FOSTER SAYERS MEMORIAL DEDICATION
The Foster Joseph Sayers Medal of Honor Memorial will be formally dedicated on Friday evening at 6 p.m. Dave Bower of the Veterans Administration in Lock Haven was instrumental in suggesting the memorial idea to the Howard Area Lions Club members. After receiving approval and the necessary permits from the Army Corps of Engineers, Lions Club members have been responsible for spurring forward the project plans with the help of federal, state and local organizations and individuals who have labored together to see the project to completion. There's nearly a century of history tied to this special memorial dedication service planned for May 25, 2012.
Foster Joseph Sayers was born April 27, 1924. Some say he was born in Blanchard while others claim his roots began in Marsh Creek. Sayers didn't have an easy childhood and never graduated from high school; but he went on to become one of America's most highly decorated individuals. Not only has Sayers posthumously received the Purple Heart for being killed in military battle, he also earned the Bronze Star for his acts of bravery, gallantry and heroism and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Sayers served as a Private First Class machine gunner in the United States Army in Company L, 357th Infantry, 90th Infantry Division during World War II. He was awarded the nation's highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor, for his action on November 12, 1944 near Thionville, France in which he lost his own life but spared the lives of many of his fellow comrades.
His citation reads that "during an attack on strong hostile forces entrenched on a hill Sayers fearlessly ran up the steep approach toward his objective and set up his machinegun 20 yards from the enemy. Realizing it would be necessary to attract full attention of the dug-in Germans while his company crossed an open area and flanked the enemy, he picked up his gun, charged through withering machinegun and rifle fire to the very edge of the emplacement, and there killed 12 German soldiers with devastating close-range fire. He took up a position behind a log and engaged the hostile infantry from the flank in an heroic attempt to distract their attention while his comrades attained their objective at the crest of the hill. He was killed by the very heavy concentration of return fire, but his fearless assault enabled his company to sweep the hill with minimum casualties, killing or capturing every enemy soldier on it. PFC Sayers' indomitable fighting spirit, aggressiveness, and supreme devotion to duty live on as an example of the highest traditions of the military service."
PFC Sayers' final resting place is at Schenck's Cemetery in Howard Township where memorial services will be held at 2 p.m. on Memorial Day. Sayers was just 20 years old when he died that day leaving behind a young wife named Ellen and a newborn son, Foster Joseph Sayers, Jr., who makes his home in Howard.
The purpose of Sayers Dam being built can still stir up unpleasant memories for certain individuals and families who were displaced by the federal government's proposed flood control efforts while others claim it was destined to be a recreational playground for congressmen and influential leaders. What was once 5,900 acres of fertile farmland and rich country soil in the Bald Eagle Valley is now a 1,730 acre lake, a state park, forests and wetlands, boat marina and campgrounds. Bald Eagle State Park provides recreational activities throughout all seasons. Hunting, fishing, swimming at the beach, boating, camping, hiking, ice skating, sled riding, skiing and ice fishing are just a few of the leisure activities that draw the local folks and tourists to the park grounds each year. The state park sustains various types of wildlife creatures including the mature bald eagles that can be seen nesting with their young eaglets.
Sayers Dam was named in honor of Foster Joseph Sayers, the only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in Pennsylvania.
A ground breaking ceremony was held in 1964 to begin preparations for the proposed dam. About 30 farms were lost, schools were bulldozed and churches were burned in Howard, Liberty and Boggs Townships to make way for the dam and reservoir construction. The old Schenck's Cemetery with nearly 2000 bodies interred there had the remains of nearly 1200 burial sites moved to the current Schenck's Cemetery now located south of Howard. More than 300 families living in the wake of the dam were affected. Some homes were able to be saved and were moved to other locations in or around Howard Borough.
Sayers Dam was completed in 1969 at a price tag of nearly 31 million dollars. Folks downstream along the Susquehanna River thought they could breathe a sigh of relief now that Sayers Dam was there as a flood control measure. However, Hurricane Agnes in 1972 brought devastating flooding to the city of Lock Haven and some 20 years later a dike/levee system had to be built in Lock Haven.
Although there may have been controversy over why the dam was built in Centre County, there is absolutely no doubt that Foster Joseph Sayers deserves to be remembered and honored for his military service. Sayers gave his life to defend and protect the freedoms that we have today.
A soldier statute has been ordered and being shipped from India. It reached United States soil last Tuesday and is in transit to the site. Last word was that the statue was in Cleveland, Ohio on Monday morning. Mayes Memorial promises to do every thing in their power to have the granite base ready for the six foot tall soldier statue to be erected and in place for the unveiling and dedication ceremony on Friday evening at 6 p.m. The memorial statue should stand nearly ten feet tall once completed.
A 25-foot flag pole and American flag has been donated by Woodmen of the World Field Representative Larry Butler. Two smaller flag poles have been donated by the Beech Creek American Legion Sons and the Howard VFW Club. The Veterans Administration has donated a POW and MIA flag and a state flag is also being donated.
Bald Eagle State Park Services has provided the two Eastern Redbud trees that have been planted and flank the flag poles at the flag mural site at the breast of Sayers Dam. DCNR maintenance staff and employees have also been very helpful in providing labor and assistance with the memorial project.
Two teenagers, Nick Kellerman and Hannah Davy, saw opportunity to generously contribute their time and talents as both worked toward completing personal goals through this beneficial community service project.
Nick Kellerman has used the memorial project as his Eagle Scout project. Nick is a member of Howard Boy Scout Troop 353 and is anticipating earning his Eagle Scout honor later this summer. Nick typed letters to solicit donations for the project, folded and stuffed envelopes and paid for the stamps to mail the letters out. Nick has also contacted local businesses and organizations to garner their support of the Foster Sayers Memorial project.
Kellerman, age 17, attends Bellefonte High School and will be starting Penn College in August in the hopes of pursuing a paramedic career. Nick is a member of the Howard Fire Company and is a son of Randy and Darlene Kellerman.
Hannah Davy, a junior at Central Mountain High School, has volunteered to paint the flag mural at the memorial site. It took Hannah more than 15 hours to paint the red and white stripes of the flag and to do the blue union and the circle of 13 stars that are depicted on the 1776 bicentennial flag. Hannah is a daughter of Thomas Davy and Christine (Chuck) Harter.
The original 1776 flag mural was constructed in the spring of 1976 by the help of sixth grade students attending Liberty Curtin Elementary. Those six graders were from Hunter Run, Marsh Creek, Monument, Orviston and Blanchard and were taught by Mr. Burrows and Mrs. Clausen.
The total cost of the Sayers Medal of Honor Memorial is approximately $12,000. To offset the expense, a brick walkway is planned from the parking lot to the memorial site. Since the site is on federally owned land, any honorably discharged US veteran may have an engraved brick placed in the 200-300 foot "Walk of Honor" to be constructed next summer. The engraved bricks are $65 each and proof of military service is required. More than 80 bricks have been bought so far, and as additional bricks are ordered they will be inserted into the walkway each summer.
The public is invited to the dedication ceremony on Friday evening. The ceremony will be under the direction of Dave Bower and the Veterans Administration. The guest speaker for the dedication ceremony will be Howard native Congressman GT Thompson. Bring your lawn chairs and cameras along.
Memorial services will be held on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the Jacksonville Cemetery. For info. call Joyce at 625-2278.
Memorial services will be held on Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. at Schenck's Cemetery.
PARADE AND MUSEUM:
The annual Memorial Day parade hosted by the Beech Creek American Legion, Bitner-Bechdel Post # 623 will be held on Monday morning at 10 a.m. Parade line-up begins at 9 a.m. in the area of the Legion grounds. Expect traffic delays along Route 150 since the parade route runs from Beech Creek to Blanchard. Call 962-2265 for info.
The Beech Creek Museum will be open on Monday following the parade. Stop by to have a look around and to see the Veteran's memorial items being displayed.
Howard Happenings is written and compiled by Tammy Coakley who can be reached by emailing to email@example.com or by telephone at (814) 625-2684.