LOWVILLE Nearly 70 years after the death of Army Tech. Sgt. William H. Mashaw in World War II, a posthumous Purple Heart and other medals earned by the Lyons Falls native are on display thanks to a sisters labor of love.
Ive been working on this for years, said Sydney M. Sookie Penczek, Boonville, the youngest of nine children of the late Sidney and Mable Mashaw, Lyons Falls.
While never knowing her eldest brother because she was only 2 years old at the time of his death, Mrs. Penczek decided to extensively research his military career and create a scrapbook, including his mission details, to help give her parents some closure. That recently culminated in an effort, with assistance from the Lewis County Veterans Service agency, to purchase all of the medals he earned in service and put them in a shadow box for display purposes.
Along with the Purple Heart, they include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Expeditionary Medal and bronze three Oak Leaf cluster.
The shadow box is on display at the Lewis County Veterans of Foreign Wars post on West State Street in Lowville.
Shes an inspiration to other family members to not just let them go, said Peter H. McLane, quartermaster at the Lowville VFW post.
Commander Milton Lawton said the posts members were very appreciative of Mrs. Penczeks efforts and donation.
Its something the younger veterans can come and look at, Mr. Lawton said.
Tech. Sgt. Mashaw, a Lyons Falls High School graduate called Bum by friends and family, joined the military in 1942 and served with the Army 7th Air Force in the South Pacific.
He and fellow crew members of the B-24 Liberator named the Belle of Texas escaped injury in December 1943 when they made an emergency landing using parachutes after enemy gunfire knocked out the braking system, according to Mrs. Penczeks research. The bomber was repaired and given the new name of Patches to reflect its condition.
However, on Jan. 22, 1945, Tech. Sgt. Mashaws B-24 bomber, on which he was an engineer-gunner, disappeared after taking off from Saipan on a mine-laying mission along the Japanese island of Chichi Jima. The veteran of 28 missions was declared dead in 1946 after a search party found personal articles and pieces of letters addressed to Staff Sgt. William J. Farrell, another of the nine crew members on the airplane.
Tech. Sgt. Mashaw was 24 at the time of his death.
Through her research, Mrs. Penczek said, she was able to locate and meet William Findle, a crew member who drew the straw to stay behind in what was supposed to be a relatively safe mission.
She also climbed into an actual B-24 Liberator in Florida and went to the Tablets of the Missing display during a trip to Hawaii, although it was closed for repairs at the time.
Family members of servicemen listed as prisoners of war or missing in action should submit DNA samples to the federal government to help identify remains stored in Hawaii, Mr. McLane said.
Mrs. Penczek said she had done so.