By LINDSAY SHAFFER
An unfortunate aspect of war is the loss of life.
During World War I many who went overseas to serve their country never returned home, including men and boys from Fostoria.
One man from Belgium has taken it upon himself to not only care for the grave of a local soldier, but he is also seeking living relatives to assure them their family member will not be forgotten.
Danny de Schepper, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium, said history has always been an important part of his life.
“My interest in WWI is family bound,” de Schepper said in an email correspondence. “My grandfather’s brother got injured and killed during the raid of the Germans near Liège in 1914.”
Since then, he has learned quite a bit about World War I and those who fought in it. His interest in an American soldier began after President Barak Obama visited Belgium in March of 2014.
“My brother-in-law saw on television that there was the possibility to adopt a grave at Flanders Field in Waregem and he told me about it,” he said.
Of all the graves at Flanders Fields, de Schepper wanted to chose one from Ohio. His interest in Ohio in particular comes from a bridge near his home, which was donated by a division of soldiers from Ohio.
“The 148th (Infantry) Regiment of the Buckeye division claimed a heavy battle near the Scheldt (River), on Nov. 1, 1918. Most soldiers in that battle came from Ohio. After the war, the state of Ohio gifted the bridge as a war memorial.”
According to American War Memorials Overseas, Inc., the bridge features four bison sculptures of bronze plaques commemorating the 1918 river crossing of the U.S. 37th Division. The bridge construction was led by architects Frank Ray Walker and Henry F. Weeks, both of Cleveland, and Laholle Levard, of Paris, France. It was inaugurated Sept. 29, 1929.
The bridge was destroyed by the English May 11, 1940 at the beginning of World War II. Reconstruction of the second Ohio Bridge began in 1952 and was completed in November of 1954. It was again destroyed in 1982 to build a larger bridge to accommodate the river’s boat traffic. It was rebuilt the same year with a more modern construction.
Now that de Schepper knew from what state he wanted a soldier, his next decision was which soldier.
“I chose Sergeant Lewis Wallace Miller because he was a young, talented man from Dunkirk,” he said.
“On Aug. 16 2014, we got an official adoption certificate from the people of ‘the American Legion Flanders Fields’ part BE02 and also a medal, which was a great honor for me.”
From that point de Schepper wanted to learn all he could about his soldier and where he came from.
Through his research he learned that Miller was the son of John Frank Miller and Marie (Baker) Miller. He was born on March 7, 1895 in Dunkirk. He grew up in Akron and worked as a tire inspector at Goodyear Tire and Rubber before enlisting.
He enlisted in the Ohio National Guard when he was 19 years old on April 21, 1914. He died in Staden, Belgium, from pneumonia on Nov. 1, 1918.
At some point between the 1920 census and 1930 census, John and Marie Miller moved to Fostoria, where John was a minister. They lived at 243 W. High St.
“From then my search for any surviving relatives began,” de Schepper said. “To date, I have not succeeded. Someday I hope to find and contact family. Because I want them to know that there is someone who regularly brings flowers and that the sacrifice he gave for our freedom is still held in honor. My motto is: ‘Let us never forget what these brave men have given for our peace and freedom, and the least we can do in return is bring flowers.'”
To assist in the search for surviving relatives, contact de Schepper by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook at www.facebook.com/danny.deschepper.1?fref=ts.