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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Plight of World War I veteran brings family together for Memorial Day

Some 79 years after he fell off a fishing boat, his body never recovered, World War I veteran Henry Hartman finally had funeral services with full military honors Thursday in front of five generations of his family, most of whom he never got to meet.

Hartman, who was born in 1894 and served as an engineer in the U.S. Navy, was honored at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery near Medical Lake, an 80-acre facility and the only one of its kind in the state.

“I’m hoping he would be happy about it,” said Hartman’s granddaughter, Lorraine Post, 66, of Colbert. “We’ve got to keep our veterans remembered. I don’t care how long ago they fought or even if they served and never went into a war.”

The cemetery, opened in 2010, is now home to more than 3,000 veterans who will be honored by festivities on Monday for a Memorial Day holiday designed to remember the sacrifices of so many.

Rudy Lopez, the director of the cemetery since 2013, compared the frenzy of activity – organizing various volunteer groups, musical troupes and overflights for the event on Monday – to preparing for a large wedding.

“This is a time to reflect and remember and honor those veterans who came before us and made great sacrifices, to include giving their own lives, so that we can live in a country that gives us the opportunities that we have,” Lopez said.

With a favorable weather forecast, Lopez said he expects a large turnout for the program, which starts at 11 a.m. at the cemetery. It will include a performance by the Lilac City Community Band and a flyover by vintage Stearman biplanes that were used as trainers for pilots entering World War II.

“The main purpose we have is to give their loved ones a final resting place. The interment is a very private, emotional and difficult time for them,” Lopez said. “But we also need to find time to allow them to come back as a community and honor their loved ones’ service. That’s why we put this event together.”

Sometimes those services are for families, like that of Henry Hartman, whose body was lost in 1938 when his fishing boat capsized off the Oregon coast near Newport.

Hartman entered the U.S. Navy in 1917 and was one of the first crews to serve on the U.S.S. Saratoga. Originally built as a battle cruiser for World War I, the Navy retrofitted the ship in 1922 to become one of the nation’s first aircraft carriers.

The Saratoga fought in many major battles in World War II and survived Japanese torpedo hits in 1941 and 1942. In 1945, while serving as a night-fighter carrier during the battle of Iwo Jima, it suffered damage from a kamikaze airplane strike.

The ship that wouldn’t die survived one atomic blast but finally sank after the second atomic detonation in 1946 as part of Operation Crossroads, which was designed to test the effect of atomic blasts on warships.

While the Navy was trying to invent ways to kill off the Saratoga, Hartman’s family was in disarray.

After the war in 1920, Henry Hartman married Marie “Ida” Scherzinger. The couple eventually had four children. But within a year, after a miscarriage of her fifth pregnancy, Ida died from breast cancer in 1930, Post said.

Henry Hartman had to take his young children to homes during the day while he worked as a boiler engineer, and later an aircraft mechanic, despite a heart condition that developed during his service in the war.

Then came the tragic fishing trip in 1938, from which his body was never found.

“They never had a service or a funeral,” said Grace Rauch, 62, another Hartman granddaughter, who came to the ceremony from her home in Long Beach, Mississippi.

Hartman’s death in 1938 orphaned his four children and they ended up being placed in boarding schools.

“They had a tough time during the Depression,” Post said.

While much of the family history has been lost to time, Post started researching her grandfather some six months ago and learned that he had served in the Navy.

She then obtained his Social Security number, date of birth and other records that allowed officials to confirm his contributions, which qualified him to receive a plaque at the veterans cemetery.

Post said she wanted to have the ceremony now to allow two of his children, Harold Hartman, 89, and Post’s mother, 92-year-old Dolores Hetterscheid, to attend while they still could, she said.

Rauch, the other granddaughter, said the event turned into an impromptu family reunion with five generations attending.

“It gives them closure and it serves as a remembrance,” she said. “Just a few months before, I was at a similar ceremony for my husband who served in Vietnam.”