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War memorial taken from junk pile finds its way home

August 29, 2010
By SANDY MICKELSON, Messenger staff writer

Every time I dig through a pile of boxes in the basement I'm surprised at what I find.

That's natural.

Just imagine what the person felt who found a bronze World War II military cemetery marker in a junk pile recently. They contacted police officers Jay Lukawski and Lt. Dave Beshey, who contacted local historians Roger Natte and Jerry Roe, who started a search that ultimately went through Meg Beshey and her genealogy software.

Each step of the search added new people - Dr. Terry Moehnke and Lindy Kaye - and finally ended at the home of Walter and Betty Martin at Renwick. And that's where everything got sorted out.

The bronze marker holds the name of Merle Millard Martin, Iowa, SN US Navy, World War II, May 15, 1927 to Nov. 13, 1969.

"His dad and my dad were brothers," Walter Martin said. "We grew up together. We played together as kids. We had our picture taken at family reunions."

When first contacted, Martin thought they were talking about one of those small, round grave markers available to military personnel. But he was wrong. What had been found was a full-size bronze marker, 12-by-24 inches, with raised bronze letters on it.

"We're going to have it mounted on his grave," Martin said. "Merle is buried in a cemetery in Wright County, Boone Township in the Luni Cemetery. That's the name of a little, ol' town out there, a town that no longer exists. Now it's called the Evergreen Cemetery."

Martin and another cousin, Harold Trask, of Renwick. will talk to Martin's daughters to see what their wishes are, however - whether they want the marker on their father's grave or maybe placed at the Veterans Monument in Renwick.

"His father is buried up there, and his mother," Martin said. "His mother, Zelda Martin, belonged to the Baptist Church in Goldfield. They lived in Goldfield on Carpenter Hill on the north end of town on the main street."

Both Merle Martin and his father drove truck for a living, and both died in accidents. Merle Martin was just 42 years old. Walter Martin said he figures the marker got left in Fort Dodge when Merle Martin's wife, Pearl, was moved from a care center in Dodge to one in Storm Lake to be closer to one of her daughters.

Getting Merle Martin's military marker has rekindled memories for Walter Martin.

"I have good memories of Merle," he said. "I've got movie pictures made when I must have been 6 years old at our French family reunion,"

And he remembers his cousin going back to high school for a semester after coming home from the war so he could graduate. He stayed with his grandmother south of Renwick, so went back to school in Renwick rather than Goldfield.

"Old Merle stood 6-foot-1 and weighed probably 220 pounds or so," Martin said. "I stood 5-foot-4 and weighed probably 145."

Betty Martin laughed when she said it looked a lot like Mutt and Jeff.

"We played football," Martin said. "I got to play beside him. He was a tackle, and I was a guard."

The superintendent told Merle Martin and two others returning home from war that to get their diplomas, they had to attend at least one semester of school. That superintendent also was the football coach.

Talk about finding a treasure.

So long friends, until the next time when we're together.

Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or



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