Street sign dedications will soon go up to honor Apopka war heroes, informing residents and visitors of the men’s rank, name, war served, and the date of their death or assumed loss
By the Apopka Historical Society (AHS) and Dr. Phyliss Olmstead’s presentation
Records in the Museum of the Apopkans, government archives, school files, and military units document the history of brave men from Apopka. They gave their lives in wars from 1862 through 2007. Thirty-two have been considered for this recognition as confirmed by greater Apopka area residents, students, or employees.
Dr. Phyllis Olmstead, an historian of Apopka Historical Society, designed street sign
dedications for local war heroes to inform current citizens and visitors of the men’s rank,
name, war served, and the date of their death or assumed loss. She first proposed this
dedication project to Mayor John Land over a decade ago to honor the men without burdening residents and businesses with changing their addresses.
Dr. Olmstead presented the historical museum memorial work and details of Apopka’s heroes to the City Council on Wednesday, September 9. Her highlights are shared below, with a listing of the many Apopkan war heroes who sacrificed for our country.
Mayor John Land was originally in the discussion regarding a dedication process and was excited to complete the project. Four of his five friends were memorialized between Park Avenue and the current Apopka High School location. Jason Dwelley was recognized and Joey McGuckin has a road [was Bay Ridge now the north end of Apopka].
During the era of “The Lodge”, the War Between the States occurred. William P Delk has a memorial in the Apopka Church Cemetery but is buried where he died in near Tallahassee. His halfbrother, Joseph G. Roberts, also fought but returned home.
John T. McFarling (stone reads McFarland) is buried in the Apopka Church Cemetery. Many heroes are listed as having enlisted in other states or counties due to their traveling when conscripted, or because they enlisted in their historical family location to fight
with their kin.
John Griffin and William Bailey fought in the Spanish American War from the “Town of Apopka City”. A number of properties were recorded in the name John Griffin at the time, but AHS has not verified which properties he may have owned.
Land in the area of “Town of Apopka City” area was owned by Pvt. Austin C. Bennett who died in May of 1898 in the Spanish American War.
The first of schoolmates and neighbors of Mayor John Land is Cpt. Richard H. Dick Wells. He lived at Central Avenue near Dream Lake. His plane went down in the English Channel near France and he was not recovered. His father helped rename “Apopka High School” “Apopka Memorial High School” in honor of Apopka men who died in war.
Martin Street was named for 1Lt Albert Owens Martin, Jr. He commanded The Confederate Clipper that went down with ten souls in the Mediterranean Sea. Martin learned to fly in Apopka, then went to Stetson University until enlisting in the Air Corps.
Harold Caldwell’s infantry unit fought and he died in Wickerschwihr, France. He was first interred in France and then he was brought home and is buried several graves away from his friend John Land. Land stated that during his extended stay after the war working the
Nuremberg trials that he visited the grave of his buddy in France.
Caldwell’s younger brother remembers him hitchhiking away from their home in front of Edward’s Field two houses west of Highland Avenue. He was then killed in action. Harvey, then a 16 year old class A softball pitcher for Denmark Sporting Goods, would like to live long enough to see his brother’s name on the street post at Park Avenue and E. 1st Street.
A classmate of Mayor John Land and Dick Wells, Jack Grossenbacher, has a memorial stone parallel to Martin’s memorial street. His squadron was shot down over Germany and his body was returned to Apopka where he is buried. Grossenbacher and Land were roommates at the University of Florida for two years before the U.S.A. entered the war.
William Hutson was a local man who is listed on a memorial tablet in the Punchbowl in Hawaii with all of his fellow shipmates. His body lies at sea with his colleagues near Okinawa. John Land was most sorrowful over his loss and inability to say good-bye.
The majority of our heroes served in Korea. 1st Lt Donald Arnold, Jr., 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed in action while attacking Hill 222 during Operation Commando.
Theon “Joe” Oliff Eason was in an F-80C Shooting Star fighter interceptor that crashed and burst into flames from anti-aircraft direct fire 15 miles from Pyongyang, North Korea. He is buried just east of Apopka.
Raymond A. Ferguson was injured in South Korea and died there. His remains have not been recovered.
James “Jimmie” Holloway died as a prisoner of war. His remains were not found. His name is etched in marble in the Punchbowl National Cemetery in Hawaii and Washington DC. He was orphaned as a young child, sent to his grandfather, orphaned again, and was
placed in the Orange County Parental Home. His unit recommended him for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Sgt Holloway “died from asphyxiation when his POW train was parked inside a tunnel with the engine running the whole day.”
Charles Guy Kicklighter tried to enter WWII by faking his age. He was accepted a year later and went on to serve in Korea where he died.
Arthur P. Nolen was wounded on Heartbreak Ridge. He died five days later.
Elton Edward Smoak is buried in Arlington Cemetery. He was a medic tending an injured soldier when he was fatally wounded.
Blanton Todd was captured in South Korea and suffered the “Tiger Death March”. He then
died in Apex Camps, North Korea and his remains were not returned.
Tony Noble Williams died in action in 1951 in Korea.
Raymond G. Wood was Airborne and died of hostile injuries in North Korea. He also served in WWII.
Eugene Brown, a husband and father, died in Vietnam.
George William Carter died and is missing in Vietnam.
Joseph “Uncle Joey” McGuckin is well known to this day. AHS has a photo that came with a quote by him saying, “We’re in the REAL Army now.” There is a road north of Apopka on Plymouth Sorrento Road named for him.
Earl Phillips Summersill still has many family and friends in the area. He died Vietnam in April of 1968.
Jerry James Tucker died in 1967 in Vietnam.
Jackie Elmore Wallace died in Vietnam in 1968.
Robert Keith Wittman died in 1969 in Vietnam. He is buried in Highland Memory Gardens in Forest City.
James Roger Griffin’s daughter and wife were on the Apopkan History Facebook page and enjoyed seeing a photo of him online. His daughter was six months old when they saw him off to war. He died three months later. Many friends remember him well.
Jimmie Lee Jones died in Vietnam in 1967. He is buried nearby in Tangerine Cemetery and is memorialized in DC on The Wall and at the Lake Nona VA.
Troy Durden is commemorated online by many friends and family on the Facebook page. He died in 1970.
Jason Bosley Dwelley died in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is memorialized on the monument in downtown Orlando at the Orange County Court House and with a street sign in North Apopka near his parent’s home.
Randell Tony Marshall grew up and went to school in Apopka. Several family members remain here and his parents have attended many Memorial Day Services at the cemetery and the VFW Hall. He was the spur for dedicating streets after these Apopka heroes to keep them in the minds of citizens. An AP report stated, this war “was the largest single death toll for the 82nd Airborne since the Vietnam War and marked the single greatest loss of life for American ground forces in Iraq since December 2005.”
In coordination with the City Administrator and the installer, FastSigns, the memorial signs will be installed parallel to current street signs, such as the depiction in photo to the left. The street nearest the residence of the heroes will be the dedication site if the families let AHS know. The plan is for the signs to go up Park Avenue and across Main Street for the greatest educational value. Two streets on Park Ave are already named after heroes and will have the dedication explaining the naming of the street.
A dedication ceremony will be held with strict social distancing enforced at intersection with live video viewing available. AHS is shooting for an early October date for the ceremony. The Veterans of Foreign Wars Altamonte/Apopka Post 10147 Color Guard will present colors and conduct a roll call. A reception with social distancing and admission limitations will be offered at the Museum of the Apopkans afterwards and at the VFW Museum inside the Apopka Community Center. Future visits will be welcome to find out more about our heroes.
Charles at FastSigns of Apopka, FL has been of assistance with the signage and Orange County Public Schools has assisted AHS in verifying information gleaned from the public archives.
Replicas of the signs for personal use can be produced, if citizens wish. AHS respectfully thanks each and every Apopkan that gave their lives for us during each era of our country’s history. They thank each family member and friend of our servicemen for their loss to this day.
The Museum of the Apopkans will be open under the leadership of Vice President Maribel Brinkle Wednesdays and Thursdays 12 pm -4 pm and Saturdays 9 am-12 pm, masks mandatory.
Volunteers are needed to help with projects to preserve the history of the Apopka area. Email the museum at Museum@USA.com or submit a contact form on ApopkaMuseum.com to help with projects. You can join the museum on the website with a credit card or submit a check at the Museum or by US Mail. Make donations at https://apopkamuseum.square.site/