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Tallmadge couple remembers those who served; exhibit featured at Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library

by Jeff Saunders | Reporter Published: July 13, 2014 12:00 AM
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For many people, an exhibit at the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library on local residents who served in the military during World War II is history, but for Tallmadge residents Wilbert and Pat Zimmerman, it is an opportunity to remember.

"'Walt Pontius," said Wilbert, looking at a black and white photo on a video monitor of a sailor. "He and his sister were both in our class."

"Oh yes, she was very popular," said Pat a short time later, looking at a photo of a woman named Pepper Culver, standing next to Bob Culver, both in uniform.

The exhibit was assembled by Local History Librarian Beth Daugherty and is on display at the rear of the library's first floor, behind the reference desk, until July 16. In part, it is a large number of photos of local veterans shown one by one as a continuous loop on the monitor.

"I saw their photographs in a photo album kept by one of the teachers from Stow High School during World War II," said Daugherty.

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The scanned photos are only part of the display, however. Daugherty said she did some additional research in old issues of the Community Church News, which published letters that local service people wrote home. She then used them to make small "posters" that sit on a shelf near the monitor. Rounding out the exhibit, in a display case, are a scrapbook kept by the teacher, Velma Workman, who taught at the high school from 1930 to 1967.

The Zimmermans, both 1943 Stow High School graduates, knew Workman as well since she was their homeroom teacher during their senior year.

"It was like her," said Pat, referring to Workman's collection of items related to her former students' service. "She was very interested in all her students."

The Zimmermans said they have good memories of Workman.

"She was a very good teacher and a nice woman, but she kept a tight rein on her classroom," said Pat. "She taught history, but she worked a lot of other things in. That's why she was so interesting. She knew a lot of things about a lot of things."

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The Zimmermans did not remember everyone depicted, but as they watched the display change on the monitor, it was clear that they knew quite a few of the students.

"He was very popular," said Pat, of a uniformed man named Hank Conley.

"He was a very good athlete," added Wilbert.

"His family had a car dealership in Cuyahoga Falls," said Wilbert of a man named Bob Lyle.

Wilbert is one of the young men shown in a photo, having served in the Air Force as a ground crewman.

"The last nine months of the war, I was on Okinawa," he said, adding he remembers initially being on a ship when he was given permission to go ashore to visit a friend just as a typhoon struck for the next three days.

He learned sheet metal repair, saying "the idea was if planes got shot up, we could repair them."

"I had low blood pressure," Wilbert continued, "so they said I couldn't fly. It was news to me. Probably for the best."

He added that he still has the condition.

"You probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for your low blood pressure," said Pat.

Pat said she and Wilbert started dating toward the end of their junior year, but agreed they would both be free to date others while he was away.

She studied art for two years at Syracuse University after high school graduation. She then went to work in the advertising department of the Akron Beacon Journal, first as a sketch artist, then a proofreader. After that she, worked for Church in the Circle in Tallmadge for seven years as a kind of administrative assistant.

"Whatever needed to be done. I was a kind of jack of all trades," she said.

Wilbert, meanwhile, was discharged from the service in April 1946 and the couple married June 15, 1947. He worked for his father after the war.

"He and another man started an automotive service [in Akron]," said Wilbert. "He died kind of young, 62, so I inherited the business. It was pretty successful. I didn't retire until 65."

The couple have three daughters and one granddaughter.

Some of the Zimmermans' memories of their classmates were happy ones.

"Dick Brock, I dated him a few times," said Pat of a smiling man holding a small monkey while stationed in India.

"I met his brother over there," said Wilbert while looking at a photo of a man identified as Lt. John H. "Jack" Olson. "His brother was on a PT boat and he took me for a ride."

Other memories were more bittersweet.

"Bob Poe. I walked to school with him every day," said Pat of a smiling man in uniform who was missing in the Pacific in 1944 and was declared dead by the U.S. government in July 1945.

"He died," she said of Bob Amlung, shown standing in front of a small plane and who was killed over England in 1945. "I remember seeing his death notice."

"It was bad time," she added. "We lost so many."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

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