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Grandchildren honor veterans with creativity

By JEFF SAUNDERS Reporter Published: May 28, 2017 12:00 AM
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Dave Wright and Arthur Derr have at least two things in common: they both served in the Navy and they both have a grandchild who valued their service and shared their thoughts.

For the first time, the Stow-Munroe Falls Armed Forces Banner Program included a contest for students, with the prize a banner for a veteran to hang along with all the others expected to be up in time for Memorial Day in both cities.

Mr. Derr, who lived in Munroe Falls with his wife Joyce until his 2008 death, will have a banner courtesy of an essay written by his grandson, Christian Seckinger, a sixth-grader at Lakeview Intermediate School in Stow.

Wright, a Cuyahoga Falls resident, receives his thanks to an art project created by his granddaughter Jennifer Jewett, an eighth-grader at Kimpton Middle School in Munroe Falls.

A winner was chosen for each city, with Seckinger winning for Stow and Jewett for Munroe Falls.

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Arthur Derr served in the Navy from 1963 to about 1966. He was a crew member on the destroyer U.S.S. Ebersole out of San Diego, though he spent much of his time in Japan. Christian's mother Courtney said her father did clerical work, in a "sealed room" since he dealt with classified information.

Christian, who has some memories of his grandfather, said he wrote about how "brave" his grandfather was, especially going through storms on the ship. Mr. Derr enlisted in the Navy just after he and his wife graduated from Stow High School.

"They were high school sweethearts," said Courtney.

Christian said he did not just write about his grandfather's time in the Navy, but other things as well.

"He was really funny. He always joked with my older sisters," he said, adding that his grandfather also had a "funny laugh."

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"When you would hear his laugh," said Courtney, "everyone would laugh at his laugh. He had one of those contagious laughs."

She said that Christian was born in Hawaii and her father was there for the birth and had a chance to remember his Navy days.

"He got to visit," she said. "We went on all the battleships and he got to kind of relive those memories. That was neat for Pop Pop."

Christian said that when he found out he had won the essay contest, "I was really happy. I called my grandmother right away to tell her."

He also said he is seriously thinking of enlisting in the military, probably in the Navy.

"It would be, like, fun, and he would be really proud of me if I followed in his steps."

"He's just a super kid," said his grandmother Joyce Derr. "I know his grandfather would be very proud of him."

Helping pilots learn

Jennifer said the project she did "was a random idea that just came to me" and that she had "been wanting to do it since January when I found out at school about the contest."

"I was very excited," said Jennifer about winning the contest. "I hadn't told my grandpa yet, so I was excited to go tell him that I won it for him."

Munroe Falls City Council presented Jennifer with a proclamation in recognition of her achievement at Council's May 16 meeting. Council President Steve Stahl praised her for her art project.

"It's very nice, very novel. I congratulate you for going beyond the parameters," said Stahl, who then read the proclamation.

"We are proud of you and look forward to your future accomplishments," the proclamation states in part.

Mr. Wright said he served in the Navy from 1952 to 1954. He went to an A[dvanced Training] school in Memphis, Tenn. and came out a tradevman, short for training devices man, at Saufley Field, a naval air station near Pensacola, Fla.

"Basically, it was the operation of trainers, gunnery trainers and flight simulators."

Mainly he was an instructor on simulators that helped pilots improve their "blind flying" skills.

"Meaning, you couldn't see the ground," said Mr. Wright. "That was the object of it. Pilots would come in and get into this device and we would monitor their capabilities as they were trying to fly."

Mr. Wright said Jennifer is one of 12 grandchildren.

"She has impressed me with her diligence in trying to learn the history of some of our country and I have appreciated what she has done," he said. "She's taken me to school a couple of times [for Veterans Day] and I've enjoyed those activities."

Email: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9431

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