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Long-lost flag tells a story of love, war and pride

PHOTO PROVIDED Cousins of Pvt. Harold R. Walker are shown with the American Flag that was used at their uncle’s memorial service on July 16, 1944. From left are, front, Katie Gundlach, Val Bittner, Paulette Hill; middle, Pat Singer, Kim Holzer, Jamie Confer, Trudy Powers, Adele Powers, Chris Johnson; back, Amy Lapriola, Carrie Morse, Wanda Berry.

BEECH CREEK — It was May 27, 1944 when a 19-year-old Beech Creek man died while serving his country.

Now, some 65 years later, the death of that handsome young man — Pvt. Harold R. Walker — has resurfaced in a big way as family members have found the American Flag that was used at his memorial service and had been packed away by his sister, Vivian Hanley, for all these years.

Valerie Bittner of Beech Creek, a daughter of the late Vivian and Robert Hanley, found the flag neatly folded among the sheets in a drawer as she and other siblings were going through things in the house where they were raised in Monument. Vivian died nine years ago and Robert passed three years ago, Valerie said.

“We were there cleaning the house out and going through things to be thrown away when I found it. It was in between a stack of folded sheets in a drawer. I’m so glad I found it,” she said, admiring the flag, now yellowed and faded from age, but still beautiful. It contains 48 stars, as Hawaii and Alaska were still considered territories back then.

She didn’t know why her mother would have kept this flag, until she looked a little further, and realized it certainly was a special flag which held precious memories for her mother.

Along the top edge of the flag, written in gold capital letters still easily readable, is the reason the flag was so dear to her. The inscription reads:

PVT. HAROLD R. WALKER KILLED MAY 27, 1944 IN ITALY

MEMORIAL SERVICES JULY 16 1944 MARTIN GROVE CHURCH OF CHRIST ALBERT E SNYDER PASTOR

“This is the flag that was used at the memorial service for my uncle at Martin’s Grove Church of Christ on July 16, 1944,” Valorie said. “I don’t know how my mother got it, but I understand why she kept it all these years. I wish I could ask her about it.”

Since the flag was found, Valerie has shared it with her cousins, who get together for lunch once a month.

And they’ve done some investigating to find out more about U.S. Army Pvt. Harold R. Walker.

According to the World War II Honor Roll, Harold R. Walker was a private in the U.S. Army. His service number was 33576396. He served in the 339th Infantry Regiment, 85th Infantry Division. He was awarded the Purple Heart. He was buried at Plot C, Row 8, Grave 6, in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.

They found a copy of his obituary that appeared in The Express on July 14, 1944. by searching a website findagrave.com/memorial/56315506/harold-raymond-walker

The obituary reads:

“Harold ‘Raymond’ Walker

Pvt. Harold R. Walker, son of Mr. and Mrs. Homer Walker of Beech Creek RD and husband of Mrs. Iris Spillman.

Walker was killed in action May 27 in Italy. The War Department informed his family yesterday. He would have been 20 years old on August 9.

He was working at the Renovo PRR shops when he was inducted and had been oversears since last March.

Eight sisters and a brother also survive. They are Mrs. Margaret Martin of Beech Creek RD, Mrs. Elizabeth Fetzer and Mrs. Mae Wensel of Bellefonte RD, Mrs. Harold Weaver of Howard RD, and Vivian, Sara, Clara, Shirley and Thomas, at home.

Memorial services will be held at 3 p.m. today at the Martin’s Grove Church of Christ with the Rev. Albert E. Snyder in charge.

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