Honoring the WWI Gold Star men

As the smoke cleared from the battlefields of World War I, the Whitewater Normal School came together to honor those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause.  May 30, 1919, was the first Memorial Day following the signing of the armistice that had ended the war the previous November.  Almost 50 students and faculty,  approximately 10 percent of the student body, returned to the school to resume their studies.  Missing from that number were seven students and alumni.

Honoring the fallen

Memorial exercises were held at the school assembly on Thursday, June 5, 1919, to honor Byron Beckett, Loren Borst, Lawrence Buckley, William Graham, Oscar Hamilton, Harold Hawes, and Ernest Magoon, all students or graduates from the Normal School and Commercial High School.

At the assembly, Chaplain Gustav Stearns from the 128th infantry gave a memorial address.  A member of the faculty spoke about each of the fallen soldiers, “giving a brief sketch of their lives and telling something of their service” (Whitewater Register, June, 12, 1919).

On June 8, 1920, a memorial to the Gold Star men was erected on the front lawn of the Normal school, flanking the entrance to Old Main along with a bust of President Salisbury. “It was a shaft of Montello granite on which is to be placed “Victory.” A bronze tablet on the face of the shaft has the names” of the soldiers (Whitewater Register, June 10, 1920).  The dedication ceremony included a speech by A.A. Upham and an address by Chaplain Stearns.  In 1923, a bust of President Abraham Lincoln was added to the top of the pedestal.  The memorial now stand near the southwest corner of Hyer hall.



Gold Star Men

Byron Beckett, 1918

Byron Beckett served as the Senior class president and graduated from the Principals’ Course in June 1918 before serving as a seaman second class in the Navy.

Loren Borst, 1917

Loren Borst, known as the “Big Mondovi Star,” helped lead the football team to the 1917 championship game.  He left to fight for “Uncle Sam” and died at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in November 1918 from influenza and pneumonia.

Lawrence Buckley attended the Normal School in 1915 and went on to work for the North Western Railway. He joined the Navy in 1917 and was promoted to seaman second class during his year of service.  In March 1918, he was granted a ten day furlough and returned to Whitewater, where he died suddenly from diphtheria.

William “Billy” Graham was part of the Freshman class of 1909 at Whitewater Normal.  He joined Company K, 128th Infantry, and served for six years, rising to the rank of Corporal.  He died in action on August 2, 1918.

Oscar Hamilton, 1918

Oscar Hamilton, another Whitewater native, was an editor for the Royal Purple and the Minneiska before graduating from the High School Course at Whitewater Normal in 1918. He went on to serve with the U.S. Engineers in Washington, DC, where he contracted influenza and pneumonia, which claimed his life in October 1918.

Harold Hawes served as the Junior class president for the Commercial High School in 1917. He enlisted as a Private 1st Class in the 128th Infantry, Company K, on April 7, 1917, the day the United States declared war on Germany.  He died in France from wounds he received in battle.

Ernest Magoon joined the army as a private in the 38th Infantry, Company B.  He served in France and went missing during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  In August 1921, as the U.S. government began sending soldier’s bodies home from Europe, Ernest and another soldier, Elmer Wright, returned to Whitewater.  The Normal School hosted a service to honor these soldiers.


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