Unlisted vets will be added to Ephraim memorial
By Suzanne Dean
EPHRAIM—Vaun Jean “Vaunie” Wilson Clyde doesn’t want any special favors. She just wants her father, a World War II veteran, to get his due by being listed on the veteran’s memorial in the Ephraim Park Cemetery.
Somehow, her father, Vergie L. Wilson, was passed over twice, once when the memorial was created in 2007 and again when it was updated in 2013.
But Ephraim City Manager Brant Hansen says Wilson will be included in the next update, which is scheduled for some time before Memorial Day 2019.
In 2007, Ephraim City built a new gazebo in the Ephraim Park Cemetery, replacing one that had been in the cemetery for several decades.
At the time, the Ephraim Cemetery Board decided to turn the interior walls of the gazebo into a veteran’s memorial. The board decided the criteria for inclusion on the memorial were having served in the military and being buried in the Ephraim Park Cemetery, or having been declared missing in action while an Ephraim resident.
At the time, the Cemetery Board and city staff identified about 250 veterans who met the criteria. The names were engraved on granite slabs and posted on the walls of the new gazebo. Asterisks were put by names of veterans who had died in military service.
Over the years since 2007, Clyde says, she and her sister, Elizabeth, have called the city and been told the missing names, including her father’s, would be added to the gazebo.
In 2017, Clyde wrote a letter to the editor of the Sanpete Messenger. “My father gave selflessly to his country (and) to his community…without question or thought of thanks,” she wrote. “He never complained, never asked for help, nor did he expect anything from anyone.”
Clyde and her sister, both of whom live on the Wasatch Front, visited the cemetery again last Memorial Day. The name of Vergie L. Wilson was still not engraved into the granite sheets on the wall of the gazebo.
City Manager Hanson says the Cemetery Board planned to update the plaque by Memorial Day 2018, but the engraving contractor wasn’t able to get the job done on time.
However, the engraver has committed to adding names before the next Memorial Day. Meanwhile, additional names have come to light, and the Cemetery Board is in the final stages of verifying name spellings, branches of service and death dates. “There is one more Cemetery Board meeting to finalize the list of names,” Hanson says.
The accompanying list contains names to be added. If you know of a veteran whose name is not on the memorial and not on this list, contact Randi Spurling at Ephraim City offices, 283-4631.
Vergie Wilson grew up in Ephraim, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. Like most families of his era in Sanpete County, his grandparents were involved in agriculture.
He was 30 and single when he enlisted in the Army in 1943. By then, he owned 150 acres and 50 cattle. He turned his ranch over to a cousin to operate until he returned.
Clyde has some pages from a notebook where Wilson wrote about his enlistment. He left Ephraim on Aug. 18, 1943 and arrived at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City that afternoon. During the next five days, he took aptitude tests, received vaccinations and was issued GI clothing.
“Wasn’t allowed to leave the fort,” he wrote. “Could not visit S.L.C.”
He ended being assigned to the Army Air Corps where he served as a tail gunner in a bomber. According to an Army certificate still in Clyde’s possession, he flew 53 “combat sorties,” most over Italy and Africa. He was awarded the Air Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters.
The Ephraim Enterprise wrote about his military contributions. “Riding broncs and riding as a tail gunner in a bomber are parallel in one respect—its rough work on either job…”
In 1946 and after the war, Wilson married Rachel Moore. They had three children, Vaunie, Elizabeth and Marty.
Wilson and his wife lived out their lives in Ephraim. Wilson raised livestock and hay, and later in life, worked at the turkey processing plant.
“My dad had a hard life,” his daughter says.
One year, Wilson put every dime he had into turkeys. That was the year many turkey farmers in Sanpete County were wiped out.
At one point, the family’s home was badly burned. Wilson’s war medals were lost. The family was lucky to recover a few of his war mementos, including photos, a document and the hand-written notebook. The items were among veteran photos and artifacts displayed in Anderson Drug in Ephraim the week of Veteran’s Day this year.
Vergie Wilson died of cancer in 1980 at age 69 and was buried in the Ephraim Park Cemetery with military honors.
Clyde says her quest to get the Ephraim memorial updated isn’t just about her father. “There are other men and women who deserve to be on that plaque,” she says. “These men and woman cannot be forgotten.”
Speaking of Vaunie Clyde’s concern about her father’s case, Hanson says, “We get her plight and frustration, but she is not forgotten. That’s for sure.”