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Sacrifice remembered

Veterans place memorial for Elvin E. Stouffer

Veterans place memorial for Elvin E. Stouffer

April 15, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - Even now, 61 years later, Vivian VanVoorhis struggles to control her emotions thinking about that fateful day.

The date never did stick in her mind but, clear as a bell, she remembered it was Palm Sunday. The 17-year-old senior at Boonsboro High School was home when the men delivered that dreadful telegram to her parents' home near Boonsboro with the news that Elvin was dead.

She spoke calmly at first as she recalled the memory, but tears soon welled up again as she stood at the intersection of Mt. Lena and San Mar roads, less than a mile from Greenbrier Elementary School.

"I can remember our minister ... bringing the telegraph," she said.

At the age of 22, Elvin E. Stouffer, a petty officer in the U.S. Navy, was shot down in his Avenger aircraft as he sought to drop torpedoes from above during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.

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He was buried at sea, and the Mt. Lena United Methodist Church held a memorial for the former Fairchild worker who couldn't help but share the pride he wore with his Navy uniform with his parents, five brothers and two sisters.

"He was a teenager when he left to go to the Navy, and we always saw the pictures that he would send us when he was training ... and we were so proud of him," sister Fayette Stouffer said.

The remaining Stouffer siblings - the eldest, Vernon, died last year - recalled Elvin's gentle demeanor and ability to make friends as they gathered around the green and white street signs marking the intersection of Mt. Lena and San Mar roads.

Presiding over this casual ceremony of family were members of the Joint Veterans Council. The Council members, Peter Callas, Bob Glausier and Philip Stotelmyer, set atop the street signs a commemorative plate bearing Stouffer's name, rank and date of death. Not far from the intersection is the home where Elvin grew up. Behind the house, Vivian said, the amateur carpenter built a workshop for his parents before he left for the Navy.

The Joint Veterans Council was established to recognize the service of those across all branches of the military killed in action. Later Thursday, the council members honored U.S. Army Pvt. Leroy A. Hutzell, of Boonsboro, at a location near his home. Hutzell was killed in 1944.

"We've been putting these up since the middle of the '80s. We've probably put up 300 of them in the county ... honoring those individuals who were killed in action," Callas said.

After a salute and brief statement, the council members let Stouffer's family speak.

"1945 was 60 years ago. It was a long time ago, but we still remember him," Marvin Stouffer said.

"He was a fine brother," VanVoorhis said. "Even today, I remember, he worked at Fairchild, had good friends, everybody liked him."

The small sign is far from distinct against the green of the street sign, but it is significant in the hearts of Stouffer's family.

"We're very honored to have the sign, in his hometown, in this little community here," Fayette Stouffer said. "He enlisted in '39. He enjoyed it, and by enlisting, I guess, he was helping the country, and helping defend it."

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