ELKHART — All Theresa Lewis wants is a small spot on the sprawling World War II memorial that covers part of a hallway wall in Elkhart City Hall.
An inch or so by six inches would suffice.
There, the Elkhart woman wants to place a small wooden nameplate reading “Leon Ellis Anglemyer.” That’s her father, a prisoner of war from World War II who grew up in Elkhart County and died here in 1964 when he was just 40 years old. The memorial at city hall honors those from the community who served in the war, and she noticed five or so years back that her dad’s name was absent among the many inscribed nameplates up there.
She’s been lobbying on and off ever since to get Anglemyer’s name on the memorial, largely without success. But she’ll keep at it.
“To some people it might seem trivial,” she said. “But for families who have had family in the service, it’s not trivial.”
Reps at city hall and the Elkhart County Veteran’s Service Office, contacted by The Elkhart Truth, initially passed the buck, each pointing the finger at the other as responsible for deciding who gets a spot on the memorial. Then Arvis Dawson, assistant to Mayor Dick Moore, relented.
"I don’t see any problem,“ Dawson said. Protocol needs to be followed, confirmation of the relevant details needs to made, he indicated, but steps would be taken to address the matter.
’MADE MY HEART SINK’
Enter city hall, go down a few steps to the lower level of the building and you’ll see three huge wooden boards containing name after name after name — those from the community who served in World War II. When Lewis first stumbled upon it while visiting city hall with a friend who had business there, she did a double take.
“I looked over at the A’s and there was no Leon Anglemyer, and that just kind of made my heart sink,” she said. Her friend looked for the name of her own father, also a World War II veteran, and found the Bristol man’s name.
Over the years, Lewis, who used to work as a registered nurse, hasn’t gotten much of a response from her efforts, so she came to The Elkhart Truth with her story. The urge for action intensifies about this time each year — around Memorial Day, Anglemyer’s July 5 birthday and the day of his death 50 years ago, June 10, 1964.
"I want, somewhere, his name to be listed with the people who served with him,” she said.
GRASS MEALS, RIFLE BUTTS
Today, a portrait of her father in his military garb decorates Lewis’ living room. The U.S. flag that draped his coffin and the purple heart and one of the bronze stars he earned from his service sit on a nearby stand.
Anglemyer, who grew up between Nappanee and Wakarusa, joined the U.S. Army in 1943 at the age of 19, eventually attaining the rank of corporal. He traveled to Europe, seeing action in Italy, France and Germany, and was taken prisoner by German troops Jan. 20, 1945, according to Lewis.
He was liberated less than three months later, on April 16, 1945, but the experience in a POW camp left an impression. Anglemyer, who worked at Elkhart Products Corp. in Elkhart before passing, would later tell stories of having to eat grass to survive and of Germans butting him and other prisoners in the head with their rifles.
Back in Indiana, Lewis remembers, her father never ate green vegetables because it brought back memories of the grass meals. He later died of a cerebral hemorrhage, and veterans officials indicated it may have stemmed from the rough treatment as a POW, she said.
Still Anglemyer soldiered on, she said, and while he may have been bruised, he wasn’t broken. That grit seems to be the motivating factor for Lewis, 50 years since her father’s death and nearly 70 years since his service in World War II.
"You’re going to make me cry," she said from the living room of her home, remembering her dad. “They didn’t break his spirit... Everything he went through, it didn’t break him.”