May 31, 1947: Los Angeles Marks First Memorial Day Without a Civil War Veteran at Ceremony

May 31, 1947, L.A. Times

Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.

Memorial Day, 1947, was a spectacle marked with a parade from Westwood to the veterans cemetery, services for Spanish-American veterans in Pershing Square and even a tribute at Hollywood Memorial Park to 21 Times employees killed in the 1910 bombing, as well as those who died in World War II (Tommy Treanor, RIP).

The largest gathering was at the Coliseum, where the multitudes sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” recited the Pledge of Allegiance and listened to Ronald Reagan read the Gettysburg Address.

But one staple of patriotic gatherings in Los Angeles was missing. Col. Robert A. Bringham, manager of the veterans facility, noted sadly that this was the first Memorial Day service in the history of the institution without a single survivor of the Civil War.

The Times reported that with the death of Herbert Mingay, 100, of New York’s Fighting 69th the month before, there were five Grand Army of the Republic members left in Los Angeles:

–Charles L. Chappell, 99, 1117 Stanley Ave., Long Beach., of the 10th New York Infantry.
–William V. Ebersole, 100, 11329 Joffre St.
–Marcus E. Getter, 98, 6535 Olcott, Tujunga., of the 129th Indiana Infantry.
–Douglas T. Story, 102, 3800 Pasadena Ave., of the 136th Illinois Infantry.
–Darwin B. Wolcott, 99, 1320 W. 67th St., of the 171st Ohio Infantry.

As late as the 1930s, the GAR members met twice a week at Patriotic Hall, 1816 S. Figueroa, with annual trips to encampments. There were frequent newspaper stories about the Last Man Club and visiting veterans reminisced about seeing Lincoln or standing guard duty. In 1952, The Times took a picture of Story, in his uniform, examining an early television set.

By 1947, the survivors were growing frail. Of the five, Wolcott and Ebersole died that year, Getter died in 1949 at 100 and Chappell—who remained fairly active late in life—died in 1950 at 102. When Story died in 1952 at the age of 107, he left William Allen Magee, who somehow missed The Times previous tally, as the lone survivor.

But Magee never knew he was the last man; nobody told him. “He’ll simply brood,” said his daughter, Isabel Magee, of 14313½ Victory Blvd. in Van Nuys. “And he isn’t strong enough to attend Mr. Story’s funeral.” Magee, who enlisted as a bugler of the 12th Ohio Cavalry at the age of 13, died in 1953 at 106.

And while information on Confederate veterans in Los Angeles is more elusive, there was at least one, Sampson Sanders Simmons of 6503 Wilcox Ave., in Bell, who died in 1942 and was buried in Inglewood Cemetery, wrapped in a Confederate flag.

Sources
Note: many of these stories overlap one another

–Memorial Day, 1947: Los Angeles Times, May 21, 1947; May 23, 1947; May 25, 1947; May 29, 1947, May 31, 1947

–Chappell, Charles L: Los Angeles Times, Feb. 16, 1943; April 30, 1944; Aug. 13, 1944; Aug. 26, 1946; July 8, 1947; May 30, 1948; July 10, 1948; Sept. 23, 1948; April 9, 1949; May 28, 1949; May 29, 1949; July 6, 1949; July 9, 1949; Aug; 28, 1950. I was unable to locate his grave.

–Ebersole, William V. Aug. 13, 1947. Buried at Forest Lawn.

–Getter, Marcus E. Sept. 30, 1946; July 28, 1946; July 30, 1948; Jan. 18, 1949. Services conducted at Sunnyside Mausoleum, Long Beach.

–Magee, William Allen. Aug. 20, 1946; April 24, 1952; May 25, 1952; Jan. 24, 1953. Buried at the veterans cemetery in Westwood.

–Mingay, Henry Mark. Dec. 13, 1931; Feb. 17, 1936; May 31, 1939; May 28, 1941; May 29, 1941; May 31, 1941; May 31, 1943; Dec. 6, 1946; April 30, 1947; May 1, 1947; A May 31, 1969, story mentions Mingay’s widow, Aimee, 92, attending Memorial Day services. Buried at Grandview Memorial Park, Glendale.

–Simmons, Sampson Sanders. Jan. 29, 1942. Buried at Inglewood Cemetery.

–Story, Douglas T. Oct. 16, 1946; June 14, 1947; Oct. 17, 1947; Nov.24, 1947; April 15, 1948; May 18, 1948; Nov. 28, 1948; Oct. 12, 1949; Oct. 26, 1949; Nov. 22, 1949; Nov. 24, 1949; June 24, 1950; Aug. 21, 1950; Nov. 25, 1950; April 17, 1951; May 30, 1951; May 31, 1951; Aug. 31, 1951; Nov. 21, 1951; Nov. 25, 1951; April 23, 1952. April 29, 1952.

–Wolcott, Darwin B. Jan. 6, 1923; Oct. 29, 1928; June 12, 1929; Oct. 27, 1933; May 24, 1936; May 30, 1936; Jan. 3, 1937; April 7, 1937; Dec. 18, 1937; Feb. 10, 1938; Jan. 7, 1939; May 5, 1939; July 1, 1939; Oct. 15, 1939; March 9, 1940; Jan. 11, 1941; April 6, 1941; May 11, 1941; May 30, 1941; Nov. 12, 1941; Nov. 29, 1942; May 16, 1943; Oct. 16, 1943; Jan. 11, 1946; Jan. 12, 1946; Feb. 7, 1946; July 10, 1947. Buried in Rosedale Cemetery.

Among the other veterans profiled is Dr. Overton H. Mennet, a visitor to Los Angeles, who described unloading freight cars at Harper’s Ferry, standing guard duty in the snow and sleeping in a bog. A local veteran, Dr. John W. Dill, 96, said: “I never killed a man. I was glad to get home from the war.” Of the then-impending war in Europe, Dill said: “It’s all too mixed up.” (Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1940) Dill died at 102 and is buried in Inglewood. (Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1945)

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, Civil War and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to May 31, 1947: Los Angeles Marks First Memorial Day Without a Civil War Veteran at Ceremony

  1. Diane Ely says:

    I imagine someday this same thing will happen with WWII vets – there will be a “last one standing”.

    Like

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