Today our local paper, the Northwest Herald carried a very nice story on Pfc. Joseph Nelles, a chaplain’s assistant from Woodstock who was killed by Japanese bombs while preparing Mass on December 7, 1941. See the article here .
However he was not the only local boy to lose his life that day. I told the story of the other in this letter I sent to the paper this morning.
I appreciated your sensitive article on Memorial Day on Pfc. Joseph Nelles who was killed at Hickam Field on December 7, 1941.
You mentioned another Woodstock young man, Seaman Second Class Thomas Lounsbury who was killed the same day on board the USS Arizona. His story deserves to be told, too.
Thomas was the youngest son of Robert and Florence Lounsbury, well known members of the community. Robert managed the A&P Grocery. Florence was the town librarian. The family was very active in what was then known as the Congregational Universalist Church.
Thomas graduated from Woodstock High School in 1940 and enlisted in the Navy that October. He had been stationed on the Arizona which had been sent from its home port in San Diego to Pearl Harbor in February 1941 as tensions with the Japanese Empire grew.
When they did not hear from their boy after the attack, the Lounsburys feared the worst, but they did not get a telegram from the Navy confirming the worst until December 21. Although his body was never recovered, it is believed that he went down with 1,177 of his shipmates on the doomed battleship.
The family continued to live in Woodstock for many years. Florence in particular was a beloved figure not only as the kindly librarian, but as superintendent of her church Sunday School.
The family donated a gold fringed flag to the congregation in honor of their son. It is still one of its most prized artifacts. For years it was carried at the head of a procession from the church at Dean and South Streets to lay flowers at the Civil War Monument the Square on the Sunday before Memorial Day.
The congregation has moved to McHenry and is now known as the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. But Thomas Lounsbury has never been forgotten. His flag stood by the Chancel table at our Memorial Day services on Sunday and his name remembered and honored among the cherished dead.