Honoring veterans in the digital age, Cherie Ferguson, Johnsburg town secretary, is building a Facebook album featuring local men and women who've served their country.
The Facebook album, titled “Town of Johnsburg - Honoring our Vets!!” is an effort by Ferguson to pay tribute and is part of the town's Facebook profile.
Ferguson's been building the album with photographs and service years of Johnsburg veterans since sometime around Veteran's Day last year, she said.
Her approach is limited by available equipment and spare time. Cherie said she often has to photograph the photographs she's given to convert them into digital bits for uploading.
Ferguson said she has a large backlog of about 200 photos, and it's slow going processing them in her off hours.
Some of the information she has on the veterans is limited, often just a name, branch and years served. Especially helpful is when relations comment on photographs to provide some extra details. Sometimes well-versed locals have a tidbit about the veteran because of their community service or high-profile local work, she said.
When all's said and done, Ferguson said the Johnsburg Historical Society will receive the collection for their archives.
One veteran documented by Ferguson is Patrick Porter of Riparius, who served in the Navy at the tail end of WWII and the opening of the Korean War.
He did his basic training at Camp Perry in Virginia. His first assignment was on a troop transport carrying soldiers home from Japan. He transferred to the supply division, where he said the mattresses were much thicker and the rooms much more accommodating.
Porter was at Bikini Atoll during atomic bomb tests following the end of the war. The ship he was on was 20 miles from the detonation site. The crew were all issued dark glasses because of the high-intensity flash caused by an atomic explosion, but Porter was still warned to tuck his eyes into his arms. Two minutes or so following the detonation, Porter felt a wave of heat wash over him.
“Boy, it was warm,” he said.
When he dropped his arm from his eyes, the signature atomic mushroom cloud loomed over the horizon.
“I think about it once in awhile,” said Porter, “but it was many years ago. It's kind of fading out now.”
He went to Iowa State following his WWII service, and was enlisted in the Navy Reserve. After money got a little tight, he left school. His timing put him out of college just as the Korean War was ramping up. He was called back to bring a ship out of mothballs. He rode along during the ship's shakedown run, where it was tested for problems, to Jamaica. When he got back, his reserve time was up, so he went home.
Porter's family ventured west out of the Johnsburg area during the Great Depression, and he was born in Washington state. They returned to the family farm between Wevertown and Riparius when Porter was about a year-and-a-half-old.
“The good old Adirondacks; there's no place like 'em,” he said.
After he got out of the service, he worked 10 years at A&B Oil near the train station, then worked as a custodian at the school. He ended up at Imperial Wallpaper, which changed ownership a couple times before he retired to Riparius, where he lives now.
Another local veteran posted to the page is Richard Villaneuve. He was an Army repair tech in Vietnam.
He went through basic training in New Jersey in the winter.
“It was miserable,” he said. “It was cold and damp, probably more than half the company had upper respiratory infections by the time we were done.”
He followed up with repair training at Fort Benning, GA, and then it was off to a mountain valley near Qui Nhon in what was South Vietnam.
In his repair work, backpack radios would sometimes come in with bullet holes, reminding Villaneuve and his team about the importance of their work.
“We took that as a challenge,” said Villaneuve. “Those poor guys in the field, their lives depended on it.”
Radios were the lifeline that soldiers used to call medivac, air support and artillery coordinates, he said.
The repair work came so fast that the crew he worked on had to open a night shift to catch up. It seemed like a respite to Villaneuve, who thought he'd sleep away the hot days and work during the cooler nights, but his internal clock didn't agree.
He spent a lot of sleepless days under mosquito netting. The army used some really powerful bug killer around the complex, so the pests weren't too terrible, he said.
After he returned from his tour in Vietnam, Villaneuve still had a year to serve, and taught communication equipment repair to enlistees. The radios would arrive with problems to fix, but often they were so messed up that the challenge was beyond novice repair techs. The teachers would have to fix the bugs before re-breaking the equipment so that the beginners could learn.
He returned to North Creek, where he fell into work at Gore for 35 years. His electrical training in the Army helped him secure a position with repair crews at the ski resort, and he eventually headed his department.
He also earned his guide's license, and still runs camping and fishing trips on the side to supplement his retirement.
Patrick Porter's son Michael would like to correct his father's retirement place to North Creek. Thanks for keeping us on our toes.