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Shelby Township

May 19, 2014

Shelby Memorial Day service honors fallen heroes

May 25 ceremony is dedicated to WWII soldier killed in action

By Sarah Wojcik
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Beverly Netzloff holds a photo of the bronze plaque she kept when her former church, Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Detroit, closed. The six names belong to young men, including her older brother, who were members of the church and who lost their lives in World War II. Beverly knew all of them.
William Netzloff stands in an unknown location in Italy in October 1943. He lost his life one year later in a battle that claimed the lives of thousands of young American men.
 

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — For more than 12 years, Shelby Township Veterans Events Coordinator Phil Randazzo has been organizing the Memorial Day event at the township municipal grounds to honor American soldiers who fell in the line of duty.

The event is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. May 25 at the township’s veterans memorial site, located at 52700 Van Dyke Ave., just south of 24 Mile Road. It will feature several speakers, the posting of colors, the playing of taps, the Pledge of Allegiance and a performance of the national anthem by the Lakeside Assembly of God.

Speakers include Donald Bemis, former state superintendent of public instruction and a Korean War Army veteran; the Rev. Paulus Obey, the chaplain at Selfridge Air National Guard Base; and special guest speaker Beverly Netzloff, sister of William Netzloff, the fallen World War II soldier to whom the ceremony is dedicated.

“Memorial Day is a somber day,” Randazzo said. “When I look at the memorials in Shelby Township and see the names engraved, I see how they died and what they did before they died. It’s not just a one-sided story.”

William Netzloff died in 1944 in the Battle of Anzio in Italy when he was 23 years old and Beverly was 18 years old. It had been a little more than a year after he’d been drafted into the army.

Beverly, now 88 and the sole person still living from her seven-member family, said that they never received the medals owed to her brother and that it always had bothered her.

“Bill was a kind and loving brother, and he treated me very well. He was a humble, gentle person, and he loved church and Sunday school,” Beverly said.

She recalled that even though their family grew up poor on the east side of Detroit and Bill quit high school to help support them, he would treat her to a new barrette or purse whenever he could scrounge up a nickel or a quarter.

Because of the large number of casualties, Beverly said her brother was buried in a temporary grave in Nettuno, Italy, and years later, in 1948, his remains were returned to her family and buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit on the anniversary of Victory over Japan Day.

She said that only a small gathering of family was present for the burial and that nobody was there to play taps or give a military funeral because they were celebrating the anniversary.

“That hurt all of us, but I think we kept it to ourselves, but I felt it more than anybody,” Beverly said. “I was the one who received the telegram (notifying us of his death), and I tried to get some medals because I thought he deserved better than that.”

She said she had no luck and felt shunned until about a month ago, when she ventured to the Shelby Township municipal offices and got connected with Randazzo, whom she recognized from attending many township Memorial Day services in the past.

“Up until the time I moved here (in 2001), I couldn’t bring myself to go to a memorial service, but now I’m in a different land outside of Detroit,” Beverly said.

She said she was overjoyed when Randazzo decided to dedicate the ceremony to her brother and that he is also working with U.S. Rep. Candice Miller’s office to obtain the medals owed to her brother.

“Nobody ever treated me like this. It’s so thoughtful,” Beverly said. “I am so grateful to Shelby Township and Phil, and everybody here.”

Randazzo said he would read a letter addressed to Beverly’s family from a close friend of her brother’s in the army who fought alongside him and who was present during his death.

“This is going to educate a lot of people. Memorial Day is what it says — a memorial to honor the dead heroes of our nation,” Randazzo said. “No matter what it is, we do something for the heroes and veterans that died — that’s the way Shelby Township is.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at swojcik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1029.