By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Beneath the gleaming new flagpole and in front of an appreciative crowd, local veterans were celebrated Sunday outside of the Orleans County Veterans Service Agency.
More than 30 veterans and active duty service members were present for the annual observance of Veterans Day in Orleans County. They were greeted with cheers, applause, flowers presented by students from Medina, Albion and Lyndonville.
For one family, the occasion served to remind them of the service their family gave 70 years ago. Veterans Service Agency Director Paul Fulcomer awarded Randy and David Nellist, the sons of the late Harry W. Nellist, with the medals their father earned in World War II — including five bronze stars.
A large group of Nellists came from all directions to be at the ceremony to remember a man who was a proud veteran — he never missed a parade — but a humble one.
“He never talked much about it until his later years,” Randy said. “He said he said some medals that he had earned, but we didn’t know until we went to the World War II Memorial.”
In all, he was posthumously awarded a Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and Bronze Star Attachment (Quadruple), World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon and Bronze Star Attachment, and the Honorable Service Lapel Button.
As a member of the 102nd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion, Company C, Nellist — who grew up in Somerset and graduated from Barker High School before enlisting in the April of 1941 — was part of one of the first units to be sent into combat following America’s entry into the Second World War.
While his brother Willard was among the men crossing Europe (another brother, Gerald, joined the service after the war and was stationed in occupied Japan), Harry’s unit served in Papua New Guinea, the East Indies and the southern Philippines; including the Battle of Leyte.
He was in Pearl Harbor on V-J Day after surviving posting that put him in dangerous positions. Even on the way to his initial posting in Darwin, Australia, Nellist was one of the men assigned to a gun pivot on the sides of the transport ship.
“He deserved this, he served three and a half years overseas,” David said after the ceremony.
Nellist settled in Lyndonville after the war, raising a family while working for more than 30 years at Harrison Radiator in Lockport. He kept in contact with three-dozen of the men from his company. There were only a handful of them left to send Christmas cards to when he passed in 2011.
His sons said the medals would be put in a special place after they showed them to their mom, a resident at Orchard Manor.
Nellist was the only veteran to receive medals at the ceremony, a departure from an event that honored as many as 39 men in past years, although others have received medals privately this year. Fulcomer said that any veteran, or the widow or children of a veteran can request medals from his office.
The veterans who came out Sunday received total admiration and praise from the family members, students and local officials at the ceremony.
“We cannot rightfully celebrate the joy of freedom without remembering the toll they paid,” Legislator Lynne Johnson said. “Their devotion to duty gives us all strength.”
“This is a day of reflection,” Dick DeCarlo, who represented Assemblyman Steve Hawley at the event, said. “It should be a constant commitment to show our support for our veterans ... to offer them sincere thanks and appreciation every day.”Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.