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Frank Gray

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Generosity puts trip to dedication in the cards

Schultz-Ithier

Joanne Schultz-Ithier had hoped to travel to France in May, but it appeared it just wasn’t in the cards.

That’s the way it is, she figured. People sometimes just don’t have the means to go globe-trotting at the drop of a hat.

But France would still be there next year, or the next, she reasoned, as would the monument she had hoped to see dedicated, the monument with her father’s name on it.

So Schultz-Ithier, the secretary to the chair of the Department of Theater at IPFW, just took some pride in her father and other members of his generation, the generation that grew up in the Great Depression and then went to war about the time things began to look up, and then came home after the war and started new lives and built a great country.

And she was thrilled by the gratitude that people thousands of miles away still held, 70 years later, for the men who freed their country and went on to win Word War II.

We wrote about Schultz-Ithier last month, about how her father, Francis Huge Schultz, a tech sergeant and crew chief on a troop transport in the Army Air Force, had been shot down near Tamerville, France, on June 4, 1944, just two days before D-Day.

He had been taken prisoner by the Germans. Schultz-Ithier still has a handful of remnants of his life in a POW camp, including a book made from cigarette packs with odd lists, including the wardrobe he planned to buy after the war, breakfast menus, dessert menus, and a few bets involving quarts of Canadian Club and Seagrams 7.

After the war, her father came home to New York, became a plumber and helped build, among other things, the World Trade Center.

It was a few months ago that Schultz-Ithier learned that a Dutch researcher who specialized in finding aircraft shot down during the war contacted her. He had located her father’s plane and persuaded the town of Tamerville to erect a monument. It would include the names of the crews of three B-17s that had been shot down near the town, and it would include the name of her father, whose C-47 had been shot down. The monument would be dedicated in May, around the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Schultz-Ithier was invited, along with family members of all the people whose names would be on the monument, and the people of the town, which has a population of 600, would even provide then with places to stay.

But Schultz-Ithier’s daughter is getting married this summer and she’s had other expenses, so she lamented that she’d have to pass.

Oddly enough, while helping a friend out at her shop, the Poppy Cottage on East State Boulevard, she got into a conversation with a customer, and the story of her father and the monument dedication came up. She mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to attend.

The man was moved. You’re going to go to the event, he told her. He told her he’d be her first sponsor, gave her $50, told her to tape it to the wall, put her story out and believe.

Schultz-Ithier was moved, and that’s the story we told last month.

In a way it made Schultz-Ithier, who describes herself as a thick-headed self-sufficient old German, uncomfortable. She wasn’t looking for a handout.

But sometimes people want to help, and people are helping.

Two organizations, who want to remain anonymous, have pledged to cover her expenses for the trip. A former Air Force pilot who is now an airline pilot, has pledged to try to get her free airline tickets to get to the event, and sponsors have dropped off donations at the Poppy Cottage.

It’s humbling, Schultz-Ithier says.

But it looks like her trip to Normandy is in the cards after all.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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