Peninsula News

Samaritans honor MIA soldier laid to rest

Friday, July 15, 2011

It was a high honor for a fallen soldier: Edward O'Toole received the memorial he deserved thanks to a concerned community.

When word got out that the World War II soldier from San Francisco had no family or friends to attend his funeral, veteran groups took action. O'Toole died fighting in Germany in 1944. The veteran had been missing in action until last year, btu now he's home for good.

A heavy mist cast a gray pall over the somber service for O'Toole, who came home 66 years after was killed in World War II. O'Toole was identified through his dog tags and dental records.

The newspaper obituary said O'Toole had no surviving family members. That line struck a chord with Pat Clelak.

"I read it in the paper and I thought, there's no way I'm gonna let him be buried with no one here," Clelak said.

Clelak then called her friends like Maggie Ortelle.

"When Pat mentioned it at lunch, I said I want to go," Ortelle said.

In fact, Ortelle wore the Navy necklace her dad gave her mom at the end of World War II.

"It just felt appropriate to wear it and be here," Ortelle said.

Friends called friends, then veterans called veterans. In the end, around 60 people showed up for O'Toole's memorial -- and all of them were strangers. On Friday, those strangers were O'Toole's family.

"Any soldier I feel very close to," Sprio Jougantos said. "Almost like family."

The crowd noticed that the flag was given to Barry Berg, who happened to be O'Toole's distant relative. Berg also happened to read the obituary, and though he'd never met O'Toole, he felt the need to come to the memorial.

"This was a mystery, the remains of where Eddie was is a mystery that goes back to when I first heard it, I was fourteen years old," said Berg.

Berg inherited O'Toole's Purple Heart medal, which his family inherited.

Peter Davidson, 88, showed up as well. Davidson was an Army medic who was at the battle in Germany where O'Toole lost his life. When asked if it was a fierce battle, Davidson said "was it ever!"

O'Toole belogned to Company D, 33rd Regiment in the 84th Infantry.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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san bruno, army, peninsula news, vic lee
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