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Archive for February 5th, 2019

Who Was Arthur F. Church?

Posted by glennled on February 5, 2019

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A bugler’s headstone among the 5,000 graves in Evergreen-Washelli’s Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Seattle, including seven Medal of Honor recipients

 

For seven years (2011-17), I always stood in one spot to sound “Taps” at the annual Wreaths Across America (WAA) ceremony, held each December at Evergreen-Washelli’s Veterans Cemetery in north Seattle. That one spot is among about 5,000 veterans’ graves. It’s right next to one gravestone that had become quite special to me. I had developed a fond image of the man buried there. But this year, the ceremony was moved farther west within the cemetery (please see my blog post of 15 January 2019). I missed my old spot near my departed comrade from “Auld Lang Syne” (old times gone by). I knew his name but not his story.

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WWI U.S. Army recruitment poster for the horse cavalry

I first sounded “Taps” at the WAA ceremony on 10 December 2011. Prior to the ceremony, as the Honor Guard (rifle team) of VFW Post 1040 lined up along the sidewalk leading uphill to the Chimes Tower, I searched nearby among the hundreds of gravestones for a spot to stand. It’s important to be close to them but not so close that the ejected shell casings might hit you. Also, you want to be visible by the ceremony’s participants and audience.

I made my choice, positioned myself there, and waited for my cue. During the ceremony, I started to read the round-top gravestones nearby. To my left, I saw this inscription: “Arthur F. Church, Idaho, Bugler…”

Imagine that—how rare, how unusual! In my life, I’ve learned to pay close attention to such coincidences. Immediately, I was curious. Churchwas he a Christian believer? Idahosince 1851, when the first settlers built cabins on Alki Point, hundreds of thousands of people, including me, have moved to Seattle from everywhere. Born 28 October 1889America entered WWI in April 1917, when he was 27. Died 10 January 1945only four months afterwards came WWII’s Victory-in-Europe (V-E) Day. He was only 55 when he died. Had he been wounded in the war? Buglers were special targets; kill a bugler, and you disrupt your enemy’s communications. And there I was, 66 years later at age 71, standing near his marker, near his grave, near his remains, waiting to sound “Taps” at a ceremony meant to honor all those like him, who served.

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Glenn Ledbetter sounds “Taps” near headstone of Arthur F. Church, Bugler, in Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Evergreen Washelli, 2012

So, every time I’ve played “Taps” at any subsequent military ceremony near the Chimes Tower, that’s where I’ve always stood—next to Arthur. And lately, I’ve begun to ponder—Who was Arthur F. Church, Idaho, Bugler, 109th Infantry, 28th Division?

After much searching on the internet, I learned a lot about him. I read about the regiment and the division, his active duty in the military, his family including two brothers, one sister, and six half-siblings, his two wives but no children, his work, his troubles with narcotics and the law, his early death, and more. Let me focus on bugling because that’s what we have in common.

I had imagined that he might have been a career musician, perhaps even playing cornet in a military band. But it appears that Arthur was drafted into the Army toward the end of WWI and served only one year. He enlisted on 24 May 1918, and was discharged on 20 May 1919. The Armistice (cease fire agreement) that ended WWI was signed on 11 November 1918. He already was a married man. He had married Florence Strike in Wallace, Idaho on 2 April 1917. Did he play a brass instrument before entering the service? I don’t know. In any case, the Army made him a bugler, and apparently, that’s all the bugling he ever did.

Census records in 1920 and 1930 indicate that after the war, he lived as a lodger in Seattle and worked as a miner and a hook tender in the regrading industry. Other public records describe him thus at age 34: height 5’6″, weight 144 lbs, dark brown hair, brown eyes, medium build, ruddy complexion, with gold-crowned, upper left molar teeth and scars on the back of his head, right hand, and right thigh. Arthur seems to have had a “hard-knock life,” as the song goes in the musical, Annie.

Did he serve in Europe? Was he ever in combat? Did he ever sound bugle calls in battle—“To Arms, Charge, Retreat, Commence Firing, Cease Firing,” and more?  Or did he, like me, sound only those used in the daily routine and at ceremonies—“Reveille, Mess, Sick, School, Church, Assembly, Drill, Dress Parade, To the Color, Officers’ Call, Adjutants’ Call, Tattoo, Taps, Funeral March,” and more? Either way, it was important. As the soldiers said, “How else would we all know when to wake up and go to chow?”

bugle that sounded end of wwi - nat'l museum of american history

Bugle that sounded end of WWI, courtesy of National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.

There is a book that covers all the calls that every 1918 U.S. military bugler had to know. It’s by V.F. Safranek and was published in 1918 in New York by Carl Fischer, 158 pages. It’s entitled, Complete Instructive Manual for Bugle, Trumpet and Drum. Now we know what Arthur F. Church, Bugler, knew.

In addition, I own two other excellent bugle call books:

  • 67 Bugle Calls As Practiced in the Army and Navy of the United States, New Edition published by Carl Fischer in 1998. It is based upon John Philip Sousa’s A Book of Instruction for the Field Trumpet [Bugle] and Drum, also published by Carl Fischer in 1886.
  • Infantry Bugle Calls of the American Civil War, authored by George Rabbai and published by Mel Bay Publications, Inc. in 1998. Forty-nine bugle calls are included, as well as narration, spoken commands, and anecdotes and stories from the accounts of infantry soldiers.
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American WWI buglers, including Leo Foster (right)

Arthur’s father is buried in Port Townsend, WA. His mother, older brother, and at least three of his half-siblings are buried at Evergreen-Washelli.

On 4 September 1945, Evergreen-Washelli applied for a military, upright marble headstone for Arthur. It was approved, shipped, and installed amongst his fellow veterans, as shown in the accompanying photos. Why does the inscription reference the state of Idaho? It might just be a clerical error because his Company D, 109th Regiment, 28th Division was neither created nor stationed in Idaho. They’re out of Pennsylvania. Neither was Arthur born in Idaho; he was born in South Dakota. But perhaps it was simply because Arthur probably was living with his bride in Idaho when he was drafted.

The next time I sound “Taps” near the Chimes Tower in Veterans Memorial Cemetery, I’ll again stand next to Arthur F. Church, whose gravestone bears the cross above his name.

Let me express my gratitude to Mary Ann Fuller, my primary information source, and to Karen Sipe for additional information presented in this article. Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

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