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February 10, 2006
Oroville Mercury Register
February 13, 1920 Oroville Mercury Register

Four French Memorial Death Certificates for Oroville Veterans who sacrificed their lives during the great war, have been received by Frank Mitchell, temporary secretary for the Oroville Post of the American Legion. The certificates are beautifully designed, bearing the name of the soldier in whose honor it is presented. As an expression of the gratitude to this country thousands of similar certificates are being sent to every section of the United States where they will be presented to parents of deceased soldiers. The four memorial certificates sent to Oroville bear the names of Thomas J. Lucas, Silvarta Morrison, John Toland and T. J. Kelly. (This article was found by committee member Joan Lee (Van Campen))

This story is by Committee Member Daryl Autrey from an interview with Frank Stowell:

Frank Stowell wonders aloud why he has lived this long, nearly 87 years. His only sister, Marie, did not. Her life was lost in the Sacramento River at Colusa as she tried to save a swimmer from drowning. She was only 20. Jack, his only brother, did not live long. At 21, he was lost on the USS Huston in WWII. Frank’s brother and sister were taken so young that Frank has lived most of his life without them and still wonders why. He figures
that perhaps he was given the years that were taken from his siblings. Water played a fateful part in the destinies of Frank Stowell’s family.

On May 27th, 1937, after graduating from Colusa High, Frank married his high school sweetheart, Gerda, and moved to Oroville to live near the Feather River. A year or so later Frank’s parents, Frank and Edna, would settle near Yankee Hill. The younger Frank shared his father’s love of fishing. The two of them fished avidly and were champion fly-casters.

In June of 1938 Frank’s younger brother, Jack, was finishing high school in Colusa. He excelled as a sprinter, setting a still-unbroken record for the 100 yard dash at a 1937 track meet in Gridley. Jack Stowell graduated from high school and left Colusa to live in Oroville with his brother and sister-in-law, Frank and Gerda.

Jack and Frank spent the long hours of 1938’s summer fishing on the Feather River. Their fishing together ended later that year when Jack enlisted in the Navy. Frank drove his brother to Southern Pacific’s Sacramento depot to catch the train to Navy Boot Camp in San Diego. Out of basic training, Jack was assigned for a while to the USS Pillsbury, DD 520. The destroyer Pillsbury was a four-stack ship launched in 1920, after the end of WWI . Jack returned to Oroville for the last time early in 1940 when he was given Liberty before shipping out from Mare Island on a heavy cruiser, the USS Huston, CA 30.

Jack Stowell sent letters home regularly, written in pencil and sealed in small envelopes, proudly bearing the USS Huston’s postmark. In his letters Jack complained of harassment by the Japanese Fleet. Often they outnumbered the Huston and her escorts had to hide from aggressive Japanese warships. This was the end of peacetime for a neutral America. Before Jack’s enlistment was up, Japan’s hostility precipitated the end of America’s aloof foreign policy with the infamous bombardment of our ships and planes at Pearl Harbor in the last month of 1941.( to be continued.)

Stu’s Notes; We are saddened by the passing of Patti Meyers. She helped so many people in so many ways. One of her projects was a yearly Talent Show which she did for many years. The last two years it was for our Oroville Veterans Memorial Park. She worked so hard on these shows. She had first class acts. The shows were amazing. She will truly be missed by so many. Her Fiancé, John De Ree, a new friend of mine was by her side in these many events for so many years. I feel bad that it’s taking so long to finish our Memorial, especially for those who have helped us and haven’t lived to see it! One benefit is that every year that goes by we find more names to honor. After 5 years the list is quite long. We have never found any list anywhere of those that died, up to the Korean War. Vietnam, yes it was recorded but the list we found was not complete. Also the list of those that died in plane crashes around our community, thanks to Daryl. Many of those we found were by hard research and with God’s help, by putting us in the right spot at the right time. Some people call it a coincidence, I don’t. Thank you, Joan Lee for this recent information.