VALATIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — In wartime, some towns are struck harder by tragedy than others. During World War II, the Columbia County village of Valatie may have been small, but it’s sacrifice was big.
War, as they say, is hell. And during WWII, a hellish nightmare playing out across the globe would bring home heartache to one small Capital Region village 14 times.
“The village went into a state of shock.”
Dominick Lizzi is the historian for the Village of Valatie and author of the book “Valatie: The Forgotten History.” One chapter is dedicated to the village men who perished in WWII.
“Everybody knew each other,” Lizzi said. “So one wave of grief would be with a telegram. When that came in, that went around the whole village.”
Nathan Johnson was Valatie’s first casualty. He would not be the last.
“Then, when it kept going on and on and on, they just couldn’t believe it,” Lizzi said.
Dave Scace’s stepfather, Raymond Bond, was the village’s princpal funeral director at the time.
“And he couldn’t believe that all these socliders were killed, and it affected him a lot,” Scace said.
Some of Valatie’s lost sons, like Sgt. Fred VanZandt, died on the beaches of Normandy. He had been proud to serve like his father had in World War I.
Pfc. George Hubert Dunham was also killed in action in France. He left behind a wife and a young son, James, who never knew his father.
“I was a year and a half, and I don’t recall him at all,” James said. “I heard a lot about him from my mother and my aunts.”
“Do you think of him as a hero?” NEWS10 ABC reporter Anya Tucker asked.
“Yeah, in the sense that any serviceman who went off to war and especially those who lost their lives,” he responded.
Death’s “roll call” finally ended with Pfc. Sherman Wilson Mesick. With a population hovering around 1,200 and 14 servicemen, the small village had suffered.
“There was tremendous grief that swept the village,” Lizzi said.
At the John W. McConnell Legion Post 47, the village marked its 100th anniversary. And on Memorial Day, they’re honoring and remembering the fallen 14.
“They are still part of us,” Cmdr. Tom Burrall, of Legion Post 47, said. “And as long as there’s an American Legion, we will never forget them.”