It was a task that Woody Woods took on because he had a sense of honor and duty.
About every three years, the World War II veteran fetched a new American flag to fly over Allentown’s Union and West End Cemetery, the second-largest burial ground of Civil War veterans in Pennsylvania, with 724, and the resting place of five veterans of the Revolution.
The cemetery needed Woody this month. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee had swept through the Lehigh Valley and left the flag atop the 40-foot pole along 12th Street in tatters. Ordinarily, Woody would have made sure the Stars and Stripes was replaced.
But someone else would have to do the job for him. Woody, who called Schnecksville his home, died last November.
On Saturday morning, members of the cemetery association and
Woody’s buddies in Lehigh Valley Chapter 190, Military Order of the Purple
Heart, stood at attention as association President Everette Carr raised a crisp
new flag in Woody’s honor. The flag, 5 feet by 8 feet, flew over the Capitol in
Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10.
In front of the pole was a heart-shaped purple wreath with a photo of Woody that MOPH Commander Mike Mescavage took three years ago at Niagara Falls, where Woody was attending his Army unit reunion. Woody, whose given name was Graydon, is grinning and holding a wine glass he had drained of its contents.
He was fortunate to live as long as he did, 91 years. While serving with the 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division, he was badly wounded in November 1944 in the Huertgen Forest along the Belgian-German border. I interviewed him and the story ran in The Morning Call on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2009. Here’s the link: http://www.mcall.com/news/all-graydon-woods,0,5730339.story
While we were working on his story and after its publication, we ate several times at his favorite hangout, the Schnecksville Diner. He was a popular guy there. After he died, the newspaper’s Veterans Day edition with his picture large on the front page was posted behind the cashier.
The event Saturday drew only about a dozen people to the West End section of the 19.6-acre cemetery that saw its first burial, in the Union portion, in 1854. Mike and fellow MOPH members Joe Motil, Chuck Jackson, Lenny Moore and Bud Dillon – looking sharp in their blue caps, white shirts and blue ties — saluted as the new flag went up. So did Rich Hudzinski of the Lehigh Valley Military Affairs Council and cemetery association members Don and Janet Hagenauer, Charles Canning and Gerry Haas.
One of the attendees was Sarah Pardekooper, a patient service assistant for the last six years at the Allentown Veterans Affairs Clinic. She knew Woody because he was there almost every Monday with other Purple Heart members serving coffee and doughnuts.
“Everybody knew who Woody was,” she said after the ceremony. “He always made everybody smile.”