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Gospel Hill World War II Soldier's Monument - Altoona, PA

Dedication Ceremony, October 2, 1944

While dad's first letters to his mother letting her know about his September 26th injury were still making their way from Italy to America, a ceremony was being held a block from the Misitano home in Altoona to dedicate a monument to the World War II soldiers of Altoona's Third Ward.

A committee of Third Ward soldiers' mothers had organized the fund-raising and construction of the monument, which consists of a stone pyramid with a 10 foot square base, and standing about 12 feet tall. A large panel is present on each face of the pyramid, and at the time of dedication, contained the names of all local soldiers who were serving in the war effort.

With four sons currently engaged in overseas battles, Frances Misitano was naturally one of the mothers who was instrumental in the building of this monument.

The following photograph and notes are from an Altoona Mirror newspaper article printed on that day:


With a large turnout of the people of the community the honor roll erected on Gospel Hill to commemorate the service of the boys and girls of the third ward who are in the nation's armed forces in the present conflict was dedicated yesterday afternoon.

Addresses were made by Mayor Prumbaugh, Rev. Father Eugene Bradley, assistant rector of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, and Rev. W. L. Crowding, pastor of the First Methodist church. Attorney Robert W. Anthony presided and in his address, speaking to the children of the community, he put the care of the monument in their hands and asked them to protect it from being defaced.

Lt. (jg) Kenneth Fickes unveiled the honor roll assisted by Anthony Yetsko, Joseph Priddy, Alfred Casciotti Edward Onuscheck and Kenneth Sorvik, all of whom are in the service.

In his address Mayor Brumbaugh requested the people to stand loyally behind the government in the conflict now raging.

Father Bradley, in his address said that the burning question before the people today is one of establishing a peace so that G I Joe's children and grandchildren will not have to make the sacrifice for their ideals that our soldiers are making.

Father Bradley listed the following peace principles as those agreed upon by a conference of the three major religious groups: moral law must rule the world, rights of individuals must be recognized and rights of the weak, oppressed and colonial nations must be protected. He then advocated the creation of some sort of an agency to see that these principles are carried out.

"In support of these principles we can pray, we can learn more about them, and we can make use of our rights as citizens of a democracy to see that those we have elected know our wishes. Then we will have done our part for our soldiers" said Father Bradley.

Rev. Crowding, in his address reminded those attending the dedication that the honor roll must stand as a monument to two things.

"First, it must be a memorial to the boys at the battlefront and to those who have already given their lives." he declared. "Second, it should be an altar where we renew our devotion to those principles for which they have sacrificed so much.

"The finest monument they will find is to see in us a demonstration of the ideals for which they have fought. We must make sure that our lives and homes are of the character which will pay our respect to these boys. We should ask ourselves if we are worth dying for."

The flag was raised by the state guardsmen under Capt. John Brown, and the Railroad Auxiliary police band played the national anthem. The names of the men of the community who have given their lives were read, as follows: Lawrence W. Archey, George Greeser, Martin Knouse, Earl Feathers, John C. McCormick, Russel Rodgers, Ralph Stehley, John Louder, Lyman reifsnyder, Merle Blair, Charles Adams and Louis Testa.

A silent prayer was given for these men and Taps was played.

Mr. Anthony introduced the three speakers and Councilman Jacob Weber to the assemblage and he paid tribute to Mrs. Bertha Boring, chairman, and Mrs. Emma Gebhardt, treasurer and their associates in carrying out the plans, as well as the public for the fine response and donations which made the memorial possible.

The invocation was offered by Rev. Crowding and the closing blessing was given by Father Bradley.

Snapshot of Memorial at dedication with dignitaries and "Mothers' Committee" Members:

Above is a snapshot taken on the day of the dedication. Frances is on the top row, wearing a black hat, with her head somewhat aligned with the right hand side of the names plaque.

This picture shows clearly the names plaque with "Honor Roll" written at the top. The names are just a bit too small to decipher in this photo.

Photo on right credit Thomas A. Misitano

This monument stands to this day (in 2023). The stone is weathered a bit, but no more than one would expect from almost 80 years of exposure to the elements. The actual list of names on the plaques has long since been lost to a combination of weathering and vandalism, and a simple slate gray surface now marks the location of the original plaques of names.

The almost impossible-to-read engraved stone emblem just below the plaque location on the East side of the monument shown above says, as best I can discern:

Third Ward Memorial
Sea Land Air Forces
The other three sides of the monument also have locations where plaques were originally placed, but do not have the stone emblem below the plaque location.

Third Ward Monument Becomes Patriotic Site for All of Altoona in 1990

Above photos credited to the Altoona Mirror

On May 19, 1990, the city of Altoona dedicated a huge 30x60 foot flag atop Gospel Hill, with a flagpole reaching 120 feet high, and the base of the flag pole just a few feet from the 1944 World War II soldiers monument described above.

The flag was carried by Altoona's citizens through the city streets during a large parade, and was installed with the aid of a U.S. Marine Corps honor guard at its new location.

Because of the height of the flag atop Gospel Hill, and it's relatively central location within Altoona, it can be easily seen from almost anywhere in the city.

An engraved Granite dedication plaque (shown below) gives credit to the many individuals and organizations responsible for the effort to create this new monument.

Above view to the southeast from Gospel Hill, photo credit Altoona Mirror
Above view to the southwest from Gospel Hill, photo credit Thomas A. Misitano

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