Seaman 2C Robert August Koehler, Service no. 9450770

Robert August Koehler was born on 28 September 1918, in Peru, Illinois, as both war and a flu pandemic were raging across the world. While the war would cease a month and a half after his birth, the pandemic would go on for another year. In the midst of this turmoil, Robert’s parents, August and Elsie Elizabeth (Pyka) Koehler, were raising Robert and his two older sisters Mildred and Gladys in a home they owned at 2315 Main street in southwest Peru. August Koehler was supporting his family by working as a buffer at Westclox—a local clock factory. Two years…

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T/SGT Eugene Joseph Kieras, Service Number 36480578

Eugene “Gene” Joseph Kieras was born on 14 November 1924, in LaSalle, Illinois. He was the third child of John and Mary Theresa (Brzygot) Kieras. Their two older children were sons Stanley and Edward. Gene’s parents were both born in the area and married in LaSalle four years before his birth on 20 April 1920. After Gene, John and Mary Kieras had two more sons: Ernest and Raymond. Around the time Gene was born his family was living at 1220 Eight street in LaSalle, but they moved several times throughout his childhood. Their longest stay during his life was in…

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PFC Eugene Joseph Kellner, Service No. 36690379

Eugene Joseph Kellner was born around 1922/1923 to Josephine Halasiak (aka Hallas). As a toddler, Eugene most likely lived on the east side of LaSalle at 508 Blackstone with his mother and grandparents Martin and Maggie Halasiak. Eugene’s grandfather Martin supported the family by working as a coal miner. Martin and his wife had married in 1891 and left Poland for America in 1892. They had at least nine children including Eugene’s mother Josephine. When Eugene was about three or four, his grandfather passed away in the summer of 1926. Around this same time, his mother Josephine married John V.…

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PFC Ludwig Frank Hrovat, Service No. 36445593

Ludwig Frank Hrovat was born on 6 August 1923, in LaSalle, Illinois, to Frank and Caroline Misjak Hrovat. Both of Ludwig’s parents had immigrated to the United States from Slovakia and married in LaSalle on 17 June 1901. A few months after their first anniversary they had their first child—a son who they named Frank Hrovat Jr. Over the next several years, the couple had at least six more children before having Ludwig in 1923. Throughout this time Ludwig’s father Frank supported his family by working as a miner. On 13 February 1931, when Ludwig was seven years old, his…

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Seaman 1C John Joseph Iwanicki

John Joseph Iwanicki was born 5 January 1922, to Xavier and Frances Koprowski Iwanicki. His parents had been married for almost 20 years when he was born and had 11 other children—5 boys and 6 girls—prior to John’s birth. However, not all had survived—at least two children passed away before he was born. Xavier, John’s father, was an immigrant who in his mid-teens left Poland for the U.S. in the mid to late 1890s. John’s mother, Frances, was born in 1883 in Peru, Illinois, to parents who had immigrated as young adults from Poland to the U.S. While John would…

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Seaman 1C Stanley Joseph Iwanicki

Stanley Joseph Iwanicki was born 27 May 1919, to Xavier and Frances Koprowski Iwanicki. His parents had been married for 17 years when he was born and had 10 other children—4 boys and 6 girls—prior to Stanley’s birth. However, not all had survived—at least two children passed away before he was born. Xavier and Frances welcomed one more child after Stanley—a boy, John Iwanicki, who was born in January 1922 when Stanley was two. Xavier, Stanley’s father, was an immigrant who in his mid-teens left Poland for the U.S. in the mid to late 1890s. Stanley’s mother, Frances, was born…

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2 LT Raymond C. Hopp, Service Number O-819812

Raymond C. Hopp was born on 11 June 1923, in LaSalle, Illinois, to Fred W. and Victoria Markiewicz Hopp. His mother, Victoria, was the daughter of Peter and Agnes Widlowski Markiewicz—a couple who had left Poland about 1892 with their first child, Josephine. Raymond’s father was a driver throughout his childhood first working for American Railway Express Company for several years and then for a bakery, possibly the one owned by Henry Hopp in Spring Valley. When Raymond was about 10 years old, his father became a driver for the LaSalle Fire Department. By that time, his parents had a…

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SGT Robert James Hetherington, Service No. 36000529

Robert James Hetherington was born on either Christmas eve or Christmas day in 1908 in LaSalle, Illinois, to Thomas and Eleanor “Ella” Hanley Hetherington. His parents, both in their early to mid-twenties, married in October the year before his birth. His father, Thomas Hetherington, worked as a miner for the LaSalle County Carbon Coal Company in LaSalle. Robert’s grandfather, John Hetherington, worked at the same company as a supervisor. He had been there about 40 years and retired when Robert was about 16. However, the next year, in 1925, Robert’s grandfather died of a stroke. Soon after, Thomas, Robert’s father,…

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PVT John Walter Gorczynski, Service Number 36775718

John Walter Gorczynski was born on 18 September 1920, in LaSalle, Illinois. He was the youngest child of John and Barbara Klimala Gorczynski. His father, John Sr. had immigrated to the United States from Poland in 1909. Two years later John’s mother, Barbara, left Poland for America with her two-year-old son Wladyslaw (Walter) to join her husband in LaSalle. By 1920, John’s parents had at least five more children including John Jr. John Sr. was working in the furnace area of the local zinc works, and he and his wife had bought a home at 222 Sterling street in the…

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PFC Walter Bernard Gielow, Service No. 36327153

Walter Bernard Gielow was born on 29 September 1912, in LaSalle, Illinois, to Fred and Annie Neidemeier Gielow. Walter’s father Fred was a miner who was born in an area in Germany lying about 75 miles north of Berlin. In 1887, when Fred was 23, he and his brother Carl left Germany for America. The next year Fred’s parents, Heinrich and Alexandrina Gielow, arrived with another brother Henry Jr. and his family. Fred Gielow married Annie Neidemeier—a local girl born in Peru—on 30 September 1891. It’s unknown if Walter’s maternal grandmother, Sophia Niedemeier was alive at this time—his maternal grandfather…

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