-production of the documentary and again at its premiere.

Peter also participated in an HBO film on the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, in which he fought with the 1st Infantry Division (United States).

In Naples, he is involved in various veterans causes, including serving on the board of directors for the National D-Day Memorial Foundation. ¦

The Veterans Portrait Project

>> When: Through Jan. 30
>> Where: Naples Backyard History
1170 Third St. S.
>> Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday,
Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
and 6-9 p.m. Thursday
>> Info: 774-2978.
>> Next: After NBH, the portraits will be displayed at Hodges University in Naples.

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