The names behind Lisle's Veterans Memorial
The new Lisle Veterans Memorial reflects the respect and allegiance the community has for our veterans.
At the memorial's dedication ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at the corner of School Street and Center Avenue in downtown, visitors will be able to view, for the first time, the engraved pavers that honor past and present military men and women.
Each inscribed name is that of an individual who serves or helped defend our country and protect peace. Some paid the ultimate sacrifice, others gave both their time and energy to serve our country. Behind each brief inscription, there is a story. Here are some of those narratives:
Lisle native Alicia Craven honors her 94-year-old father with an engraved brick. "My father, a World War II veteran, took part in Operation Varsity as a 1st Lt. Army Air Corp."
In early 1945, Frederick Fellendorf, Craven's father, commanded a glider as it slipped into Germany as part of Operation Varsity as the Allies pressed east after stopping the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge. Gen. Eisenhower described Operation Varsity as the "most successful airborne operation carried out to date," according to military history writer Kennedy Hickman.
Following Fellendorf's years of service, he moved his family to Lisle when he accepted a promotion and transfer with General Electric. Family members never regretted that decision and continue to live in Lisle today.
Col. Brett Nila served a total of 30 years in the Army, National Guard and Reserves. He was deployed in the Kosovo Campaign in 2000, where he was chief of staff of the theater logistics base Camp Able Sentry. Then, in 2007, he was deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom as the commander of the 640th Sustainment Brigade.
Col. Nila retired in 2009, and served as the VFW Ross Bishop Post 5696 commander in Lisle for four years and resumed that position again this year.
Adam Gleason, an Air Force senior airman, is the 24-year-old son of longtime Lisle residents David and Daphanee Gleason. He is serving four years in the service, having been stationed at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, United Kingdom, and now at Hurlburt Air Force Base in Florida as an engineering technician.
Gleason is the youngest of three sons. A native of Lisle, he attended Lisle schools from preschool to his graduation from Lisle Senior High, where he was captain of both the school's soccer team and wrestling teams.
After attending college in Iowa, Gleason decided to join the Air Force because he wanted to serve his country. He says that was the best decision he ever made.
"We are so proud of Adam since our sons are first-generation Americans," said his mother, Daphanee Gleason. The family has lived in Lisle for 27 years. Both father and mother serve on the Lisle Veterans Memorial committee.
James O'Toole and Patrick O'Toole:
The Bradley family of Lisle purchased two bricks to honor both Rachel's and Doug Bradley's relatives. Rachel's father, Sgt. James O'Toole, a Woodridge resident, also purchased a brick to honor his brother, Lance Cpl. Patrick O'Toole.
"The Marine Corps was strong in my dad's family," Rachel said. "We are all very honored and proud of this lineage in our family."
James O'Toole, from New Jersey, enlisted right after high school in 1969 and was stationed in Chicago, where he met his future wife. After his tour of duty in Vietnam, the couple married and raised their three children in Lisle.
Doug Bradley's relatives include Cpl. Harold Hauser; Sgt. Fred Hauser; Pvt. Ed Hauser, who received a Purple Heart; Pfc. Elroy Hauser, who was a POW; and Pfc. George Hauser, who served in the Army quartermaster corps.
"We are very proud of them and all those men and women who selflessly gave of their lives in service to our country," said Doug Bradley.
Jeffrey C. Bland, John A. Cook, Sr., Timothy W. Cook, John A. Cook, Jr., Timothy J. Cook, Bernard Houdek:
It was an extended family effort to honor six members of the Cook -Wilmoth families with bricks. Those honored include Lisle residents John A. Cook, Sr., his brother Timothy W. Cook and brother-in-law Sgt. Bernard Houdek, who all served in World War II. John A. Cook, Jr., was a specialist 4th class who served in Vietnam, and Cousin Timothy J. Cook served in Germany. Another family member was Marine Corps Maj. Jeffrey C. Bland, who was killed in a 2011 training accident.
Lisle resident Janet Wilmoth said her dad, John Sr., was very patriotic and talked about his time as a tech sergeant in the Philippines and Okinawa.
"Dad was active in the Lisle VFW Post 5696 and served as commander for a number of years. He helped organize the first VFW color guard," she said. "Later, he volunteered with the Lisle Fire Department for about 30 years.
"I fondly remember how he got us kids to clean our rooms and make our beds for inspection," Wilmoth said. "He'd check how tight the covers were tucked in, and no hiding stuff under the beds."
Jorge L. Ortiz-Remigio:
Angie and Jorge Ortiz-Remigio, who both volunteer on the steering committee for the Lisle Veterans Memorial, and their family purchased a brick to honor their son, Marine Cpl. Jorge L. Ortiz-Remigio.
"Our son was impacted by the 9/11 attacks in New York," Angie said. "He decided that one day he would be in the military because he did not want that kind of tragedy to reoccur in our country."
Although Jorge was only 7 and in first grade when the attacks took place, they made a lifelong impression on the young boy. When he and his family of six moved to Lisle when Jorge was in eighth grade, he had a hard time adjusting. When he graduated from Lisle Senior High School, he asked his mother to sign papers so he could go into the military even though he was not yet 18.
Jorge excelled in the service, and his mother said he realized he could excel at anything when he applied himself. He became a squad leader.
"When we first went to see Jorge at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in California, he told us that he knows he wants to excel and knows he can be the best he can be."
Now that his enlistment is completed, Jorge is in college studying coding technology.
Ryan Daniel Burris:
Petty Officer 2nd Class Electronics Technician Ryan Burris was a giving and generous person who naturally looked out for others. His parents, Karen and Dan Burris, say they are proud of his accomplishments as he attended Lisle public schools from kindergarten through high school.
In high school, Ryan was a three-sport athlete in football, wrestling and track and field. He also completed Life Scout as a member of two Boy Scout troops.
"Ryan aspired to joining the Navy and once there he thrived and grew into a very happy, wonderful man," his mother, Karen Burris, said.
Then tragedy struck and two weeks shy of his 24th birthday, Ryan's life ended. The petty officer second class, died in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, from injuries in a noncombat incident in Zayed Military City, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
His parents serve on the committee that spearheaded the new Lisle Veterans Memorial. Ryan will always be their "gentle giant," their "Ferdinand the Bull."
Kendra Smith graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2014 as a commissioned officer.
The daughter of Lisle residents Carlene and David Smith always knew she wanted to give something back. She attended Lisle schools from kindergarten through ninth grade. She then graduated from Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in 2010. Growing up, she was very involved in music, sports, Girl Scouts and her church. She frequently sang the national anthem at school events.
It was the humanitarian mission of the Coast Guard that won Kendra over.
"I liked the idea that the Coast Guard goes out every day to save lives and keep everyone who ventures onto the water safe," Smith said. "It was its humanitarian missions that spoke to me."
In her two years, Kendra served on many patrols aboard the cutter Steadfast in the Pacific Ocean as a lieutenant junior grade. She will receive a new assignment upon earning her master's degree in Ocean Engineering at Texas A&M.
Robert DeCoste and David DeCoste:
Cousins Robert and David DeCoste grew up together on the South Side of Chicago.
"Mischief was one of our many talents," Robert DeCoste said. "Those were the days, especially wedding receptions. You're much funnier when you're all dressed up."
When the cousins grew to manhood, they both entered military service. Robert was 20 and David was just 19 when he paid the ultimate sacrifice. David was killed in action in Vietnam in 1968.
"I'm grateful for being allowed to call David 'cousin.' I honor his service, and I know I will never forget David for his namesake is my son," wrote Bob DeCoste, a Lisle resident who together with his wife Pat, have three grown kids and four grandchildren.
Don Smith and Richard Wheaton:
Longtime Lisle resident Don Smith served in the Army in Vietnam for 14 months. Today he is active in the Lisle VFW Ross Bishop Post 5696. As a retired Home Depot employee, Smith was thrilled when his grant by the Home Depot Veterans Foundation was approved to assist the new Lisle Veterans Memorial. In addition to financial support, in October a large group of Home Depot employees installed bricks, bushes and sod.
Richard Wheaton, who served in the Navy in World War II, is Don Smith's father-in-law.
"My father was a quiet man who served in the Pacific on the U.S. Renville," said his daughter, Barbara Smith, who was proud to have the two bricks honor her husband and father.