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“Frankford Heroes” Were Remembered At The Historical Society of Frankford’s November Meeting!

Bob Smiley, Editor, “The Frankford Gazette”, and Richard Johnson just released their second book which contains the stories of local brave men and women in the service of their country. Each November, our hearts and minds remember all those who so selflessly gave their time and sometimes even their lives in the service of their country. Every one of them deserves our thanks and appreciation for their willingness to die, if necessary, to preserve our freedoms. “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition” is a tribute to them and tells their stories so that they and their sacrifices live on!

Taking us from a small 17th Century village in Philadelphia county to a 21st Century neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia, PA, Frankford has a long history of proud military service. This new edition has 142 brave men who would not return from war. In addition to their stories, those men and women who have been profiled in the Frankford Gazette as “Veteran of the Month” are also included. These were the lucky ones who made it back home yet still bore the scars, and in some cases, disabilities that killing causes.

In the early years, records are scarce, but it is known that a Frankford resident, General Isaac Worrell (a Frankford street bears his name) served in the Revolutionary War. We have the names of a few hundred men who served in the War of 1812 and it was said that Frankford sent more men to the Civil War than any other town of its size. Think about that for a moment. We also have the first documentation of deaths in service available from newspaper reports in the 1860s. Our local patriots continued their service through WWI, WWII, Korea and the Vietnam War. Service continues today with our young men and women on active duty and in the reserves.

Bob Smiley, “Frankford Heroes Remembered” at The Historical Society of Frankford

Tuesday, November 12th, was a brutally cold day, yet we were very gratified to see familiar faces and new ones who were heroes, themselves, for braving the cold and coming out to The Historical Society of Frankford which is a treasure in our community. Smiley, along with Pat Smiley and their son, Jim Smiley, the co-founder of “The Frankford Gazette” and the developer of our online presence and all things “techie”, participated in the presentation aptly titled, “Frankford Heroes Remembered”. The Smileys really like to keep everything a family affair – and we have a big, extended family – it includes all of you! We really enjoy being able to return to Frankford as needed and when we can because Frankford is a family!!

Today, most people focus on the individual but the sacrifices of these men and women and their families should not be forgotten. For that reason, Bob thinks it’s so very important to tell their stories. Here is a quick glimpse of some of the highlights of Bob’s presentation! It was passing by the tombstone of Joseph Alexander Coyle that first ignited Bob’s passion for these unsung heroes. In Bob’s words:

Back in 2014, I was working on another project, documenting St. Joachim’s Cemetery and I was taking pictures of all the headstones.  I was almost finished, when I came upon this one.  It is unusual because it is a military burial, a young man killed in the First World War and yet it is not the standard issue military headstone.  I was curious and decided to see what else I could find out about that guy. A few days later, I found him on Ancestry.  It is one thing to be looking at a stone with a name on it but it is an entirely different experience to see him as a person.  A young man, sitting proudly for a portrait, with his whole life before him, not knowing that he would die in France within a few months. 

‘Joseph was born in Frankford on January 26, 1892 and lived at 1325 Sellers and 1629 Fillmore Street. He was a shipping clerk at S.W. Evans and Son on Paul Street when he was inducted into the Army on May 25, 1918. On July 9, 1918 he shipped out on the USS America bound for France.  He was serving with Company K of the 315th Infantry, 79th Division when he was wounded on August 28, 1918. He died of pneumonia on October 28, 1918. He is buried in St. Joachim Cemetery in Frankford. He was survived by his father, John, and his mother, Anna, and many brothers and sisters.’Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition, pg.

Stephen Paul Blanchet

I had seen all the war monuments in Frankford.  A few had long lists of names of those who served and died.  We have their names etched into stone, but we do not KNOW who they were.  That was when I decided to take a closer look to see what I could find out. That closer look lead me to find a total 142 men who died in service to their country.”

Stephen Paul Blanchett was born on October 20, 1947 and lived at 1813 Foulkrod Street in Frankford.  He enlisted in the Army early in 1965 and served as a corpsman. He was Killed In Action on March 7, 1967. He was awarded the Silver Star posthumously.He distinguished himself by exceptional valor while serving as Medical Specialist for his unit when it came under heavy small arms fire in rice paddies northwest of Dong Tam, Vietnam, on March 7, 1967.

As the unit was maneuvering slowly through several rice paddies, they came under enemy sniper fire. Immediately, one of the unit’s leaders was hit and severely wounded. Private Blanchett, 350 meters to the rear, was notified, and began racing through the paddies in order to reach the wounded man. When he had come to within 50 meters of the casualty, he was urged by fellow comrades to go no further, due to the increasing amount of hostile fire. He courageously disregarded the warning and with fire all about him, ran to the side of the wounded man. He then pulled the wounded man behind the safety of a dike separating two paddies and administered vitally needed first aid. This courageous act was one of many times he unhesitatingly risked his life in behalf of his fellow soldiers.”

He was single and was 19 years old when he died. He is buried in the Beverly National Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey.  Frankford’s American Legion Post 224 2nd floor meeting hall has been named in his honor.  He was survived by his parents, four brothers and two sisters.

Stephen’s parents were awarded his Silver Star in a ceremony at City Hall a few months later. Blanchett and Lloyd Wilson were childhood friends growing up in Frankford.  They were 2 of the 4 African American soldiers from Frankford who died in service.  It is hard to believe but it took many years for Black Americans to earn the right to fight and die for their country.  Today, the Armed Forces could not function without their participation.

Theodore “Ted” Laurer Fischer

Bob’s “Frankford Heroes” project has become very personal to him. He got to know each of these men and women by researching and hearing their stories, many times directly from family members. It becomes more personal, too, when you recognize someone from the neighborhood. Karen Mangan Lash and her husband, Cliff, were in attendance this night. Karen and I had both worked for the School District of Philadelphia and we were together in the Fairhill section of the city. Karen recognized “Ted” and told us after that she had grown up with him and it brought back many memories. We know this can be very hard for families but, to a one, they wanted them to be recognized for the sacrifice, service and courage they exhibited. And then we would hear even more stories about other Heroes. That’s why the book has grown and will continue to share examples of other Heroes we don’t even know about yet.

Theodore Lauer Fischer was born on August 15, 1943 and when his father became Rector of St. Mark’s Church, the family moved to a home on Harrison Street. He had a “Back” position on the football team at Frankford High School and a strong voice which he used in the a cappella choir. “Ted” Fischer led a very active life during his high school years. Teachers there remember the 1962 graduate as an honest, hardworking student with a dramatic flair. 

Fischer enlisted in the Marine Corps in November of 1962. Now 22-years-old and a Lance Corporal, and a radioman for Company A, of the 1st Battalion, 4th, Marines Division, died in the hamlet of Phu Bai, Quang Tri, Province, on March 20, 1966.  He was survived, by his father, Albert, Rector of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, his mother, Elizabeth, and his sister, Barbara. He is buried in Whitemarsh Memorial Park in Ambler, Pennsylvania. 

Joseph Coyle’s Headstone
2014 and 2019

This picture tells the story. Earlier, Bob explained how he first became interested in telling the stories of these “Frankford Heroes”. As members of St. Joachim, we have a cemetery that’s over 170 years old. It is in need of restoration and upkeep as most of our smaller cemeteries in the city are. The photo on the left shows Joseph Coyle’s headstone suffered significant damage. These are the types of things we need to get repaired.

Keep the Faith in Frankford and  Holy Innocents Parish (of which St. Joachim is a Worship Site) formed The Friends of St. Joachim Cemetery. Chaired by Joe and Maureen Taylor, they have begun cleaning the cemetery, giving educational tours and collecting donations to begin some of the restoration projects – like new benches in the cemetery. They have had volunteers coming out to help them but what’s really needed now are dedicated committee members. If you would be interested in helping to plan activities and help with fundraising, etc., please contact Joe via email at joseph.m.taylor12@gmail.com, or text/call his cell at 215-360-6818. Joe’s story is also in the “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition” book as well!

We would like to offer our sincere thanks to Jim Young, President, (you were sorely missed, Jim), and other Board Members Jerry Kolankiewicz, Bruce McKenzie, John Buffington, Susan Couvreur, John Hewitt, Fred Prescott and Diane Sadler who were in attendance and most helpful to us as always. Susan gathered and displayed some of the Society’s artifacts related to Veterans this evening. Thank you, Susan! They enhanced the presentation! The refreshments that follow these presentations are worth attending for sure! A double bonus! For more information about the Historical Society of Frankford, please visit their website, https://www.thehistoricalsocietyoffrankford.org/ and find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheHistoricalSocietyofFrankford/?ref=br_rs .

Enjoy the slideshow of the Presentation at The Historical Society of Frankford and also an interview with the author, Bob Smiley!! Thanks for reading! If you have any “Frankford Heroes” you would like to share with us, Bob’s email is in the next paragraph!

Interested in getting a copy of “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition” for yourself or for a Hero in your own life, please click here – Lulu. Then email gil@frankfordgazette.com to get your free ebook which contains even more details and links about our local Heroes. 

A slideshow of the November meeting at The Historical Society of Frankford!

Here is an interview that I did with Bob Smiley regarding his new book, “Frankford Heroes, 2nd Edition”!

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Veteran of the Month – Leonard W. Stephens

Leonard W. Stephens was born in 1943 and was the oldest of three children, of the late Leonard Lee Stephens and the late Ida Knowles. Leonard attended schools in the Philadelphia school system and graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1961.

He knew he wanted to travel, so after graduation joined the United States Air Force, where he served for four years. After coming out of the service with an honorable discharge in 1965, Leonard decided he wanted to serve and protect his community, so he joined the Philadelphia Police Force.

While on the force, Leonard decided to go back to school to further his education. He attended LaSalle University where he received his Bachelors and Masters degrees. He was promoted to detective and served in that position for over 21 years.

During his career on the Police force, he received a commendation for bravery in 1986 when he apprehended an armed bank robbery suspect while he was off duty and unarmed.

After retirement from the force, he changed his occupation and joined the Philadelphia school system. He served as a long-term substitute teacher for 10 years at Henry R. Edmunds Elementary School at Large and Dyre Streets in Northwood.

Leonard loved food, people and challenges in life. His mother Ida was his best friend and he called her every day. Everyone he met admired him for his humor, wisdom, jokes, and friendliness.

Leonard was well versed in many subjects and a Jack of all trades. His hobbies were playing cards, performing magic tricks and writing poetry. For several years, Leonard tutored many Korean children in English as a second language.

He lived on the 1600 block of Kinsey Street for over 30 years and had many friends along Frankford Avenue that he made over the years. He was a fixture and made the rounds greeting his friends with his trademark phrase, “Dilly Dilly”.

On Tuesday January 29, 2019 God called Leonard home. He leaves to mourn his brother Raymond Stephens (Helen), sister Gloria

Stephens Frazier-Green, a niece Lisa Kim Frazier (preceded), 4 nephews: Jerome Frazier Sr. (Shanel), Michael Frazier, Damien Stephens, Quincy Stephens (Kia), 10 Great nieces and nephews and one Great-Great–Niece Lisa Nichole West and many family and friends.

He is also mourned by his Friends on Frankford Avenue who feel the loss of his friendship and good humor. Thanks to Gil Pons and Stephen at the video store with helping with the preparation of this story.

Leonard W. Stephens –thank you for your service!!!

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Veteran of the Month – Larry D. Fowler

Larry Fowler was born in Philadelphia in 1955 and graduated from John Bartram High School in 1972. He enjoyed gymnastics and track in high school, but he wanted to be a marine and so enlisted in the United State Marine Corps shortly after graduation. After basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina, he served in Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1974.

He attended the Community College of Philadelphia and has mainly worked in community and social services.

Larry lives with his loving wife Rhodie on Fillmore Street in Northwood. Together they have three grown sons and one beautiful granddaughter. He has been active in the Lutheran Church and at present is a member of the Northeast Liberty Lutheran Church in Frankford which is a small growing congregation.

Larry sees his life as one of service to God, country and community. At present, he serves with Point Man International Ministries which is an organization serving veteran’s spiritual and earthly needs.

Larry is very modest about his achievements, but he says “It all comes from almighty God. I chose him. I have always been a soldier, but now I serve in the army of the Lord.

Larry D. Fowler, thank you for your service.

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23rd Annual Reading of the Names

The Liberty Bell Chapter #266 of the Vietnam Veterans of America is holding its 23rd Annual Reading of the Names on the  Philadelphia Vietnam Veterans Memorial located at Front and Spruce Streets on October 26th at 12 noon.

Photo from Google Street View

Please come out to honor the 648 men and women from Philadelphia who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. Chapter 266 is also looking for new members. If interested call Chuck at 215-722-3518 or email linedog716@yahoo.com

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Veteran of the Month – Walter B. Rice

Walter B. Rice was born on July 19, 1942 in Frankford Hospital and was raised in the Tacony section of Philadelphia.  Ricey, as he was known, attended Hamilton Disston Elementary School and Lincoln High School. Ricey joined the Army National Guard and worked at different jobs such as Myerstone Basin Company, Nesbitt and worked at Frankford Hospital for over 20 years and retired.

Ricey, while serving in the National Guard, served on disaster duty in many places and and some of the island countries.   During his service, he received his paratrooper wings while at Fort Bragg jump school.

Ricey loved his job at Frankford Hospital and was well liked.  He knew just as much about hospital problems, you would think he was a doctor.  Ricey passed away on October of 2018 and will be missed very much.

Walter B. Rice – Thank you for your service!!!