Johnsburg's Independence celebration set for Saturday July 6 at the North Creek Ski Bowl not only features a re-dedication of the Ski Bowl lodge to World War II P.O.W. Joe Minder at 3 p.m. but fireworks, children’s activities, food, crafts, and vendors. A town parade occurs at 11 a.m. down Main St. in North Creek.
The late Joseph G. Minder, who endured horrendous conditions as prisoner of war in World War II — then found solace in later years in skiing at Gore Mountain — is to be memorialized with a local landmark dedicated in his name.
The North Creek Ski Bowl Lodge is to be renamed the Joe Minder Lodge in a ceremony set for 3 p.m. Saturday July 6 at the community facility off Rte. 8 in Johnsburg. The event is to be held in conjection with the town's independence Day ceremonies, which include fireworks, a parade, crafts vendors and children’s activities.
Minder started skiing in 1924 at the age of 7 and he didn’t stop skiing — except for his years as an Army Field Engineer — until he was well into his 80s.
Minder spent more than three years in brutal conditions in Japanese prison camps in the Pacific.
Minder and thousands of other American soldiers on the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines were captured in May 1942 after being outnumbered and overpowered by Japanese troops at Fort Corregidor.
Minder started his overseas military service in 1941, helping build airstrips roads and bridges in Manila during the Allied defense of the Philippines. His combat experience began just hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Minder’s first duty as a POW was to bury hundreds of bodies of his fellow soldiers, some of whom had been brutally tortured to death after capture.
From the beginning of Minder’s imprisonment, food, water and medical care were withheld from the POWs — and they were exposed to brutal heat and bitter cold, he recalled in a 1996 interview with this reporter.
Many of the POWs died of pellagra, beriberi, malaria and scurvy, and the eyesight of many of the surviving U.S. servicemen was dimmed by starvation — 50 of the prisoners routinely shared the contents of one bucket of rice. The prisoners’ “meals” occasionally featured scraps of rotting fish, and the heads, guts and bones were eagerly consumed by the starving POWs, he recalled in his diary which he penned covertly on cigarette papers and stashed away. More than 2,500 U.S. soldiers died at just one of the four Japanese prison camps where Minder his fellow soldiers were imprisoned.
Minder survived apparently through both his faith and his determination to give his comrades a decent burial. Minder volunteered in the prison camps to bury the dozen or more who died each day.
Minder recalled in 1996 how conditions grew even more brutal in his latter two years as a prisoner, with the Japanese guards beating POWs mercilessly as they dug ditches, labored in swamps and buried the dead.
Freed by Allied forces after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Minder returned to his hometown of North Creek, where he recuperated from the memories that haunted him, as well as receiving treatment to restore his health.
Minder met Hazel Allen who worked at Dr. Glenn’s office, and the two were married in 1948 and subsequently raised a family in North Creek. Their two sons, Bob and Jack, both acquired their parents’ passion for skiing. Bob Minder, once a ski instructor, is now working for a commercial roofing contractor. Jack Minder, formerly a ski patrolman and instructor, now grooms ski slopes as an employee of Gore Mountain.
In 1996, Minder recalled how he began skiing in 1924 after his teacher at the two-room North River schoolhouse lent him skis — and local children would practice skiing in cow pastures.
Later in his youth, he skied on trails that would later be developed on Gore Mountain. Minder recalled how these trails were originally packed down by stomping them down with snowshoes.
Having acquired a keen interest in the sport in his teen years, skiing provided vital therapy for Minder when he returned to North Creek, Hazel Minder, now 88, recalled this week. She remembered how skiing helped him recover from the horrors of prison camp.
“Returning from war, skiing is what he wanted to do — he enjoyed it so much — it was a form of therapy,” she said. “When he skied, he wouldn’t think of anything else, and it helped him recover from his experiences as a P.O.W..”
The ceremony on July 6 to dedicate the North Creek Ski Bowl Lodge to Joe Minder is to include a proclamation from the state Senate in Minder’s honor. State Sen. Betty Little may be sending a representative from her office to participate in the occasion.
Johnsburg Supervisor Ron Vanselow said Monday that Joe Minder had made valuable contributions to the community as well as the nation.
“This dedication of the lodge is a fitting tribute to Joe,” he said.
North Creek community activist Bob Nessle, who instigated the effort to honor Minder, offered his thoughts Monday, recalling Minder’s courage and sacrifice for the U.S. — and how he was an outstanding member of the nation’s “Greatest Generation.”
“I think it’s a good idea to dedicate public buildings and spaces to people who made a difference in their community or a major sacrifice for our nation — and Joe is an outstanding example of both,” he said. “It’s just perfect to have the ski lodge named for him.”
Hazel Minder offered her thoughts Monday.
“I think this dedication is fantastic,” she said, noting that members of the Minder family would be attending the ceremony. “It’s a wonderful honor.”