Monday, May 29, 2017

Help Me Find the Hockmeyer Veterans

Dedicating this Memorial Day blog, as I have done in some years past, to my uncle Gerald F. Cook, who died in World War II at the age of 19 in Germany on September 17, 1944.  Think of that.  Both of my children have already outlived my uncle, who died in battle, defending his country.
Gerald survived the D Day invasion of Normandy, only to perish months later, while serving as a radio man in the Army infantry.

In recent months, I've been able to unearth a number of original Lowell Sun newspaper articles that reported on his death and the services at St. Peter's parish that were held upon his return here to Lowell.  Fascinating stuff to read.

Longtime readers of this blog may also remember the story about the Hockmeyer Veterans.  I'm using today as another opportunity to try to track down some of the families of these veterans, in hopes I can provide them with a piece of history of their loved one's life.

The Hockmeyer corduroy mill, which closed more than half a century ago, used to be in the Waterhead Mills on Lawrence Street, current home to Ramalho's West End Gym alongside the Concord River.
I learned about Hockmeyer after a Lowell PD worker found a book covered in purple-blue corduroy, entitled Our Hockmeyer veterans.  And inside the book was a dedication to my uncle, Gerald, who apparently worked at the mill before being shipped overseas.  The book was also dedicated to two other Hockmeyer employees who died in WWII, John Calhoun Hunt and Edward Peter Michael.

The book details the biographies of all three soldiers, plus another 85 Lowell men who served in World War II and worked at Hockmeyer.  The book was printed by the Murray Printing Company of Cambridge.
Some other facts I learned about my uncle via this book: he worked in the "finishing" section of Hockmeyer.  He was in the Army Infantry, 26th Infantry Division, Company C, with a rank of corporal.  He enlisted on May 20, 1943, and was killed in action sixteen months later, on September 17, 1944.  He was awarded ribbons for European Theater of Operations, Good Conduct.  He received a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman's Badge.  He trained at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

According to his bio in the book:  "Gerald trained at Fort McClellan for five months, then was shipped overseas and landed in England in November, 1943.  There he underwent further training.  He took active part in D Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.  He was in active combat against the enemy in the push across France and into Germany.  On September 17, 1944, Gerald was killed in action in Germany.  Gerald was the captain's radio man."

The book contains a preface written by Victor F. Hockmeyer, company president, Clive E. Hockmeyer, vice-president, and Lincoln Clark, treasurer.  In the preface, the executives wrote "it is with mingled pride and sorrow that we present this memorial - pride in the record of achievement in a just cause by those of our organization who served in our armed forces and those who supplied the needs of those forces; sorrow that we must report the supreme sacrifice made in this service by three of our former employees who failed to return from the conflict."

The preface continues: "Our organization was privileged to take an active part in this great effort and we are proud of our performance.  Many of our employees entered the armed services and we believe it is fitting that the record of the Hockmeyer veterans should be published so that their roles in contributing to the ultimate victory will not soon be forgotten.  May we strive for a just and lasting peace that their sacrifice shall not have been made in vain."

In the introduction, the authors state "There is no need for the Hockmeyer organization to boast of our participation in the war effort.  The facts speak for themselves.  All our planning, all our work, all our machines were directed toward production for victory."

"Millions of service men have enjoyed the clothing comfort given by the use of our products," the executives continue.  "Those who wore the jackets issued to forces in the Southern Pacific were using some of the jungle cloth that we produced in quantity exceeding over two hundred thousand yards.  Navy men who warmed their hands by plunging them into corduroy-lined pockets were enjoying part of our special product of which our plant turned out more than one million yards for the Navy.  Those unfortunate enough to be hospitalized luxuriated in maroon bathrobes for which we turned out over one-half million yards of corduroy for the Medical Corps."

In all, the book offers profiles on 88 Lowell men who worked for the company and served in the military.  Most, but not all of them have pictures to accompany their bios.  Other bits of information included on their bio pages includes their job function at the mill, their branch of service, their ranks, assignments, and award, and for many a quote from them as well as some anectodal information about their tour of duty.

So here's where I need some help.  I'm trying to locate some of the other veterans listed in the book.

Other names listed among the veterans include: Joseph A. Boisvert, Kenneth Buchanan, Arthur Burke, Henry J. Canas, Lawrence K. Carney, Antonio J. Ciaravolo, Warren J. Coleman, Frederick Courtemarche, Roland F. Cutter, Stephen DeMallie, Joseph E. Evicci, William P. Feehan, John C. Ferreira, Lionel G. Gaulin, Roland G. Gelineau, Gerard Gignac, Roger G. Girard, Francis J. Glynn, Thaddeus Gorski, Gilbert Grugan, George Hansen, James Healy, Langdon Hockmeyer, Vincent Hockmeyer, Robert Houde, George Hubert, William F. Ireson, Bronislaw Jaracz, Joseph W. Jezak, Herman Johnson, Stathis Kareores, William Kasilowski, Arthur J. Lachance, John Lake, Victor F. Lebeau, Leo Lemire, Carl J. Lowe, Harry G. Lowe, Philip Maguire Jr., Arman H. Marcouillier, Herache F. Markarian, Earl Marshall, Maurice Masson, Henry McGrath, William J. McNeill, David Muldoon, Francis Muldoon, Frank P. O'Brien Jr., Joseph O'Donnell, Julian J. Olejarz, William Oliveria, Raymond Ouellette, Edward Paglieroni, George Paleologos, Peter Panagiotareas, Alfred Pearson, Joseph Pearson Jr., Theodore J. Fereira, William Pestana, Gerald Proulx, Mortimer Pulsifer, Daniel E. Rallis, Paul N. Robarge, Everett W. Rolfe, Michael Rutina, John P. Ryan, Joseph Sasnauskas, Charles Shacka, Joseph A. Soulard, Alexander J. Stanulonis, Leopold E. Stec, C. Roger Stott, Raymond Stowell, Fred Swiderski, Walter S. Urbowicz, Joseph Versiackas, Walter Viera, George C. Walter, Joseph Whitworth, Paul E. Wilmot, Henry S. Wojkowski, G. Kenneth Wright, George Xiggores, Joseph Yates, and Paul Zannoni.

Anyone who thinks they might be related to or know somebody on that list can contact me, either through the comment section on this blog, or via email at

My uncle Gerald. who was my father Jimmy's hero,  had been raised on Auburn Street in the Flats neighborhood.  Before he left to serve his country, he married Theresa Yates, with whom he is buried. He also left behind four siblings, all of whom have also since passed away.   A Lowell Sun newspaper account of Gerald's death at the time described him as "a well and favorably known young Lowell man."  More than twenty years ago, the square at the intersection of D and School Streets was dedicated to my uncle.

This Memorial Day, for Gerald F. Cook, as well as all of the other veterans profiled in this book, a grateful country - and in this particular case, a grateful nephew - thanks you.

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