White Haven Pays Tribute To 58 Veterans With Banners
WHITE HAVEN — Fifty-eight faces of veterans are now a steady presence in the borough.
By name, branch and photograph, they are identified on banners easily viewed by passersby — reminders of the selfless act of military service and the dedication to country and freedom.
The banners that honor the veterans came to White Haven by delivery van on May 14, purposely ahead of the annual Memorial Day parade to be held today, and were hung street side soon after.
One of the veterans is Jack Driggs, who was killed in action in Anzio, Italy, while serving in the Army during World War II.
Driggs received his White Haven High School diploma in absentia, leaving for the military ahead of graduation in 1943.
He was overseas that September and killed during the Rome-Anzio offensive on May 23, 1944, according to stories published in local newspapers at the time.
He was listed as missing in action before the government made his death declaration. It took until 1948 to bring him home, where he was re-interred with military honors.
Driggs grew up in the borough at 527 Northumberland St., the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Driggs, who survived him, along with sisters, Mildred (husband Leon) Yohey and Grace (husband Thomas) Crosley, and nieces and nephews.
John “Jack” Crosley, a nephew who still lives in the borough, was given his uncle’s name as a nickname because he reminded his grandmother so much of her son, who took so long to come home.
Like the 50-plus other families who honored their loved ones with a banner, when Crosley and his wife, Cindy saw the borough was placing an order for them, he saw an opportunity to remember Driggs and two other family members.
“I think it is wonderful to honor those who gave so much for this area and the country. We were talking about it for years and they came up with a plan and it worked,” he said.
This is the first time the borough of roughly 1,000 residents along the Lehigh River took part in the project that honors veterans with banners.
Groups and people were asking for the banners over the years and this year, with the help of borough native Mary Swerdon, it became a reality, Borough Manager Linda Szoke said. Swerdon helped to promote the project, making residents aware that the banners would be available.
They didn’t know what the response would be, Szoke said, but the first order quickly filled and interest hasn’t stopped, so the borough will accept new orders sometime in the fall.
For now the banners can be found along Main Street, a place designated for those killed in action, prisoners of war and Purple Heart recipients.
Banners also are displayed along Towanda, Lehigh and Church streets and on Route 437.
Help came to hang them once White Haven reached out to the Mountain Council of Governments, which organized bucket trucks and crews from Conyngham and West Hazleton to help out, much to the thanks of White Haven, Szoke said.
The Crosleys also bought banners for Jack’s dad, Thomas Crosley, who served in the Navy, and Jack’s brother-in-law, Harold “Skip” Ladner, a helicopter mechanic in the Army who served during Vietnam.
Ladner just passed away, Cindy Crosley said, and instead of flowers for his memorial, they bought the banner so others can take in his dedication to his country.
“I think there are great freedoms that we underappreciate. There are so many things that this country has to offer because these people gave of themselves,” Cindy said.
“I thank God, they gave. It’s hard to put it into words. They were just like you and me and they did what they had to,” Jack said.
Cindy’s great-grandmother sent five sons to World War II and a sixth worked as a welder on destroyers for the Navy in the New Jersey shipyards.
“She was one of the very blessed ones,” Cindy said.
Her children came home.
George Jarick Jr. is honored with a banner close to G and A Hardware on Susquehanna Street, the business he once owned.
His daughter, Janice Pavloski, and her siblings bought it for him.
Jarick, who died about 10 years ago, served his country in World War II with the Army Corps of Engineers, seeing involvement with Burma Road. He returned stateside and bought the hardware store his family still operates, having celebrated 50 years in business in 2016.
He was proud of his service and his family saw the perfect way to honor him was with a banner of his own.
“I‘m very proud of him. I just feel good because it would have made him very happy. Hopefully he see’s us doing this,” Pavloski said.
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