‘Almost Forgotten’ remembers local men who lost their lives serving
It was my privilege recently to attend a presentation in South Fayette’s local authors series which featured my brother, Joe, and his book, “Almost Forgotten,” a record of the men from the Bridgeville and South Fayette area who lost their lives while serving in the military.
The book was self-published through “Author House” in 2011. The original book includes the stories of 107 men ranging from the Civil War through Vietnam. Since then, he has learned of nine more men; they are discussed in two addenda. The book is still available for purchase at the Bridgeville Area Historical Society.
The main body of “Almost Forgotten” is divided into six sections — Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam. In each section the author records all the information available about the specific individual and his death, supplemented by his personal experiences interviewing family members and friends.
Nine of the 11 fatalities in the Civil War were members of Company D, 149th Pennsylvania Volunteers. This company was organized in the Robinson Run area in August of 1862, and performed in distinguished fashion throughout the war. Similarly, Company K of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry was organized a year earlier in Bridgeville and had an equally distinguished war record. Two of the local area fatalities, Richard Lesnett and Thomas Boyce, were members of Company K: Lesnett lost his life in the Cold Harbor Campaign, and Boyce died during the Siege at Petersburg.
Twenty-two area men lost their lives in World War I. For me the most poignant tale is that of Roy Purnell, a young African-American man who left his wife, Viola, and baby, Amy, and went off to France. He died there, probably from the flu epidemic, and is buried in the Oise-Asne Cemetery. The photograph of Viola at her husband’s gravesite in France is extremely touching.
World War II produced 62 more deaths. Among the ones Joe highlighted in his talk was the very first one, Alexander Asti. He was a seaman on the USS Juneau and perished along with the five Sullivan brothers when it was torpedoed and sunk at Guadalcanal in November 1942.
Nine men died during the Korean War. Hardest for us to accept was our childhood friend and neighbor Amos Jones. He was an airman on a Navy Neptune patrol bomber that crashed in Iceland on Dec. 17, 1953, while searching for Russian submarines. The bodies were recovered 28 years later and interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Six men lost their lives in the period between the Korean and Vietnam wars, a period Joe designated as “the Cold War.” Included are two more personal friends — Dick Johnson and Sam Patton — both of whom died in accidents.
Another six young men lost their lives in Vietnam. Joe showed a Cy Hungerford cartoon which portrays a somber Uncle Sam, hat in hand, looking at a cross on which is inscribed “Killed in Action, Cpl. George Verdinek of Bridgeville, Pa., Age 19.” That never fails to make my eyes mist over.
Joe has made a major contribution to local history by his scholarship in researching this extremely relevant subject and recording it in a book that is peppered with interesting anecdotes about the folks he met along the way.