Bridgeville exhibit shows off local military artifacts
Pieces of military history that once adorned the walls of a neighborhood bar are again on display, thanks to Lou Delach.
His mother, Nelle, ran Walt's Tavern on Painters Run Road in Beadling, about two miles from Bridgeville. The tavern prominently displayed photos of soldiers who left home to fight in World War II during the 1940s.
The photos are an integral part of a new exhibit at the Bridgeville Historical Society's headquarters on Railroad Street commemorating the 113 local men who lost their lives defending the United States from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War.
“Every time one of the guys would go into the service, they would leave a picture like this for her. These were all around. They hung these on the walls all the way around the bar,” Delach said.
“After my mother passed away, they've just been sitting in a box. When we cleaned the house, I got them.”
The exhibit also includes military uniforms, photographs, letters, medals, and other mementos.
An open house was held May 24. The exhibit is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday until Aug. 31.
Joe Oyler, of Bridgeville, helped with the exhibit. His book, “Almost Forgotten,” tells the stories of the men from Bridgeville and South Fayette who lost their lives while fighting for the country.
“I was little bit reluctant to do (the exhibit). After I thought about it, it's another opportunity to commemorate all the casualities, That's what's dear to my heart. So based on that, I said I'm going to do this. I'll get another chance to call attention to these people who lost their lives,” he said.
Exhibits include the story of Christopher Lesnett, of South Fayette, who was trapped by the British and Indian forces during the War of 1812. When his Army unit surrendered, he and another man refused and hid in the woods. Lesnett survived. His friend did not.
A painting by local artist Andrew Knez captures the moment.
Oyler said his “new hero” is William Shadish, of Bridgeville, who played for the high school's football team in 1941.
During World War II, Shadish entered military service as a doctor and continued to serve through the Korean War, though never on the combat front lines.
“He was embarrassed about that. Korea broke out and he kept pestering and pestering and eventually he ended up in North Korea. He's in a field hospital when the Chinese communists poured over the river and overwhelmed (them).
“He was in a hospital with a bunch of wounded soldiers and chose to stay. He was a P.O.W. for almost three years. He died a couple years ago.”
Since his book was published, Oyler said he discovered six additional casualties, including four during World War II, one from the Korean War, and a peacetime accident.
Delach's photos are displayed in a glass case, complete with name tags written and attached by his mother.
“I don't know if this is all the guys who went. These are all the guys who knew my mother and came to the bar. There could be a few other ones,” he said.
The names include Peter “Cheers” Bombassaro, Walter “Luddy” Davic and Frank “Corns” Kuno.
“Everybody in Beadling had a nickname. There's so many of these guys I knew their nicknames, but I didn't know their names.
“I don't think you'll find more than two that doesn't have a nickname.”
Delach's voice cracks with emotion as he proudly talks of his — and Beadling's — contribution to local history.
“Just a little community that's very close. Everybody knew everybody,” he said.
“There's a lot of history here.”
David Mayernik Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.