|Three Generations of Popiaks Serve in Military|
Thursday, July 17, 2003
"With the compliments of the folks at Bates Shoe Co.," read the label on a bomb dropped on Japan August 20, 1944 in the first daylight air raid over that country.
"It hit its target, too," Peter Popiak, pilot of the B-29 bomber wrote in a letter to the Bates Co., where he worked before entering World War II service.
I found something of Tom Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" in the long ago raid after Mr. Popiak died. His service was the genesis to three generations in the military.
Peter Popiak followed his WW II stint with decades in the Air Force Reserves, retiring as a Colonel. His son, John P. Popiak, now of Charlton, served in the Army in Vietnam, leaving a young bride behind.
John was recalled to active duty during the Gulf War in 1991 and his son, John F. Popiak, and his father bid him farewell.
The younger Popiak entered the service 4 years later and was commissioned an Army Infantry 2nd lieutenant in 1999. The commission was presented by his grandfather and his father rendered the traditional non-commissioned first salute. "I have had few days to compare with that one," says John F. Popiak.
Now Capt. Popiak, John F. is stationed with the 2nd Infantry Division in one of the world's most sensitive locations, 13 kilometers south of the DMZ in the Republic of South Korea.
For a couple of addendums: Bates Shoe Co. was on Park Street in Webster. Once the town's leading shoe manufacturer, it was destroyed by foreign imports. The old plant remains, occupied now by Jeffco Fibers. And, Esther Popiak is Peter's widow, John P. Popiak's mother, and John F. Popiak's grandmother.
Richard Spahl found an invitation to Bartlett High School graduation exercises in his mailbox about mid-May. It was addressed to Mr. Spahl and his wife, Mary Jane Spahl, and it carried an Alaskan postmark.
"It clearly said 'Bartlett High School,'" Mr. Spahl said. "I couldn't believe my eyes." Jeremy Soule, one of Mrs. Spahl's young cousins, graduated from Bartlett High School in Anchorage, Alaska, not the Bartlett High School less than a mile from Mr. and Mrs. Spahl's Webster residence.
Mr. Spahl found confirmation through his computer. Bartlett High School is on Bartlett Road in Anchorage, he learned. It serves a couple of military installations and the surrounding community. BHS-Alaska athletic teams are known as the Golden Bears, and the football squad won the Alaska State Championship last season.
Jeremy's mother is the former Betty Dungel of Wilsonvlle, Conn. Relatives in this area include aunts Helen Brinkley of Wilsonville and Betty Dungel of Webster.
Gloria H. and James M. Hetherman, retired Webster town staffers, start most Saturday evenings at 5 p.m. Mass in St. Louis Church, where Mr. Hetherman is a collector.
"Then, we get into the car and I say "where to tonight?'" Mr. Hetherman said one morning last week. "That's why I like Saturday nights. We go to a different restaurant every week."
The routine, expanded from time to time through the week, has given Mr. Hetherman a line on good eating places. His latest recommendations include Dericco's on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester and Empire Wok in Webster's East Village. "If you go there have wonton soup. It's delicious."
I visited the Chester C. Corbin Public Library Friday to say "hello" to the new director, Webster native Joseph Rodio. A graduate of Bartlett High School, he's the son of town residents Rosemarie and Joseph J. Rodio.
Trustee James A. Chauvin was near the main entrance to the library when I entered. "People are very happy with him," he said. "I think he'll be good for the library."
I share his opinion. Mr. Rodio has the educational background, work experience, youth and the enthusiasm to make a difference.
Here & There: The 290th anniversary of Oxford's first town meeting--July 22, 1713--will be Tuesday. The session was ca
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