News Column

Monessen library presenting war stories

September 1, 2014

By Chris Buckley, The Valley Independent, Monessen, Pa.

Sept. 01--In March 1944, Hilna Ollie received a letter from the U.S. Army extending to her "our heartfelt sympathy and deep concern during this time of uncertainty."

In the midst of World War II, that's how the Monessen woman learned that her son, Evert, had been reported missing in action.

She later received a letter via the American Red Cross informing her that her son, a member of the Army Air Corps, was a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft 6.

The German prisoner of war camp was in East Prussia, in an area that is now Lithuania.

Evert Ollie survived the war and returned home to Monessen, noted Susanna Swade, treasurer of the Monessen Public Library board of trustees treasures and past Monessen Heritage Museum secretary.

Swade has acquired a collection of letters written by Monessen servicemen during World War II.

On Wednesdays in September and October, a series of nine war movies will be screened in the library. In addition, the historic letters will be shared with the public.

The movies, each at 1 p.m., will be presented as follows:

Sept. 3 -- "The Green Berets."

Sept. 10 -- "Von Ryan's Express,"

Sept. 17 -- "Sergeant York."

Sept. 24 -- "Mrs. Miniver."

Oct. 1 -- "Sands of Iwo Jima."

Oct. 8 -- "Patton."

Oct. 15 -- "The Glenn Miller Story."

Oct. 22 -- "To Hell and Back."

Oct. 29 -- "Bombers B-52."

The letters

Swade becomes sentimental when she reads from one of her favorites, a letter dated April 24, 1944, and written by Stephen G. Monick to his father. At the time, Monick was attending bombardier school in New Mexico.

Monick congratulated his father on becoming a member of the Monessen Elks.

"I hope that someday soon we'll be able to walk in together and enjoy a great evening," he wrote.

The younger Monick served in Europe during the war before returning home.

The upcoming series will recognize the city's heritage of service while serving as a precursor to Monessen hosting the annual valleywide Veteran's Day parade, said Ron Chromulak, Monessen Veterans Council president.

The Valley Veterans Day parade will mark its 70th anniversary Nov. 8 in Monessen. Trib Total Media is a corporate sponsor.

When Monessen last hosted the parade and program in 2009, it marked the first time the city did so after an absence of nearly two decades.

The Monessen Veterans Council comprises Anthony Madison American Legion Post 704, Thomas McKee American Legion Post 28, Allison Lescanic Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1190, the Mid-Mon Valley Shipmates and the Joseph Walker Mon Valley Chapter Air Force Association.

The Veterans Day Parade rotates among Monessen, Charleroi, Donora, Monongahela and Washington.

Chromulak said high school students are being recruited to wear World War II and Korean War uniforms in the parade.

He said it would be a fitting tribute to the men, many of them just in their teens, who were recruited to fight for their country.

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or


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Source: Valley Independent (Monessen, PA)

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