by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Last week, I went to the Blue Springs Cemetery to take a picture for my sister-in-law. My usual route is 40 Highway to Cemetery Road. I turn in at the back, take the first road to my right, and park a few feet from our family plot.
Last week, I was on I-70 so I approached from the west. Not accustomed to going that way, I turned into the second entrance, not the third. I parked on the road near gravestones with familiar names; Bumgardner, Doty, Richard, Stephenson — all well known to me.
I got out of the car and headed to the Napier plot, separated from those familiar names by a row of Russell tombstones. I tell you this because I have been going to that cemetery at least twice a year for the last 70 years and I’ve never noticed the grave of one Caryl Russell.
Although I had seen his name on the Honor Roll sign and probably his photo in an old Grain Valley Yearbook, it gave me a strange feeling now that I had a “real person” to connect with the name.
Although Caryl was born in Grain Valley in 1908, the family does not appear to have a real connection to our town. He was a member of my Aunt Opal’s graduation class. Caryl, the oldest of seven children, was killed in France on June 10, 1944. I wonder which Normandy beach he landed on: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno or Sword?
Caryl’s mother died in 1929 and his youngest brother was killed in a hunting accident in 1944. The remaining family members moved to California after WW II.
Willard Johnson was born on August 31, 1914 and was a 1936 graduate of Grain Valley High School. Merchant Seaman Johnson was killed when the SS Yankee Arrow struck a mine near Bizerte, Tunisia. A Liberty Ship was named for him and launched Feb. 21, 1945. This information was taken from the Odessan Newspaper dated 24 May 2012. Tunisia and Malta are about 175 miles apart.
It appears that Seaman Johnson was injured near Tunisia and then died on Malta on August 11, 1943. His body may be buried in this cemetery or this may be a memorial marker and there is not a body here. U.S.M.M. stands for United States Merchant Marine.
"He was originally laid to rest at Capuccini (locally known as Kalkara) Naval Cemetery, Malta, on the 12th of August 1943. About October 1945 he was repatriated along with many others to the USA on a U.S. airplane."
Robert M. Jenkins was born in 1922. After graduating from Grain Valley High School in 1940 he joined the U. S. Air Force. He was a Staff Sergeant and Gunner aboard a B-24D Bomber when his plane went down over Manila on February 19, 1943. There is a memorial to Sgt. Jenkins at the American Cemetery of Manila. His family relocated to El Dorado Springs, Missouri in 1945.
The final local boy with a “star” was Dale Franklin Stumpp. Dale was born on March 12, 1921. His family lived northeast of town, but had an Oak Grove address. He attended elementary school in the one-room school house at Pink Hill, but he graduated from Grain Valley High School in 1940. His older sister, Dorothy (Mrs. Robert Wolfe) was already teaching at the Grain Valley Elementary School. He also had a younger sister, Elouise (Mrs. Keith Shrout) who was a freshman..
Dale was part of the Army infantry fighting in India when he lost his life on August 10, 1944. His memorial is at the Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The names of both of his brothers-in-law appeared on the Honor Rolls. Next week, learn about the remaining sets of brothers who served in World War II.