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COLUMN: Veterans Day brings four people to mind

Joe Kelly
Posted 11/14/21

When it comes to Veterans Day, four people come quickly to mind. One is from up the road in Camden, two are from Boonville and one from Texas. They all have at least one thing in common. Architect …

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COLUMN: Veterans Day brings four people to mind

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When it comes to Veterans Day, four people come quickly to mind. One is from up the road in Camden, two are from Boonville and one from Texas. They all have at least one thing in common.

Architect Lorimer Rich was born on Christmas Eve, 1891, in Camden. Rich graduated from Syracuse University and served in World War I. Eventually he went to work for an architectural firm in New York City. 

He later opened his own firm and made his money designing post offices around the country. But he made his reputation by collaborating with sculptor Thomas Hudson Jones and submitting the winning entry in a nationwide competition to design the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

This is how the cemetery describes the famous tomb: “The white marble sarcophagus has a flat-faced form and is relieved at the corners and along the sides by neo-classic pilasters, or columns, set into the surface. Sculpted into the east panel which faces Washington, D.C., are three Greek figures representing Peace, Victory, and Valor. The six wreaths, three sculpted on each side, represent the six major campaigns of World War I.”

Inscribed on the back of the Tomb are these words: 

HERE RESTS IN

HONORED GLORY

AN AMERICAN

SOLDIER

KNOWN BUT TO GOD

When he retired, Rich returned to Camden. He died there in 1978.

The two from Boonville are Ruth Dorothy Cronk Ciecierski and her husband, Zigmunt.

Ruth graduated from Boonville High School in 1941. At some point she lived on Academy Street, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Cronk. In August of 1949 Ruth married Zigmunt Ciecierski at Boonville’s St. Joseph’s Church.

Ruth graduated from Morrisville Agricultural and Technical Institute. During the war she spent twenty months in the WAVES. Zigmunt attended early grades in Boonville, but graduated from high school in Pennsylvania. He was in the Army Air Force during the war, serving in the Pacific, and later at Rome’s Griffiss Air Force Base. 

The one from Texas is the most famous of the bunch and was the most decorated soldier in World War II. His medals include the Medal of Honor and most other awards the country can bestow. 

Murphy grew up dirt poor in Texas and dropped out of school to help support his family, picking cotton for $1 a day. He shot rabbits and squirrels to put food on the table. I’ve read that he became such a great rifle shot at such a young age because if he missed, his family might not eat that night.

He tried enlisting early in World War II but was rejected because he was too young. He got in after he lied about his age. 

Murphy entered the Army after being rejected by other service branches because at 5 foot, 5 inches and 110 pounds, he was too small. He entered the Army as a private and rose to the rank of major, the result of battlefield commissions.

After the war, he became a movie star, rancher, and an advocate for veterans. Ironically, Audie Murphy beat tremendous odds and survived World War II only to die in the crash of a private airplane in 1971 in Virginia.

The thing the four have in common is that all of them are buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  

Rich is buried in section 48, Lot 288, not too far from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Ruth and Zigmunt are buried near the intersection of Roosevelt and Weeks Drive, Section 31. Her marker states: Ruth D. Cronk Ciecierski, SP3, US Navy, World War II, Oct., 3, 1923, Apr. 3, 1993. His marker states: Zigmunt J. Ciecierski, TSGT, US Air Force, World War II, Korea, Aug. 6, 1919, Feb. 5, 1994.

Murphy’s grave is in Section 46, just across from the Memorial Amphitheater. A special flagstone walkway was installed years ago because the number of visitors to his grave was killing the grass.

I’ve been to Arlington National Cemetery many times. Aways I visit those graves.

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