SHELBY TOWNSHIP — It was an emotional day for Beverly Netzloff.
Seventy years after her older brother, William Netzloff Jr., was killed in action in World War II, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller presented Beverly, the sole survivor of her family, with four medals and a Gold Star pin June 16.
“Several times I tried (to procure his medals), but I didn’t get too far. I thought I can’t let them go,” said Beverly, 88. “This past year, I’ve been thinking about it heavily. I thought for my last move before I meet him in heaven, I have to get these medals and tell his story. I’m sure my brother’s looking down and very happy, and I’m very happy.”
She received the Purple Heart and Good Conduct service awards, the European-African-Middle East Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars for the three campaigns in which William participated, the WWII Victory Medal, as well as a Gold Star lapel pin, which is awarded to the next-of-kin of a U.S. soldier killed in action.
William died at the age of 23 in the Battle of Anzio in Italy in 1944, a little more than a year after being drafted into the Army. During his service, he served in North Africa, Sicily and Rome and was wounded three times — the third time, fatally.
Because of a 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 me, and it bothered me for many years,” Beverly said. “I’ve waited a long time. It’s unbelievable — my prayers have been answered.”
William dropped out of high school to help support his family by working on a farm. Beverly said he was a gentle, loving young man who enjoyed Sunday school and always bought her little presents when he had an extra nickel or quarter.
Beverly kept every letter he wrote home in a box, along with government condolence letters, newspaper clippings about the fateful, four-month battle in which thousands of young American men died to take Rome from Germany, her brother’s obituary, a church program from his memorial service and more.
She moved from Detroit to Shelby Township in 2001 and began attending the annual Memorial Day service at the municipal grounds, where she routinely saw Shelby Township Veteran Events Coordinator Phil Randazzo.
“Up to that point, I had never been able to go to memorial services,” Beverly said. “When I got to Shelby Township, it was new territory and a new life for me here.”
It wasn’t until two months ago that she ventured into the Township Hall to inquire about her situation that things started working in her favor.
Deputy Supervisor Brad Bates met her when she came in. He said it seemed destined that Randazzo happened to be heading into the municipal offices in a few minutes, and he connected Beverly with Randazzo that day.
“I take it very personally,” said Randazzo, a Vietnam veteran invested in helping veterans and their families in and around the township. “I figured I had the Memorial Day ceremony coming up. I told her, with your permission, we’ll do a 21-gun salute and taps at the ceremony for your brother that he never had.”
Randazzo and Beverly also went to Miller’s office together after the memorial ceremony May 25 to supply her staff with the necessary documentation to obtain the medals.
“We’re delighted to help,” Miller said. “In my years in Congress, I’ve been able to do this a handful of times, and it really makes it all worthwhile.”
Beverly’s great-nephew, Doug Boehm, accompanied her to the presentation ceremony. Although Beverly is the last of her line, she said Boehm would inherit her brother’s medals.
“I’m forever grateful,” Beverly said. “I hope all of the people in the U.S. know what these valiant soldiers have done for us — given their lives for us — and appreciate this country.”
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