A year ago on Memorial Day, Joe Podrasky and I were the only two to continue the tradition of standing at Tracy Cemetery’s “Hoyt Corner” during the annual Memorial Day observance.
There’s no sign indicating the corner near the cemetery’s headquarters, but for years, the late Frank Hoyt, a World War I combat veteran and one of the founders of the American Legion in Paris in early 1919, would stand at the corner and later sit in his car, taking in the speeches and wreath-laying.
Frank, who died in 1986 at the age of 88, had been quite a force in Tracy (manager of Berverdor Inc. farming firm and later a county supervisor) and one of the mainstays of the James McDermott American Legion Post.
But over the years, the numbers of people standing or sitting at the corner dwindled. Podrasky, a son-in-law, and I were all who remained in 2009.
After I made mention of this emptying of Hoyt Corner a year ago, the word got out that reinforcements were needed.
Well, this year they arrived — in force. Instead of just Joe and me, 11 other relatives and friends of relatives were present and accounted for.
Some, like Evaloa Fritz, Larry Sillivan and Rick Helzer, came from Tracy, and others, like Bill and Joan Slayter, drove from Modesto. Mike Hill and Roxanne Hill were in the group. Others from Livermore, including Frank’s granddaughter Cindy Dipietro and Chase Helzer, were there, too.
Thanks to them, Hoyt Corner lives on. With this year’s revival, the tradition now has a chance of staying alive on future Memorial Days. And, with it, the memory of one of the “Doughboys” of a long-past war who deserves not to be forgotten. Better late than never
It took 2½ months, but retired Tracy High School math teacher Margaret Phillips finally received her bronze medallion in recognition of her service among the Women Air Force Service Pilots during World War II.
The medallions — bronze with gold plating — were first distributed during ceremonies March 13 in Washington, D.C.
Margaret was unable to be at the ceremonies, but she was assured the medallion would be given to her promptly.
As time ticked away, Margaret still didn’t receive her medal. Finally, a week or so ago, she called the W.A.S.P. program office in Washington to ask about it. They said the medal had been sent in March to the office of Rep. Jerry McNerney in Pleasanton.
Margaret phoned the congressman’s office, and lo and behold, a staff member found the medallion and promised to get it to her. Delivery was finally made last Friday night, May 28.
“Someone wasn’t paying attention in the congressman’s office,” she said, “but I’m glad I finally received it.”
McNerney will no doubt want to do some butt-kicking around his office sometime soon. A real hero returns
Former U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Richard Pittman was the day-after-Memorial Day speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Tracy Rotary Club. The winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in 1966 made a strong plea for support of our troops, whether in the war zone or returning from Afghanistan or Iraq.
“Our veterans aren’t getting the support they deserve,” he declared. “There is no higher priority than backing those who are providing our national security.”
This wasn’t the Stockton Marine veteran’s first appearance before a Tracy audience. In 1968, two years after he won the Medal of Honor for action on July 24, 1966, he was guest of honor at Tracy’s annual Armed Forces Week luncheon in the Tracy Inn Gold Room.
After his talk Tuesday, Pittman told me he remembers that then-Rep. John McFall, D-Manteca, was there, and that Joe Tiago of Tracy, a Marine Corps Reserve colonel, was master of ceremonies.
By the way, Pittman’s Medal of Honor citation — he grabbed a machine gun and two belts of ammunition and went to the rescue of Marines trapped in an ambush — leaves no doubt he was a true hero.
The word “hero” has become one of the most overused words in recent years, ascribed to all kinds of people who accomplished nothing special, let alone anything “above and beyond the call of duty.” • Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by e-mail at email@example.com.