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The Emmitsburg High School Association is accepting scholarship applications. Four $1,000 scholarships will be awarded in May to deserving students. Any Catoctin High School senior or graduate who is enrolled in an institution of higher learning is eligible if he/she resides in the Emmitsburg School District. This includes Emmitsburg 21727, Rocky Ridge 21778, and Taneytown 21787 (Taneytown boundary is determined by Bridgeport on Rt. 140). Applicants may apply each year as long as they are enrolled in an institution of higher learning.

Selection is based on having a 3.0 or higher GPA, being a full-time student, presenting two letters of recommendation, and pursuing higher education (four-year college or community college). No GPA is required for full-time trade school.

Applications may be obtained by contacting the Guidance Department at Catoctin High School (Mike Marquez at 240-236-8082). All applications must be received by May 1, 2022.

Sergeant Kenneth Lionel Krom

by Jim Houck, Jr.

Author’s Note: I originally wrote this article about Kenny Krom in July of 2012. I interviewed his mother, Betty; his brother, Ronnie; and high school friends, Gary Valentine and Gerry Orndorff. I am sorry to report that Kenny’s mother, and brother, Ronnie (they were the last of the immediate family), and Gary and Gerry have all passed on in these past seven years. I think the folks that missed the article when it was first published should have a chance to read about the first local casualty of the Vietnam War, who graduated from Emmitsburg High School.

The following are “Precious Memories” from Kenneth’s family about his life before the Vietnam War.

 

Mrs. Betty Krom — Ken’s Mother

Mrs. Krom is eighty-eight years of age and totally independent. She still drives to church on Sunday, does her own grocery shopping, and goes to the pharmacy for her medicine. She also mows her lawn—and she has a very large lawn. Mrs. Krom recently had back surgery and still uses a walker to get around. She said as long as she can get on the tractor seat, she can mow. She resides in Walkersville, but said she misses living in Emmitsburg.

Mrs. Krom said that when Ken was born on August 8, 1947, at Annie M. Warner Hospital in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the hospital was the size of a large two-story house. She said Ken was a very good baby, and she had no problems raising him. He had a normal childhood, playing with his friends and going to school. He was a person who would do anything for you. He did well in school and tried to be the best at whatever endeavor he chose—whether it be scholastic, shop class, or sports. Mrs. Krom said Ken had one brother, Ronnie, who was two years older than him, and aside from the usual sibling rivalry, Ken looked up to Ronnie. Ronnie had a bread route while he was in high school, and when Ronnie had to give it up, Ken took it over.

Ken’s first vehicle was a black Corvair van that he used to deliver bread after school. She said he would pick up the bread at Smith’s Bakery in Ladiesburg, Maryland, and deliver it house-to-house to his customers. She said he also worked for Lawrence Basler, doing farm work while in high school.

Ken graduated from Emmitsburg High School with the class of 1965. Mrs. Krom said that he then went to work for a construction company, helping to build the brick plant at Rocky Ridge. After wrecking his black Corvair van, he bought an old brown panel truck to drive to work. His next job was with Moore Business Forms in Thurmont, where he saved enough money to buy a blue 1966 Chevelle convertible that was his pride and joy. He really took care of that car. He worked at Moore’s until he was drafted. He was engaged to Marie Devilbiss, but never made it back to marry her.

During our interview, Mrs. Krom was getting tired and having a hard time talking about what happened to Ken in Vietnam. I knew recalling a tragedy that happened almost forty years ago may take a toll on her, so I thanked her for talking with me and promised I would return the pictures she loaned me.

Ronald Krom — Kenny’s Brother

Ron was in the U.S. Army, stationed in Japan, where he was part of a military police unit. His tour of duty was almost over when Kenny was drafted.

Ron remembers Kenny as an almost-always positive, fun-loving boy. They grew up in a loving, close-knit family. He and Kenny fished a lot and played along the Monocacy River, which ran very close to where they lived. A lot of their childhood was spent swimming and fishing. They would dip for suckers at Stony Branch. The nearest neighbor lived about a mile away, and they would go to their farm to play. The kids would find eggs in the hay loft, where the bantam chickens laid them. They would have egg fights, and Ron said they would really sting when they were hit in the face. He recalled that being boys and being brothers, Ron and Kenny would get into scraps, and Kenny—even though he was younger and smaller—was a tough kid to handle. He said that Kenny would win some, but even if Ron won, he lost, because he would be in trouble for picking the fight and have to cut weeds for two or three days as punishment. Kenny loved driving tractors. Any job having to do with a tractor, he would always want to drive the tractor. He would haul sawdust from Smith’s Sawmill in an old cart that was ready to fall apart. Ron can remember himself, Ken, and the neighbors playing baseball in his Uncle Jim’s field and using cow patties as bases. Ron said that they both also played baseball for the Rocky Ridge Progressive 4-H team. They played their games mostly at Thurmont Middle School and West Frederick Junior High School.

Ron said Kenny never did any homework for school, but always managed to pass his school tests and pass from grade to grade without difficulty. He had plenty of energy and loved to play school sports, and also liked weightlifting. Ron said that after his grandfather passed away, he and Kenny would take their grandfather’s car down in the meadow and pop wheelies.

Ron and Kenny had lots of fun together, but the time was far too short. He said that the last time he talked to Kenny was in South Carolina in April of 1968. He was at home in Walkersville when the call came from the U.S. Army about Kenny being a casualty. He said that his whole family was in shock. Kenny’s body was sent to a funeral home in Thurmont. There was to be no viewing of the body, but their father, Guy Krom, insisted on the viewing since he wanted to see for himself that it was, indeed, Kenny. The funeral director tried to talk Guy out of it to no avail, and Ron accompanied Guy when he went to view Kenny. Ron said his father was never the same after the viewing. He lost his father in 1983 to cancer.

Gary Valentine — Local Businessman, Neighbor, Classmate and Friend of Kenny

Gary remembers Kenny as quite a character. He was funny, intelligent, and a very giving person. He said Kenny liked the Three Stooges and frequently would do his Curly impersonation, which he would do perfectly. Gary said he was fun to be with, and Kenny spent a lot of time at Gary’s father’s (Richard Valentine) farm. They lived about a mile apart and spent so much of their time along the Monocacy River, fishing and swimming, that they became known as the “river rats.” They played, but they also had daily chores to get done before playtime. Gary and Kenny were in the graduating class of 1965. The last time Gary remembers seeing Kenny was at the drive-in movies in Bridgeport, Maryland. Gary joined the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in Japan.

Gary found out about Kenny when he called home and his dad told him Kenny got killed. Gary said, “It kind of let the wind out of my sails.”

He said he never got hooked up with him overseas. Gary was there and used to do a lot of island hopping and would go in-country (that was what Vietnam was known as to the vets), taking fruit and vegetables in and filled aluminum boxes out. He said that was known as the quiet ride. Gary was in Japan when Kenny was killed. Thank you, Gary, for the memories.

 

Gerry Orndorff — Classmate and Friend of Kenny

Gerry remembers Kenny as a kid who was always fun to be with. After Kenny got his driver’s license and took over Ron’s bread route, Gerry used to ride along and help with the deliveries. They did a lot of fishing and gigging at night and got a lot of fish and frogs. They practically lived at the river when they were young. They didn’t have any money to do anything, and even if they did have the money, there was nothing to do in the rural area, so their river excursions were very pleasurable.

When Rocky Ridge had a festival, Gerry said they would get a quarter from Dad to buy a bottle of pop. He said he was with Kenny when the transmission from Kenny’s van dropped on his trigger finger. After that, he could not bend it. Gerry thought that would keep Kenny from being drafted, but the Army said he could use another finger to pull the trigger. According to Gerry, Kenny also had a trick knee that would give out when he was playing ball, and sometimes, just walking. Kenny passed the Army physical exam, despite his problems. Kenny was proud to be in the U.S. Army and was determined to make the best of it. Gerry was devastated when he got the word of Kenny’s death. Thank you, Gerry, for talking to me.

 

I talked to several friends and classmates of Kenny, and it seems they all basically have similar memories and feelings about him. I am proud to have had the opportunity to talk to the family and friends of the kid who went to Emmitsburg High School, graduated with the class of 1965, grew up and was drafted into the U.S. Army, became Sergeant Kenneth Lionel Krom, and made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Kenny Krom, a hometown boy, became a true hero in every sense of the word forty-four years ago.

 

Army of the United States

A Co, 3rd, 22nd Infantry, 25th INF Div, USARV

Combat Infantry Badge, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and Purple Heart

D.O.B.: August 2, 1947

D.O.D.: August 18, 1968

Place of death: Tay Province, South Vietnam

The only graduate of Emmitsburg High School to lose his life in the Vietnam War.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice were meant to be together. Some of the family members joke that their marriage was an arranged one. Earl and Gene first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont, from which, the wall paper, now in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, came.  Their mothers—Jessie (Rouzer) Matthews and Helen (Creager) Rice—grew up as next-door neighbors, and were visiting their childhood homes with their first born on the same weekend, sometime in 1924—when someone snapped the above picture. It must have been love at first sight, because they grew up separated by a mountain range and thirty-five miles. They would see each other on occasion during these kinds of weekend visits and dated during their teens and early twenties. They mostly double-dated—the only way Jessie found acceptable—and have many fond memories of those times. Earl sometimes got to borrow his mother’s Lincoln Zephyr, so they got to date in style. Mostly, he came in the Model A that he and his lifelong friend, Henry Steiger, owned together.

After their courtship, they were engaged, and Earl was off to fight in WWII, training to be a bombardier on the B-29, the most advanced warplane of its time. Gene had earlier graduated from St. Joseph’s College, with a major in home economics and a minor in physics. Her first and only teaching job was at Emmitsburg High School, teaching physics. One of the classes she taught was engine basics.

Not being able to stand the idea of being separated, Earl and Gene decided to marry in California, where Earl was training at Victorville Army Air Base. Gene quit her job and got ready to travel west. Francis Matthews brought his daughter by train on the 2,500 mile trip to bring these two together for their seventy-plus year journey. In keeping with the good customs and scarcities at the time of war, Earl shared a room with Francis the night before the wedding, which he often jokingly asks, “How many men have done that?”  They were married in San Bernardino, California, on February 24, 1945. Francis, after giving away his and Jessie’s most precious daughter, travelled alone back to Emmitsburg.

Earl and Gene lived for a time in California, then onto various assignments, including Pecos, Texas, where these East Coast kids had to contend with such things as spiders and West Texas dust storms.   Earl and his crew had to travel separately on a troop train, while the wives followed with one of his fellow officer’s mother as a chaperone, another sign of a different time. Gene made some lifelong friends, with many of the wives demonstrating the love that has endeared her to all those around her.  Only a short time after their marriage, Earl and his crew were assigned to their B-29 in the South Pacific Island of Tinian. They had to travel on a troop ship to meet up with their aircraft.  Gene headed back home.

At the war’s end, they settled outside Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where Earl worked at his family’s goldfish farm. In 1952, he decided to take his dedicated wife and two boys, Earl A. Rice III (Gus) and Robert “Scott” Rice, to Emmitsburg to work for Gene’s father, Francis, whose business was struggling at the time. In 1954, they were blessed with a daughter, Mary Ann Rice Clever. Earl’s efforts helped to save the business, for which Francis was always grateful. They have lived in Emmitsburg for the rest of their marriage.

Their time in Emmitsburg during the 50s, 60s, and 70s were dedicated to raising their children, instilling great values in them, and to running a business. As is the case for many marriages, theirs sometimes took work. These efforts were done with their sense of humor and knowing each other to the core. As an example, one time, when the family wanted to do something that Earl wasn’t supporting, Gene said, “Wait until it’s your father’s idea.” She was right.

Their years together blessed them with three children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Those of us who have known them are likewise truly blessed.

Earl A. Rice, Jr. and Mary (Gene) Eugenia (Matthews) Rice first met in the backyard of the old Rouzer home in Thurmont…destiny bringing them together.

The Emmitsburg High School 92nd Annual Alumni Banquet will be held on Saturday, October 15, 2016. All graduates of Emmitsburg High School and all who attended the school at some time are invited. They are asked to seek out classmates and encourage them to attend. Graduation is not a requirement. Teachers of the Emmitsburg School are also invited.

The event will be held at the Emmitsburg Ambulance Center, 17701 Creamery Road in Emmitsburg. Social Hour will begin at 5:00 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:00 p.m. The cost for the dinner is $25.00 per person. Honored class photos will be taken after the meeting.

Anyone who has not received an invitation and would like to attend may call Sam Valentine at 301-447-2507 or e-mail csam46@gmail.com.

Deb Spalding

IMG_0318-1“Some days I wonder if it’s a blessing or a curse to live to be as old as I am,” saidIMG_0317-1 Emmitsburg native and ninety-two-year-old World War II Veteran, Tom Hoke. “I’ve lived plenty of good times and plenty of bad times. I hope, when it’s my time to go, that I go without being a burden on anyone.”

During his lifetime, so far, he’s seen everything from the horse and buggy to the man on the moon. He’s witnessed when radio, television, and the automobile, were new.

He attended local schools where those who could get to school went. There was no such thing as a snow day.

In his youth, he and his friends made their own entertainment with hide and seek or scavenger hunts. Tom said, “It was an enjoyable time.”

Emmitsburg’s telephone was a party line. Tom said, “You had your own ring, but probably everyone in town would listen in to get all the news.” Nellie Felix ran the telephone exchange.

Tom reminisced, “We would sled on the streets in town. The best hill was on Bollinger’s Hill behind the Lutheran Church.”

Amos and Andy were on the radio, Saturday nights you could get the Grand Ole Oprey. “Later on you could get the Lone Ranger and Buck Roger’s stuff with ray guns — today it’s come true with taser guns.”

Tom lived across from where the laundromat is now, two blocks up from the fire hall. He has three sisters and one brother who are all deceased. His parents are Joseph and Effie Hoke.

When Tom was young, Emmitsburg was a farming community. The town had everything anyone would need. He said, “Everybody was poor but nobody knew it.” Emmitsburg was a very self-sufficient town.

Their swimming pool was Tom’s Creek. If it was running, it was clear, if not, it was stagnant. They stayed out of the stagnant parts. At Christmas, “Santy Clause” gave the kids an orange and a box of candy. Then they’d go to the Gem Theater to see a free movie, then to the fire hall for a tin cup full of vegetable soup.

They were always busy, but somebody always knew where they were and where they were going. They had no drug or whiskey problems, but cigarettes were common. Tokar’s sold cigarettes a penny a piece. By high school, most kids were sneaking a smoke. Tom tried cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, and then dipped snuff. He has since quit all of that.

The train brought the school kids in from Rocky Ridge and Motter Station. St. Euphemia’s School taught eight grades. The girls went on to St. Joe’s, the boys went to public school. In doing so, the boys had to repeat 8th grade. Pappy Kugler was the only janitor at the school (Emmitsburg High School). He kept the school clean and warm with the coal fired furnace burning.

At school, some would crawl through the trap door in the ceiling of the girl’s locker room and go up and sit on the roof and skip classes. The boys would skip school and head over to the train station when the Baseball World Series was on to keep up with the scores. Kids had a tradition of hiking up to Indian Lookout every year. You were one of the crowd if you got to go along.

Tom graduated from school and then worked for the Troxell Brothers selling feed and fertilizer, then for Charlie Harner at the general store. Tom said he was Harner’s “Head Rabbi” killing chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese, then taking them to Baltimore City to sell.

At age nineteen, Tom and his friends, Mickey Eyler and Bill Chase, were walking down the street. Guy Nunamaker was going the opposite direction and asked why they weren’t in the Army. Tom said, “The next week, we had our draft notices.”

Tom was given one week to get things in order, then to report to Fort George G. Meade in Maryland. He was off to serve as a Staff Sergeant as a medic in the Army. From Meade, he and some other enlisted men were sent to Camp McCain in Mississippi where they met up with other nineteen-year-olds from all forty-eight states to form the 87th infantry division. Tom said, “Camp McCain was the worst camp in the United States — ever! It was condemned from the day it was built and littered with snakes, mosquitoes, ditches, swamps, and plenty of chiggers.”

They would complete training over thirteen weeks. Tom was assigned to the medical battalion. He was a “litter bearer.” His job was to support and aid the wounded, and to get them off of the battle field and into the medic aid station by whatever means available.

Tom said his aid station resembled the medic camp featured on the television show MASH. As part of Company C 312th Medical Battalion, they had four doctors, ten ambulances, and fifty litter bearers.

Tom and his unit were sent to Fort Jackson in North Carolina, a wonderful camp compared to Camp McCain, where he continued training and learned more first aid.

They were then sent to Camp Kilmer, their point of impartation to provide support during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. On November 27, 1944, they boarded the Louie Pasteur, a French luxury ship manned by an English crew. They had to stay below deck and many of them got sea sick. Nine days later, they arrived in Liverpool, England, where they awaited transportation across the English Channel. To cross the English Channel, they were given Sea sick pills but they didn’t need them since crossing the English Channel was nothing compared to crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

Being a pack rat, Tom gathered up motion sickness pills which later proved wonderful for hangovers for the other men.

Their first assignment was to support the 347th Infantry as they were to take a hill in Aken. Quite a few infantry were wounded, but war courtesy meant that you didn’t aim for the medics. It took them two days to take the hill with heavy mortar fire. They didn’t find Germans—they had withdrawn.

After Aken, they approached the Siegfried Line; Hitler didn’t think it could be breached. “But,” Tom said, “once you cracked a pill box, the Germans were pretty easy to take prisoner.”

One night, Tom and his buddies stayed in one of the German Pill Boxes. Their German interpreter, Embry Summy—a boy from the Amish Country, who spoke Pennsylvania Dutch—was practicing his German outside the pill box. Tom and his gang thought there were Germans outside. Tom said, “Well, we talked to him with soldier talk and let him know not to do that anymore!”

His unit was called into the Battle of the Bulge to where the 106th surrendered. During defensive action to hold the Germans from coming in—the weather got bad. It was twenty degrees below zero with two feet of snow and fog. Airplanes weren’t flying. The soldiers were spending all their time in fox holes. Tom noted, “They were taught how to dry socks, but a dry sock in a wet shoe doesn’t do much good. We were treating frozen foot and frost bite.”

General Patton said to a chaplain that he wanted him to pray for a clear day. It worked! The next day the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Morale went up, planes were flying.

They were there from the 16th of December to the 25th of January. It took that long to push the Germans back. After that, they went back down and cleaned the Siegfried Line, then had to cross the Mozell River.

Tom recalled, “Any river crossing usually cost a lot of men. We had A Company help, and crossed in soft boats. Company B lost three when a boat was sunk. After that we still had the Rhine River—we crossed that by crossing a bridge. Then we went to dismantle the bridge; two engineers were shot under machine gun fire.”

Next, Tom’s unit started their big push across Germany. General Patton was running his tanks as fast as he could, as long as he could. Tom said, “We caught up with him then leap frogged across Germany.”

We had to find a place for our aid station. Sometimes it was a places without a roof or a chicken pen. We split in half. Half of us would sprint ahead of Patton, then once he got there, the other half would sprint ahead.

On April 11, Tom was on an advanced party when they came across the Buchenwald prison camp. Tom remembered, “That is something you’ll never forget, especially the odor.” The guards had already left but the prisoners would not leave the camp thinking it was a trap. Tom’s group identified themselves and the prisoners came out looking for food. The soldiers couldn’t give them food because of their emaciated condition, but they shared some drinks.

Patton’s 6th Army got the credit for liberating the concentration camp. Tom’s general wanted to fix that, but couldn’t.

After that, Tom recalled, “We were to hold our position and not fire on until fired upon. We got word that the Russians were uniting with British and American troops. On May 7, we got notice that Germany had surrendered.”

Tom was sent home on furlow when President Truman ordered the first atomic bomb dropped. That got the Japanese’s attention. They dropped the second bomb. Tom was scheduled to go to Japan on the first wave to hit the main land and feels the President saved his life.

On January 9, 1946, Tom was handed his discharge papers and pay. He headed home to Emmitsburg.

At home, he was going to take the discharge papers to the court house to have them recorded. He looked closely at his discharge paper—it had one serial number on one side and another on the other. It listed medals he didn’t earn and some that he did earn were not listed. He said, “That’s the Army life. You got used to it.”

Tom got married in 1947 to Ethel Long. She was from Motter Station where her family farmed. He met her when she was working at Harner’s while Tom was on furlow and they started dating.

Tom retired from Potomac Edison as heavy equipment operator. He said, “Potomac Edison hates me. I’ve been drawing out their pension for over 30 years. I’m still looking for the golden years. Haven’t found them yet, but I’m still hunting.”

Tom said that the thing that he’s most proud of is that he has friends. That means the most. He added that the worst part about getting old is losing people. “I really miss my wife.”

These days, Tom travels often. He loves Alaska, likes the beach in South Carolina, claims the best steak is in Oklahoma City, and has eaten some pretty good Prime Rib in Montgomery, Alabama. He doesn’t have much fondness for Mississippi or plane rides. He said, “After Mississippi, anything looks good. I got pneumonia down there.”