Northeast Times

Fitting memorial

For nine dec­ades, the grave of a World War I sol­dier from Ta­cony lacked an im­port­ant fin­ish­ing touch. Pfc. Ox­ley has been prop­erly sa­luted.

It took 90 years, but the grave of loc­al World War I vet­er­an Wil­li­am Dewey Ox­ley fi­nally has a head­stone.

Ox­ley, who grew up at 3350 Un­ruh Ave., was killed in the war in 1918 and bur­ied in France.

In 1921, he was re­bur­ied in his fi­nal rest­ing place, Magno­lia Cemetery, at Levick and Cot­tage streets in Ta­cony.

There is a large war monu­ment at the cemetery, and many people be­lieved Ox­ley was bur­ied there.

However, it wasn’t un­til the most re­cent an­nu­al Me­mori­al Day ser­vice at the cemetery that word began spread­ing that Ox­ley was in­deed bur­ied at Magno­lia, but in an un­marked grave.

In­ter­ested parties — the Amer­ic­an Le­gion Wil­li­am D. Ox­ley Post 133, Sons of the Amer­ic­an Le­gion Post 133 and the fe­male Amer­ic­an Le­gion Wil­li­am D. Ox­ley Unit 133 — began work­ing with Magno­lia Cemetery to loc­ate the grave.

Once the grave site was iden­ti­fied, lead­ers of Post 133, based at Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue and Dec­atur Street in Holmes­burg, began plan­ning a ce­re­mony to hon­or the war hero.

That ce­re­mony took place on Sept. 5, Labor Day, and the new stone reads, “Here lies an Amer­ic­an hero. PFC Wil­li­am D. Ox­ley. Feb. 9, 1896 – Aug. 2, 1918. First WWI sol­dier from Ta­cony who paid the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice for his coun­try.”

Three Amer­ic­an flags were place around the stone.

“Wil­li­am, thank you for your ser­vice and God bless you,” said Wes Schlueter, com­mand­er of the Sons of the Amer­ic­an Le­gion Post 133.

Though ce­re­mony or­gan­izers could not loc­ate any Ox­ley fam­ily mem­bers, a large crowd turned out for the ded­ic­a­tion and a re­cep­tion back at the post at 4637 Dec­atur St.

“Why didn’t he ever re­ceive a head­stone over the last ninety years, we will nev­er know,” Schlueter said.

The late-morn­ing ce­re­mony fea­tured the play­ing of The Star-Spangled Ban­ner and the Trace Adkins song Ar­ling­ton. Michelle Tees­dale and Dan Arm­strong teamed for a ver­sion of God Bless the USA.

In at­tend­ance were a mil­it­ary hon­or guard and War­ri­ors’ Watch Riders, a group that sup­ports Amer­ic­an mil­it­ary troops.

Among those who worked on the ef­fort to hon­or Ox­ley were Schlueter and Mike Kennedy, ser­geant at arms for the Sons of the Amer­ic­an Le­gion Post 133, along with long­time Amer­ic­an Le­gion Wil­li­am D. Ox­ley Unit 133 mem­bers Betty Geph­art and Marge Mo­ciak.

Andy Des­mond, com­mand­er of Post 133, served as mas­ter of ce­re­mon­ies and ex­plained how Ox­ley was born in Provid­ence, R.I., be­fore his fam­ily settled in 1904 in what is now May­fair.

Young Wil­li­am at­ten­ded Dis­ston School, played base­ball and soc­cer and later worked as an ap­pren­tice ma­chin­ist. He en­lis­ted in the mil­it­ary in 1917 at age 21.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Army tran­scripts that were read at the ce­re­mony, Ox­ley was killed by a series of three bombs in an overnight Ger­man air raid while he and fel­low Amer­ic­an troops slept in the woods. In all, six were killed and 25 in­jured.

“Wil­li­am was one of my best men, a brave scrap­per and al­ways ready to give everything he had, no mat­ter what was re­quired of him,” E.J. Stack­pole Jr., cap­tain of the 110th In­fantry, wrote in an Oct. 30, 1918 let­ter to Ox­ley’s fath­er, Joseph.

Stack­pole ex­plained in the let­ter that, on Ju­ly 30, 1918, the Amer­ic­ans “cleaned the Ger­mans out” of a cer­tain wooded area. Ox­ley and the cap­tain were in the lead­ing wave dur­ing the en­gage­ment, and a Ger­man ma­chine gun­ner was about to shoot Stack­pole at close range. Ox­ley picked him off with his rifle.

“Con­sequently, I owe my life to your boy and I’ll nev­er for­get that,” the cap­tain wrote, as he re­covered from gun­shot wounds to his legs at an Amer­ic­an Red Cross hos­pit­al in Par­is. “You may well be proud of your son’s re­cord and the sac­ri­fice he and you have made for our coun­try.” ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

Take ac­tion …

Mil­it­ary vet­er­ans who want to join Amer­ic­an Le­gion Wil­li­am D. Ox­ley Post 133 can call 215-DE2-2457.

Dir­ect des­cend­ants of vet­er­ans who want to join the Sons of the Amer­ic­an Le­gion Post 133 can con­tact Wes Schlueter at 215-612-9194 or schlut­man@com­cast.net

Fe­males of all ages in­ter­ested in join­ing Amer­ic­an Le­gion Wil­li­am D. Ox­ley Unit 133 can call Betty Geph­art at 215-338-4044.

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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