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Absent Friends

Michael Diaz-Piedra III

     Served briefly as a member of the West Point Chapter, The Company of Military Historians. An avid collector of military uniforms and paraphernalia, this Cuban born American businessman and teacher passed away on September 30, 2001 from injuries sustained in the World Trade Center attack.

Col. John R. Elting

     The Company has many members, all capable of contributing to our fields of interest. None of us, however, can match the example set by Col. John Elting. John was tireless in his studies and his writings. That was because he loved it so well. Now, however, that work has ceased. As I, myself, age, I realize how fortunate I have been to have known and been a friend of so many truly illustrious colleagues, and to have benefited so much from knowing them. We all have benefited from knowing John Elting.
     John joined the Company of Military Historians in 1950. He served on the Board of Governors 1965-1970, 1973-1981, 1985-1990, and 1995-2000. He was elected a Fellow of the Company in 1961, and received the Distinguished Service Award in 1982. He served as Acting Editor of Military Uniforms in America in 1973, and as consulting editor of Military Collector & Historian, 1974-1985. John authored numerous articles for MC&H, and wrote or contributed to the texts of no less than 108 plates in the MUIA series.
     John was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1911. He received degrees from Stanford University and the Colorado State College of Education, but John's studies never ceased until his death on 25 May 2000. John was always working on some project or another, or coming to the aid of a fellow historian, collector or, frequently, one of those publishers who always needs something in a hurry, at the last minute. In our local chapter we could always depend upon John for a meeting talk, and you were guaranteed that it would not only be historically (if not always politically) correct but vastly entertaining. John's wit was always a distinctive part of any topic he addressed.
     Often he would speak of his military career. John served in the 8th Armored Division in World War II, and he knew the life of a soldier well. His subsequent service with the Philippine Scouts added to his military experience and treasure chest of stories, but his long association with the United States Military Academv (eleven years) as associate professor of the Department of Military Art and Engineering were especially memorable. It was then that John first became a friend of the West Point Museum, utilizing its collections to assist in his courses. Once, though, the artifacts got the best of him. In his first demonstration of a flintlock he somehow managed to get the cartridge paper into the chamber before the powder. He was unable to fulfill that mission, probably one of the few if any he did not successfully complete.
     The love John had for the study of uniforms was reflected in his collecting. The West Point Museum has received the 6500 watercolors and prints which comprised his encyclopedic study of Napoleonic uniforms. The USMA Department of History is acquiring much of his library, thus continuing to benefit from the man they considered one of their most outstanding departmental alumnae. John Elting's scholarship will be a lasting contribution to our field. After his retirement John was the author, coauthor, or editor of sixteen books. Fortunately he had finished four volumes of Napoleonic Uniforms, reproducing the beautiful watercolors of Herbert Knoetel from his own collections. To me, however, John's American Army Life spoke from his heart, and best reflects the man and the soldier who was John Elting. A quotation from that book was used for my introductory panel in the West Point Museum's Korean War 50th Anniversary display and I recommend that any Member who has not read that book do so for the sheer enjoyment of John's words.
     Those of us who knew John will sorely miss him as a friend. The Company will miss him for all the years of service he bestowed upon it as author, editor, and governor. I worked with John on two of the four volumes of reprinted MUIA plates. It was always a pleasure to work with John because you could learn so much and also know that he would do the hard work. John, thank you for all your hard work.

Michael J. McAfee
MC&H, Vol.52, No.2, Summer 2000

Lawrence E. O’Boyle

     Company member Lawrence E. O’Boyle died on July 27, 2008, aged 64. Larry was a history teacher at Three Village Central School District in Stony Brook, NY for 30 years before retiring in 1998. Sponsored by Dave Whieldon, he joined The Company and its West Point Chapter in 2001.


      Quickly becoming very active in the chapter, Larry was elected vice chairman in 2002, chairman in 2003 and 2004 and vice chairman in 2005. At every meeting, even those he was unable to attend, Larry graciously donated a military history book to be raffled. He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues in The Company.

Lt. Col. Donald M. Londahl-Smidt, USAF-Ret

Wendell Lang

George H. Menegaux

     George H. Menegaux, a member of The Company since 1961, died on June 8, 2004 at the age of 78. He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served aboard troop transports in the Second World War and as a drill instructor in the Korean War. It is true, once a Marine always a Marine, for George never lost the military bearing and calm demeanor of an individual with great inner strength, even when age and disability lessened his stride.
      George joined the Company of Military Historians the same year that I did, but I never had the good fortune of meeting him until I moved to New York State in 1970. George and two other COMPANY members, Wendell Lang and Bill Gladstone, were regular visitors to the West Point Museum, each sharing their special interests and knowledge of military history and collecting. When the West Point Area Chapter was formed we were regular attendees, and at each meeting George usually brought some new acquisition for his collection to show and discuss.
     George collected for the fun and love of it. He was interested in many things, and although his U.S. Marine Corps collection was outstanding, through the years he also collected medals and insignia, bowie knives, photographs and books and even works of art. He had a good eye, as we say, for what was truly significant. George did not just collect "stuff." He knew, as does any true collector, that "stuff" has to have a history to be more than just old curiosities, and his collection was truly a collection of history and the people who made it. George had no greater joy than to own an artifact that could be attributed to an individual's use, and he came to know the original owners of items in his collection as though they were old friends.
     Although he never felt himself qualified to write about what he collected - a true loss for us all - George did eagerly share his knowledge and his collection with his friends. Any time a researcher needed help he gave it without expecting more than a thanks. His knowledge of fine medals and hand-crafted badges and insignia was outstanding, and his experience in the jewelry industry gave him a special insight in detecting fakes and an understanding of the craftsmanship in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A lifetime of collecting made George a quiet expert, but he never felt he was anything more than an old Marine who loved collecting.
     In many ways George typified the silent membership of The Company of its early days. He collected because he loved history, and he never thought of anything he owned as an investment. His collecting and the knowledge it brought him was more valuable than monetary rewards. George did not need to write articles or give scholarly lectures to contribute mightily to our cause. Instead, he gave of himself.

Michael J. McAfee
MC&H, Vol.56, No.2, Winter 2004

Bart C. Trexler

     Bart Trexler is remembered by all who new him as a really nice guy who was always ready to give you a hand. As a gifted carpenter and cabinetmaker, he would often answer questions from his fellow West Point Chapter members on various remodeling projects they were doing. He even donated his time and skills to help refurbish the former Company headquarters in Connecticut. Most of the partitions and display cases in the converted library room were the work of Bart.
     He truly loved being a member of the Company and very proud of the West Point Chapter. Elected a fellow in 1986, Bart, and his wife Donna, actively attended the Company's Annual and Fellows meetings.
     Bart was an avid collector of both Civil War (non-weapon) memorabilia and World War II Homefront items. These items were often displayed at Company Meetings, where he won Miller Awards in 1986, 1987, and 1994. His wife, Donna, remembers he inevitably decided to exhibit and not put his items up for judging. He wanted others to have an opportunity to win the award and was really eager to educate the young about what he knew about military history.
     Long-time West Point Chapter members are forever grateful to Bart, who, along with Fellow Don Spaulding, stepped in to take over the leadership of the organization, when it was misdirected and in danger of imploding. Two of the finest gentleman you would ever want to meet, they put the Chapter back on track and it still thrives to this day. During this period, Bart served one term as Chapter President in 1987.
     Bart answered to a higher calling about a decade ago and moved his family to the Charleston area of South Carolina, where he and Donna Co-Pastored their own church for nine years. Though he stopped all significant contact with the Company and its members, Bart still maintained his collections. He was also becoming interested in trains. (An unnamed third party is selling his collections.)
     Fellow and former Chapter Chairman, Len Pomerantz remembered a conversation he had with Bart prior to his relocating south.
     Bart had decided to attend a July 4th weekend in Gettysburg, hoping to take advantage of an opportunity to add to his Civil War collection. It proved very successful, but Donna told Bart "he spent over budget."
     On the way home to Poughkeepsie, NY, he saw a sign which read "Trexlertown." Bart got excited and told Donna he had to get off the highway and see his namesake community. He was soon in Trexlertown and right in front of an antique shop. Of course he had to stop. Donna sat in the car, but again reminded him he was already "over budget." Bart returned to the car the proud owner of a very large unidentified flag. He felt the material was vintage 1860s, but was not sure what he had. Even though he only paid $35.00, Donna was not happy! Bart told Len the ride home from Trexlertown, PA, was the quietest trip ever.
     During the following year he researched the flag, with the help of a confederate Civil War museum in Texas. He learned this very large flag was, indeed, a Navy Confederate flag. Bart told Len, he sold it to them for $8,300.00!
     After Bart's passing on December 4, 2004, Donna has moved to Florida. She would love to hear from her old friends in the Company.
     PORT SAINT LUCIE FL 34986-2069
     Phone: 772-621-9951
     Cell: 843-814-2908
     E-Mail: donsie@adelphia.net

Phil Weaver
MC&H, Vol.57, No.4, Winter 2005





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