Daughters of veteran visit for dedication


Veterans War Memorial Plaza

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - World War II veteran Robert McHaney and sisters Mary Gleason, left, and Julie Naegele, the daughters of Leland W. Schawo, who was stationed at the Madras Airport during World War II, helped dedicate the Veterans War Memorial Plaza at the airport on Saturday. The sisters flew in from Nebraska and Kansas, respectively, for the event. For most of their youth, sisters Mary Gleason and Julie Naegele heard stories from their father about the World War II air base in Madras, Ore., to which he hoped to return.

Although their father, Leland W. Schawo, a quartermaster supply technician in the U.S. Army Air Corps, died in Russell, Kan., in 1980, at age 57, his wife continued to talk about someday visiting Madras until her death in 1994.

"Dad had talked about it for so many years that she thought after Dad died, she'd make the trip out here," said Gleason, who lives in La Vista, Neb.

Their parents never managed to make the trip, but Gleason and Naegele arrived in Oregon last Wednesday, and were honored guests at the dedication of the Veterans War Memorial Plaza Saturday, at its location on Cherry Lane, adjacent to the Madras Municipal Airport.

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - Veterans gathered with family and friends Saturday to dedicate the Veterans War Memorial Plaza on Cherry Street, adjacent to the Madras Municipal Airport. Sara Puddy, assistant to the Madras city administrator, at the podium, came up with the idea for the memorial and had worked for several years to put the project together.Veterans, their families and community members gathered at the new memorial plaza, which features a sculpture of a B-17 and was built in the shape of a B-17.

Gleason, who researched her father's years in Madras, said that her father was stationed at the base in 1942, and met a young woman, Marjorie Mae Johnson, of Pendleton, a civilian working in an office on the base. The two fell in love and married on Dec. 26, 1942.

Less than a year later, on Nov. 13, 1943, a terrible accident claimed his new wife. "They had gone to lunch, and he had brought her back and dropped her off, when the building exploded," said Gleason.

The Nov. 18, 1943, issue of the Madras Pioneer notes: "An explosion of undetermined origin last Saturday noon was fatal to one person and severely injured two others in a building on the local air base."

"Mrs. Leland Schawo, 19, was fatally burned when she was unable to get out of the chair she was sitting in when the explosion occurred. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ed Johnson of Pendleton, and the wife of Corporal Schawo, stationed at the local base."

Cause of the blast was later believed to be a backpack used by someone who had been spraying and set the backpack against a heater, Gleason said.

Their father went on to serve in Guam after he left Madras, and later married Betty Jean Brown in February 1946, and had six children, including Gleason, the oldest, and Naegele, the fourth child.

Gleason expressed her gratitude to the people who helped her get in touch with Jerry Ramsey, who helped her research that period of her father's life in Madras.

"Thank you for this memorial, not just for service people, but all the support people," she said. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

The dedication included introductions by Madras City Councilor Tom Brown, and talks by Sara Puddy, assistant to the Madras city administrator, who conceived the plan to build the memorial, and veteran Robert McHaney, who shared memories of World War II. McHaney served in the U.S. Army's 75th Infantry Division in Europe and Northern Africa.