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Veterans in the News

Veterans in the News


Vietnam Memorial Wall of Faces Update:

Photos of Charles T. Thielges and Dahl LaPorte have been located! A special thank you to anyone who may have contributed to contacting the fallen soldiers families.

To see the 37 soldiers included from Chautauqua County visit:   Use the advanced search link to find Chautauqua County soldiers.

To see the tribute to Charles T. Thielges please visit

Keeping a Promise: U.S. Army Captain Reconnects with Vietnam War Buddy – Jamestown Post-Journal (May 28, 2017): Keeping a promise to an old friend can be a challenging task. U.S. Army Capt. Thomas E. Jones was able to keep his promise of 47 years thanks to the Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets program. Jones, a Greenhurst resident, said he had made a promise to U.S. Army Captain Roswell T. Swanson that they would reconnect back in the states while leaving Vietnam in 1970.

Unfortunately for Jones the promise he made proved to be a challenge, one that took him 45 years to fulfill.

Jones said he had no success searching for Swanson for more than four decades. He had no luck until he heard about the Fenton’s Vets Finding Vets program. While researching family genealogy at the Fenton, Jones spoke to Barb Cessna, who is the coordinator for Fenton’s Vets Finding Vets program.

“Roughly a year ago, I started working with the Fenton on family genealogy and I asked Barb to find my buddy,” Jones said. “It was a dead end for me everywhere I looked. She found him within a couple days.

Greenhurst resident Capt. Thomas E. Jones saluting Capt. Roswell T. Swanson’s gravesite in Hampton, Va., May 22. Jones and Swanson became good friends while serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Thanks to the Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets program, Jones was able to reconnect with Swanson 47 years after leaving Vietnam.

Jones said Cessna used the website Find A Grave to locate Swanson. Unfortunately, Swanson had passed away in 2012 at the age of 71. However, that didn’t stop Jones from keeping his promise. On May 22, Jones visited Swanson’s grave site in Hampton, Va., dressed in his Army service uniform.

“It was emotional,” Jones said about his visit to the Swanson’s grave site. “That was emotional too (when I discovered Swanson had passed away), but this was a little worse,” Jones said about visiting Swanson’s grave.

Swanson’s grave indicated he had been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, a distinction awarded for service or valor above and beyond the call of duty. Jones also received a Bronze Star Medal, the highest of the 12 medals he received while serving in the U.S. Army.

Jones said he met Swanson in 1969 when he was selected to lead a special Military Police Corps unit in Quang Tin and Quang Nye provinces in Vietnam.

He said this area was not heavily secured by the military and was outside the “wire.”

Jones said Swanson, who worked for the Provost Marshal’s Office of the American Division located in Chu Lai inside the “wire,” had been in the region for several months prior to Jones being assigned to lead the special MP unit.

“He took the time to show me where I was supposed to go. He gave me a good footing for what I had to do,” Jones said. “The information helped me get acclimated to the area. He shared intel about hot spots and where to stay away from until I got on my feet. I’m forever grateful to him. He gave me a good footing so I could assume my command.”

Jones said about once a week he would meet with Swanson to share information. A friendship grew between the two during these intelligence briefings during the next six months, which ended with Jones’ return to the states.

Prior to leaving Vietnam, a common question military personnel would ask each other before leaving was, “What will your first meal be when you get home,” Swanson had asked Jones. Jones replied, “A Johnny’s Texas Hot,” which Jones said surprised Swanson. This is when the two military captains stationed more than 8,500 miles from home realized, after knowing each other for six months, they were both from the Jamestown area.

Jones said while he was in Hampton, Va., he went to the local VFW post, but they had no information on Swanson. Jones also had been given a phone number for Swanson’s wife, but he hit another dead end because the line had been disconnected. Jones said he will continue to try and connect with Swanson’s family in Virginia and try to find his Jamestown relatives as well.

“He was a super guy. I would like his family to know that, which I’m sure they probably already do. I would just like to reinforce it,” Jones said.

VETS FINDING VETS: The Vets Finding Vets program was started on Veterans Day in 2014 and allows for free access to the Fenton Hall House Research Center, located at 73 Forest Ave., in Jamestown, for veterans, active military and reservists. It allows them to use the research facility, resources and assistance to begin or further their family history search, locate old service comrades or to help the volunteer research staff to collect information regarding the soldiers buried in Chautauqua County cemeteries. The veterans in the program are encouraged to contribute their military record, photographs and memories of their service so they will be preserved and shared.

The Fenton Hall House Research Center provides resources and assistance at no cost to local veterans. The Fenton benefits from the veterans’ work to build their cache of local veteran stories and genealogy, which in turn can be shared with the community.

For more information about the Vets Finding Vets program and to find out how to enroll, call the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or email The Fenton History Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Call ahead to confirm Fenton Hall House Research Center hours before visiting on a Saturday.

Students Hear from WWII Vets During Unique Presentation (Jamestown Post Journal, March 23, 2017): Nearly 100 students from three Chautauqua County school districts had an unparalleled opportunity to learn about World War II from those who actually lived through it.

On Wednesday, the Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets program hosted an event which featured a presentation on World War II in conjunction with firsthand accounts from 10 area veterans at the Robert H. Jackson Center’s Carl Cappa Theater. In attendance were students and teachers from the Clymer, Falconer and Frewsburg school districts, who heard a presentation by Steve Appleby, SFC U.S. Army Retired, director of the World War II museum in Eldred, Pa.

The event was organized by Barb Cessna, Vets Finding Vets program coordinator, who had taken a group of veterans to the museum in October. She said the group was so impressed by Appleby’s knowledge and outgoing, engaging personality that she immediately asked if he would give a presentation to area students in Jamestown, a proposition he enthusiastically accepted.

Appleby, speaking as a veteran himself, said he enjoys giving presentations such as these, viewing it as a means of “passing the torch” of education and information to future generations.

“It’s very rare to see a group of World War II vets this size anymore and that aligns with our mission in life, which is to use artifacts and firsthand accounts from veterans to teach young people about why the war was fought and what it was about,” Appleby said. “These men literally saved the world, and it’s important that we relate that to kids today — especially high school kids, because they’re impressionable and pretty much the same age as these guys were when they enlisted or were drafted into the war. It really helps put the significance of that into perspective.”

Appleby discussed various aspects of the war, such as its causes, the value of the veterans’ service, and technological and medical advancements that were achieved during the time of America’s involvement in the war. He stated the biggest things he wanted the students to come away with was: honor the flag, honor veterans, and honor the opportunity and potential afforded to the students by veterans and their sacrifice.

He was aided in his presentation by the display of several World War II artifacts in his museum’s collection. These items included: a World War I gas mask; a British Sten gun; a British Bren light machine gun; mortar and bazooka rounds; a British line gun; pineapple grenades; helmets; canteens; a Nazi arm band; a stove; trench knives; a siren; a corpsman knife; a pair of electric long johns; and a Japanese prayer, or body, flag.

Following the presentation, each of the 10 veterans were given an opportunity to state their names, branch of service and any memories they wished to share of their time in the service. The veterans present at the event were: Robert Swift, U.S. Air Force; Ralph Robinson, U.S. Army; Paul Arnone, U.S. Navy; Roland Swanson, Navy Seabee; John Nordine, Navy; Fletcher Schulz, Army; Bill Graves, Navy; Dave Riotto, Navy; Ed Zunner, Army; and Omer Post, Navy.

A brief question-and-answer session between students and veterans concluded the event, after which students shook hands with each of the veterans, thanking them for their service. Watch a live video of the presentation by selecting the following link: 

JHS WWII Information Available At Fenton Research Center: The Fenton History Center’s Research Center recently celebrated the culmination of months of work by two of the center’s dedicated volunteers. During WWII, the National Honor Society at Jamestown High School made a 6X8 card for each man and woman who had once gone to school at JHS, and had left Jamestown to serve their country. Each card lists the person’s name, address, parents, years of attendance at JHS, and on the back of the card, news clippings about each soldier were glued to the back of the card.

Chris Ahlstrom indexed and alphabetized the many cards. Dave Marsh copied each card, and created notebooks for easy access as well as an index of the cards. There are 2,822 pages and they are housed in 15 notebooks. The fragile cards and the attached clippings will be stored in acid free boxes for safe long-term storage.
At the end of this project, the volunteers were grateful for the many hours they worked on the project. Ms. Ahlstrom remarked, “It was fun. I learned a lot, and was surprised at how many Veterans I knew. I was amazed at the patriotism in Jamestown during that time. It was a joy to see my own father among them, and it was wonderful to be reminded of his service.”
Mr. Marsh added, “As a Veteran myself, with a father and two uncles who served in WWII, I was very proud to help do this.”
Researchers and genealogists are encouraged to use this resource at the Fenton History Center’s Research Center located at the former Hall Home building at 73 Forest Ave. For more information call the center at 664-6256.

Community Foundation Assists Veterans Program at Fenton History Center 2016: The Fenton History Center received a Chautauqua Region Community Foundation Community Service grant to expand the Vets Finding Vets program.   The program, which was started Veterans Day 2014 allows free access to the Fenton Research Center for Veterans, active military, and Reservists. It allows them to use the research facility, resources, and assistance to begin or further their family history search, locate old service comrades, or to help the volunteer research staff to collect information regarding the soldiers buried in Chautauqua County cemeteries. The veterans in the program are encouraged to contribute their military record, photographs, and memories of their service so they will be preserved and shared.

See full photograph name listing below

This grant is providing funding for the project manager, Barbara Cessna, to expand her work hours to build the veteran participation.  Mrs. Cessna and the program’s oversight committee are networking with local Veterans to locate other Veterans.  They then encourage the Veterans to share their wartime experiences and family stories.   They will also be trained to continue to invite more Veterans into the program.  Vets Finding Vets is based on a National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) program called Operation Ancestor Search (OAS).  OAS operates in military hospitals and medical centers across the country.   It is based on the premise that genealogy expertise within the SAR is a resource that can be used to give back to U.S. service members and veterans who are in need of respite from the constant reminders of their injuries and memories.

The Fenton Hall House Research Center is providing resources and assistance at no cost to local Veterans from any time period.  The Fenton Research Center benefits from the Veterans’ work to build the cache of local Veteran stories and genealogy which in turn are shared in the community.

The group is planning speaking events to further share their stories and research with the community.  Paul Arnone, Navy veteran, will speak September 15 at the Fenton Mansion about his part as an LST signalman during the Normandy invasion.

The group is planning a bus trip to the Eldred, Pennsylvania WWII museum in the fall.  The public is invited, preference will be given to WWII Veterans and their families.   The Vets Finding Vets program helps the Fenton History Center, helps local Veterans and helps the Jamestown community.

Pictured in corresponding photo:

(From left) Randy Sweeney, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation,   Joni Blackman, Director of Fenton History Center,

Marty Hagstrom, US Army, VFV Board Member,  Roland Swanson, US Navy Seabees, VFV Board Member,  Barb Cessna, VFV Project Coordinator,      

Dave Marsh, US Air Force, VFV Board Member,     Steve Johnson, US Marine Corp, VFV Board Member,   Tom Jones, US Army, VFV Board Member

Maple Grove Jr. Sr. High School Students
Maple Grove Jr. Sr. High School Students

Students Thank Veterans 2016:  A locally funded art project at Maple Grove Jr./Sr. High School has grown into a much larger outreach for local students, teachers, and veterans.  The Teacher Empowering Grant from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program through the Cattaraugus County Council on the Arts was awarded last year to artist Renee Pye and Maple Grove Jr. Sr. High School.  This was the fifth arts partnership grant awarded to Maple Grove Jr. Sr. High School. Artist Renee Pye was the supervisor of the grant

Three Maple Grove Jr. Sr. High School teachers partnered with Ms. Pye to create a student based project that involved history, English and art.  History teacher Scott Cummings assisted his students with choosing a person, place or thing between 1776 and 1876 to be the theme of a postage stamp. English teacher Elizabeth Abbey then instructed the students to compose a paragraph describing why their design should be chosen for a stamp. Local artist Renee Pye with art teacher Kevin Johnson worked with the 7th-grade students to design a commemorative stamp of their chosen subject. The students created posters of their stamp design with acrylic paint.

Artist Renee Pye and Tom Jones, US Army, VFV Board Member
Artist Renee Pye and Tom Jones, US Army, VFV Board Member

The outreach component of the grant was to turn the posters into postcards.  The students planned on sending the postcards to area Veterans.  However, Ms. Pye had to locate at least sixty Veterans in the county to send the completed postcards.  She asked local Veteran and American Legion Member Tom Jones.  Mr. Jones is a member of the Fenton History Center’s Vets Finding Vets program whose purpose is to assist the Fenton Research Center with Veteran focused research as well as assisting the living Veteran with researching their own family.  Mr. Jones asked Barbara Cessna, Veterans Finding Veterans Coordinator, to help gather the necessary Veterans’ names and addresses.  The goal of sixty names quickly multiplied to one-hundred-ninety-five names.   Ms. Pye graciously accepted the additional names but needed to find more student artists.  She partnered with teacher Jody Conley’s fifth-grade class at Bemus Point Elementary and Mike Chitester’s fourth-grade class at Fenner Elementary in Falconer.  They created the additional postcards needed to reach all one-hundred-ninety-five Veterans.

The grant has been a great success.  The Veterans were very touched to receive a thank you from the students and the students learned about the Veterans and their local stories.  The posters from the project will be displayed in Floral Hall during the Chautauqua County Fair. “All the participants would like to thank the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, and The Cattaraugus County Council on the Arts, and a special thank you to Maple Grove School for supporting this project which combined art, history and English into a single endeavor for the benefit of many,” said artist and grant administrator Renee Pye. The expression of the Veterans’ service to our country through the student’s writings and artwork have made a powerful connection between the past and the present.

Interested in joining Vets Finding Vets visit: to learn more.

Join us the second Saturday of every month for the Fenton Canteen:

Learn more about the Vets Finding Vets Upcoming Talks and Outings: 

Browse past talks held at the Fenton History Center: