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Madras ceremony dedicates U.S. Highway 26 as a POW/MIA Memorial Highway; older couple's heartbreak as wedding ring is stolen

Last Friday, through a thin haze of smoke from the wildfires, Madras held a dedication for U.S. Highway 26 becoming a POW/MIA Memorial Highway. It was an excellent, moving, informative, patriotic event well planned and carried out by Bend resident Dick Tobiason, whose Bend Heroes Foundation, which he chairs, led the effort to get the highway dedicated.

It was great to have Mr. Tobiason, a military hero in his own right, here and leading the festivities.

The highway now honors all our nation's POWs and MIA. It's beyond fitting. May they never be forgotten.

As part of the program, Madras resident Tom Brown read the names of Jefferson County residents who are recognized as POW or MIA. It was one of several moving elements of the dedication, and obviously "hit home."

Tom's son, Jordy, in 2001, constructed the beautiful POW/MIA memorial at Madras City Hall, for an Eagle Scout project. Through his courtesy, Tom shared the list with us, and it's my honor to present it here.

Jefferson County residents who were Prisoners of War or Missing in Action:

Earl Elliott, MIA, July 19, 1918. He was not recovered.

George Swetland, MIA, Jan. 26, 1944. He was not recovered.

Virgil W Degner, MIA,  May 4, 1945. Degner was on the destroyer USS Luce when it was hit by suicide planes and went down off Okinawa. About half of the crew were lost, and two other destroyers were lost that day.

George M. Campbell, MIA, June 5, 1943. Campbell was part of the Torpedo Squadron 8, flying off the USS Hornet in the Battle of Midway. All 14 planes were shot down, with Ensign George Gay being the only survivor. A PBY from the squadron of Madras Ellis Skidmore landed and rescued him.

Jacob Deshazer, POW. Deshazer was on the crew of a B25, with the Doolittle Raiders over Japan. The plane went down and he was captured. He spent the rest of the war in captivity. He would return to Japan after the war as a missionary.

Rolland Campbell, POW. He was captured in the Philippine's and was part of the Bataan Death March. He returned after the war but never regained his health.

William L Kinkade, MIA. Kinkade was part of a two-plane flight over North Vietnam, as a radar officer in a F4 Phantom. The other plane was shot down and Kinkade's plane stayed in the area for security of that crew. Eventually, Kinkade's plane was hit and they ejected. There were reported sightings of two parachutes, but Kinkade was never found. Only his pistol was recovered.

Thomas L Tucker, POW/MIA, 2006. Tucker was captured and held in an unknown location by the enemy during the Iraq War for a few days, until his death in their hands. He was later recovered.

These men were all from Jefferson County prior to the wars. Lester W Harbeck was a civilian on Wake Island, and was captured and held captive. He was not from Madras at the time, but later moved here, and is interned at the Mt Jefferson Cemetery.

Again, let's don't ever forget.

A heartbreaking tale of theft

Judy and Vern Pendergraf have lived in Madras for about 50 years and have been married 63. They got some tough news recently regarding Vern's health, and Judy informed us that doctors say he might not have much time left. It's a very difficult, emotional time for the pair.

The Pendergrafts held an estate sale last weekend and Judy mentioned how so many wonderful people came, how great it was to see people from the community.

However, at least one person wasn't so wonderful. During the open house, someone got into their bedroom, went through closets and drawers and stole several things. They stole a few pairs of pants, including a pair that had never been worn just purchased from Bi-Mart.

They also stole things of immense value to the Pendergrafts: Judy's wedding ring plus a ring with her birthstone. The wedding ring is a valuable piece of jewelry, for sure, but its real value, of course, is what it represents.

Faced with dealing with Vern's poor health, having to move, Judy is understandably crushed by the prospect of losing that symbol of their love and marriage. It's heartbreaking.

If anyone has any information that could lead to the return of the rings, please contact the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 541-475-6520.


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