Thursday, July 19 , 2018, 8:34 pm | Fair 67º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Advice

Santa Maria Remembers World War I Casualties With New Plaque on Freedom Monument

Ceremony unveils plaque added to the city's Veterans Memorial near youth center

Edward “Jim” Zemaitas, president of the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society, talks about researching the names of local World War I casualties for the city’s Veterans Memorial.
Edward “Jim” Zemaitas, president of the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society, talks about researching the names of local World War I casualties for the city’s Veterans Memorial. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Thanks to the research efforts of one man, a dozen names of local military members killed during World War I  are now part of the Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial in Santa Maria.

Officials gathered Tuesday morning to dedicate a new plaque added to Freedom Monument which has sat outside the Abel Maldonado Community Youth Center since 2001.

While plaques list names of local residents killed in wars since World War II and note other military accomplishments, those who died during World War I were notably missing to Edward “Jim” Zemaitas, president of the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society.

“We cannot understate the importance of his work on this and we cannot overemphasize enough that if he had not taken it upon himself to do his research, the 12 veterans listed may have been forgotten,” said Dave Cross, one of the founders of the Freedom Monument.

Cross and Bob Hatch, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran and retired chamber leader, launched efforts to create the Freedom Monument in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Each year since then, new names or plaques have been added.

“Until Edward Zemaitas took on the arduous task of identifying those from Santa Maria who died in that war — the war to end all wars — every living memory of that war was nearly gone,” Hatch said.

Many had asked over the years why the World War I casualties were left off the memorial, which has plaques naming residents who died in the Korean and Vietnam wars as well as current casualties.

“The simple fact of it is it was too difficult,” Hatch said.

Local World War I casualties recognized on the new plaque are Matteo Adamoli, Soren Badasci, Marshall Braden, Frank Burrel, Franklin Greely, Hugh Higgins, Guy Jamison, Mike Ontiveros, Delores Peredes, Manual Pico, John Speed and Bernardo Tagliaferri.

A new plaque lists a dozen names of World War I casualties. Click to view larger
A new plaque lists a dozen names of World War I casualties. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“The 12 men who we memorialize here today they willingly defended what they rightfully thought was precious — the right of people everywhere to determine their own future, free of oppression and fear and of course we will never forget that it is their sacrifice that has sustained this nation,” Hatch said.

In the past four years, Zemaitas said he reviewed more than 100 names, researching existing monuments, old newspaper articles, genealogical websites and more to determine names of residents deserving of recognition.

“Of these twelve from our valley, some were killed in action or died of wounds, some of accident or illness,” he said.

They came from diverse backgrounds and include members of pioneering families, but were united by the fact they didn’t return home. Only one is buried in the Santa Maria Cemetery, Zemaitas said.

“In human terms, these were men who did not return to raise a family, support their community, or build a nation,” Zemaitas said.

Except for Braden, for whom the local American Legion post is named, most of the men and their sacrifices were lost to history — until now.

“These men will not be forgotten,” Zemaitas said.

For his efforts, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and monument committee presented Zemaitas with a plaque of appreciation.

City Manager Rick Haydon and Mayor Alice Patino carry flowers into place during a ceremony for the unveiling of a new plaque naming World War I casualties. Click to view larger
City Manager Rick Haydon and Mayor Alice Patino carry flowers into place during a ceremony for the unveiling of a new plaque naming World War I casualties. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“I don’t know if everyone caught this is four years of work and I’m sure hundreds and hundreds of hours to get it right and it’s that attention to detail that is so important in this kind of effort,” said Glenn Morris, president and CEO of the chamber.
 
Other speakers included Mayor Alice Patino, Michael Stadnick Jr., the Santa Maria Valley Honor Guard commander, and Frank Campo, chairman of the Santa Barbara County Veterans Services Advisory Committee.

Col. Jennifer Grant, 30th Operations Group commander at Vandenberg Air Force Base, said it was honor help remembers the sacrifices of the fallen men and their families, paying tribute to their contributions to the nation and preservation of freedoms.

“It’s very humbling to serve and to walk in their footsteps as we do today, but I can assure you that we do this very willingly, very voluntarily and with full faith and allegiance to the freedom that we hold dear,” Grant said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Mayor Alice Patino, Bob Hatch, chairman of the Santa Maria Military Affairs Committee and a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, and Edward “Jim” Zemaitas talk in front of the newly unveiled plaque. Click to view larger
Mayor Alice Patino, Bob Hatch, chairman of the Santa Maria Military Affairs Committee and a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, and Edward “Jim” Zemaitas talk in front of the newly unveiled plaque. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >