Monroe County Gold Star Monument Supporters Mourn Williams’ Death | News, Sports, Jobs
BEALLSVILLE — Local officials involved in the Monroe County Gold Star Families Memorial Monument being erected in Beallsville reacted with sadness upon hearing about Hershel “Woody” Williams’ death at age 98 on Wednesday.
Williams was the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II and the co-founder of the Hershel “Woody” Williams Medal of Honor Foundation, the organization responsible for establishing the Gold Star Families Memorial monuments that are meant to honor veterans and the families of soldiers who were killed in combat. In April, Williams attended the dedication ceremony for the county’s monument in Beallsville, where he spoke about the sacrifice of not only military members who have perished but also of their families left behind.
Gold Star Family board members and county officials who met Williams during the ceremony expressed their sorrow at the loss of the Marine, who many described as a “great man.”
Mick Schumacher, an honorary board member of the GSFMM and a Monore County commissioner, said he was “suprised” when he heard the news. Schumacher had shared a stage with Williams during the spring ceremony.
“He (Williams) was so energetic and so powerful when he spoke here in Monroe County. I was just surprised when I found that out today,” Schumacher said. “He was a kind and delightful person. He certainly was very courteous to everyone that wanted to come up to him and shake his hand and congratulate him. There wasn’t anything haughty about him at all. He was just a humble and kind man, and I think that’s what heroes should look like.”
Schumacher said it was an honor to have met Williams.
David Wiles, commander of Beallsville American Legion Post 768 and honorary board member of the GSFMM, said he was heartbroken when he learned of Williams’ death, adding that it was a sad day for all of America.
“He’s one of the last national heroes that we had from WWII. I know he’s 98 years old, but you never expect it because when he was here he was so vibrant. I’m at a loss really. I know the foundation and his family have to be devastated. We lost a true hero, and on behalf of myself and the American Legion post, I wish the family well and future success of the foundation,” he said.
Wiles said meeting Williams at the dedication ceremony was one of the biggest moments of his life.
“I’ve met a lot of people from presidents on down, and meeting Hershel Williams ranks at the top. He was a great speaker, a great guy to be around. He was full of energy, and I’ll cherish that memory for the rest of my life. … He was truly a hero, and it was truly a great honor of mine to meet that man and talk to him. What a sincere, warm person to meet. We’re all in mourning for his passing. It’s just devastating,” he said.
Rich Kuhn, a committee member of the GSFMM, member of the VFW and Vietnam Veterans of America, said Williams’ death is a “tragic loss.” He said the county was fortunate to have him come to the ceremony.
“I just met him that one day and he was just a phenomenal person. There’s not enough good things to say about him. He was very humble and very dedicated to what he did, and being the Medal of Honor winner says it all,” he added.
Kuhn said he hopes Williams’ family is able to carry on his legacy of work.
“Because I think it was just an outstanding gesture to remember all of our war vets. We take for granted the freedom that we have today and all those men in the past who have sacrificed for,” he said.
Diane Burkhart, a county commissioner and member of the GSFMM, said meeting Williams at the ceremony was a wonderful opportunity that she will never forget.
“He was absolutely fantastic. He spoke so eloquently, and it was wonderful for everyone that was there to listen to him. … We were so incredibly fortunate that he was able to come in the spring in Monroe County, and he was so appreciative. He spoke to all the kids in the band and shook hands with everyone. He was a wonderful patriot,” she said.
“And what a wonderful speech he gave. It was raining and sleeting and snowing, and he never stopped. His voice was strong. You would have never believed he was the age he was.”
Monroe County Treasurer Taylor Abbott, who met Williams during the ceremony, made a heartfelt post regarding Williams’ death on social media.
“Today, our nation saw its last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient quietly pass into eternal glory. Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams was an iconic, larger-than-life figure who used his experiences and selflessness to comfort grieving military families and communities through his foundation. He truly embodied the very best of the Greatest Generation – the last of a select few who went above and beyond in service to his country and his fellow soldiers. It was an honor to meet him earlier this year when he attended and gave the keynote address at the unveiling of Monroe County’s Gold Star Families monument,” he stated.