Brothers in arms

Brothers in arms

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ARCOLA — The Ghere boys of Arcola — seven of whom served their country simultaneously during World War II — will get some long-deserved recognition this Sunday.

Illinois 133, the east-west highway that bisects Arcola and Douglas County, will officially be designated the "Ghere Brothers Memorial Highway" in a ceremony at 1 p.m. at the Arcola fire station at 117 W. Main St.

"It's long overdue," said Ron Ghere of Mattoon, whose father, Harry, was the third of the Ghere brothers to enlist following the United States' entry in the war.

"I think it's amazing, seven brothers, all of them off to war together," said Ron Ghere. "There was a period there when they were all there. Jim, the youngest, he was still in high school at the beginning of the war. He joined later on."

Only Bobby Ghere, the fifth of the boys to join the military, perished in the war. In the last months of fighting in the European theater, he was killed in Germany on March 3, 1945. He was 31 years old and left behind a wife and an 11-month-old son, Danny, whom he had never seen.

"He shipped out of New York Harbor for Europe on the day I was born," said Dan Ghere, 71, who lives in Springfield and will be at Sunday's ceremony. "That's what makes this really special for me, although it's special for the whole family."

Although the story of the Ghere brothers was known among many of the older residents of Douglas County, it wasn't common knowledge among younger generations until Sue Stout, a longtime Arcola resident, wrote a freelance story about the family for the Arcola Record-Herald in 2013.

"A generation or two ago knew this story but I'm not sure that the younger generation knows the story," said Stout. "Through the years, particularly during the war, there were newspaper articles about at least six of the brothers serving at the same time, with their photographs and everything.

"And maybe through the years there was some recognition, but not so much in recent years. And all of the brothers are gone now, so this is kind of for this younger generation"

The local VFW post is named in part for Bobby Ghere. It's Ghere-Pullen-Reinheimer Post 7862. And Bobby, who played football and basketball and ran track at Arcola High School and was co-captain of the football team, was named last year to the Arcola Alumni Hall of Fame. Russ or "Fudgie" Ghere also was a star athlete at Arcola and is on the alumni hall of fame. The football field at Villa Grove High School is named for him, but not because of his war service. He coached several sports at Villa Grove from 1958 to 1984.

Beyond that, there are no memorials or monuments to the extraordinary sons of Roy and Lillie Ghere, both of whom had died young, Roy in 1934 and Lillie in 1944. Together they had 17 children, one of whom died in infancy and another who died at the age of 14.

"I think it's important for younger generations to know about the family," said Stout. "They have a wonderful story and I wanted to share that."

She said she knew five of the seven brothers and was particularly close to Jim Ghere and his wife Elsie. Jim died in 1990. Elsie is the only spouse of the seven boys still alive; she is expected to attend Sunday's ceremony.

"I'm very excited about the event Sunday," Stout said. "Doctor (Robert) Arrol (her old employer in Arcola) contacted me months ago to see what I thought about it and I thought it would be a wonderful idea, and I know that he was contacting (state Sen.) Chapin Rose about it. Then I didn't hear anything about it for several months and I wondered whether nothing else had been done. I was afraid that maybe it wouldn't happen. But then I heard from Dr. Arrol that it would happen on Nov. 8. Time-wise it works very well with Veterans Day coming up."

Rose this year sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 9, which recognizes the Ghere brothers and gives the state highway the honorary designation.

"Doc Arrol contacted me about this and I said, 'Well, what does everyone else think about this in Arcola? There are a lot of people who have given a lot,'" recounted Rose. "And Doc got me letters from the VFW and the (American) Legion in Arcola, and off we went. This is neat. I'm looking forward to Sunday. These folks definitely deserve the honor."

Dan Ghere, the only son of Bobby Ghere, said family members "are just overwhelmed with the thoughts and appreciation. We had no idea that anyone was talking about it until the resolution was passed."

He said it's hard to tell how many Ghere family members will be there Sunday.

"There's still a fairly large number in Douglas County but a lot of us are spread out now. I'm in Springfield. There are some north of Peoria in Chillicothe and that big group will be there. My group in Springfield is going to be over," he said. "I think there will be a sizeable attendance, and it sounds like there will be a lot from the community there too."

Donnie Ghere

born 1918

enlisted 1942

served with the Navy in the Pacific

discharged 1945

died 2005

George Ghere

born 1916

enlisted 1942

served with the Army in North Africa and Europe

discharged 1945

died 1998

Harry Ghere

born 1921

enlisted 1942

served with the Army in the Pacific

discharged 1945

died 2013

Russell "Fudgie" Ghere

born 1925

enlisted 1943

served with the Army Air Corps in the Pacific

discharged 1946

died 1999

Bobby Ghere

born 1923

enlisted 1943

served with the Army in Europe

killed in action in Germany, March 3, 1945

John Ghere

born 1907

enlisted 1943

served with the Army in the Pacific

discharged 1945

died 1986

Jim Ghere

born 1926

enlisted 1945 before completing high school

served with the Army in the Pacific

discharged 1946

died 1990


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TheMom wrote on November 05, 2015 at 7:11 am

Awesome Story!

Thanks Tom!