In the older, southernmost section of the beautiful Powhatan Cemetery along S.R. 7 stands a modest family monument entitled “Caretti.”
Adjacent to the monument is a small 6-by-12 flat, flat stone inscribed “Lt. Lila.”
In the Powhatan Public Library, you will find a photo album entitled “Powhatan Heroes.”
It contains a photo and brief military bio of various veterans from the Powhatan area, covering from World War I to Iraq. The work has been concluded with 82 entries. The last entry in the album is a Caretti.
At the north end of the cemetery adjacent to the chapel is a memorial monument to deceased veterans. The names inscribed thereupon include:
Mike Bokulich (U.S. Navy, MIA, WWII); George Brkich (U.S. Army, NBD, WWII); Dale Bryan (U.S. Army, KIA, WWII); Lila L. Caretti (U.S. Army/U.S. Navy, NBD, WWII); Lester Caldwell (U.S. Army, KIA, WWII); Edgar Goff (U.S. Army, KIA, WWII); Garren Goudy (U.S. Army, KIA, Vietnam); Arthur Holyoke (U.S. Merchant Marine, KIA, WWII); John Matesick (U.S. Army, KIA, WWII); Pasquale E. Pintus (U.S. Army, KIA, WWII); Emerson Ramsey (U.S. Army, KIA, WWII); Michael Saner (U.S. Army, KIA, WWI); John Wiesman (U.S. Army, NBD, WWII).
The notations are the result of research of family, government and cemetery records.
Eileen Dunfee, secretary of the Powhatan Cemetery Association, was kind enough to give me grave locations for certain names, for which I had been unable to find any information.
One name in particular drew my attention, Caretti.
Locating the plot, there is a family monument; one with the name of Ronald Caretti, the other notation, merely Lt. Lila. Nearby is a small 6-by-12 flat marble marker with the simple inscription, “Lt. Lila, 1923-1950.”
Back in 1950, although the government had allocated funding for military grave markers for each and every veteran, a convenient policy had been adopted to save the government spending those funds by declaring if a family marker existed, the government would not furnish a military one.
No military marker was placed at the gravesite of Lt. Lila. That policy was amended in 1990 and the family may now get a formal government marker, if desired. They have been furnished with the VA 40-1330 Form for that purpose, if they wish to pursue one. Mary Caretti tells me they will pursue the marker for Lt. Lila.
One of the local news supplements carried an event featuring a family by the name of Caretti. I called a lady who lived nearby where the family was formerly located back in 1950 and she filled me in on some of the details.
In the phone book, I was able to locate her brother Delmas Caretti and immediately made an appointment to meet with the family and get further details about Lt. Lila.
At the home, I was privileged to meet with a lovely couple, Mary and Delmas Caretti, and their son Delmas. Jr., in Centerville, Ohio.
They furnished exactly what I needed for my album, a photo of Lt. Lila in uniform, her military data and an obituary. My task for the album was finished at last.
Lt. Lila graduated from nurses training at Wheeling Hospital and enlisted in the U.S. Army Nurse Corps in 1944. At the conclusion of World War II, she was released from the Army in 1946 and applied to the U.S. Navy and appointed as an Ensign in the Navy Nurse Corps.
Assigned to the Naval Hospital in Hawthorne, Nev., she was promoted to Lt. Junior Grade. She died in an automobile accident on June 3, 1950.
But that is not the end of the story of Lt. Lila. In the process of interviewing her family, it was discovered her brother Delmas, a former Staff Sergeant, served in the U.S. Army form 1950 to 1952, including a year in Korea in a heavy weapons (mortar) company with the 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Lt. Lila had died on June 3 and Delmas was drafted in November of the same year.
Delmas furnished a photo of his duty with “B” Company, 516th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Infantry Division.
In that photo, I recognized two other graduates of former Powhatan High School, Frank Cizeski and Bill Freeman. Delmas Caretti had graduated from Bellaire. His wife, Mary, graduated from Powhatan in 1946 with Cizeski.
This was a wonderful story with which to conclude my photo album “Powhatan Heroes 2009.”
The Caretti family, a classic American family, has left a legacy of service to country in flesh and blood.
As we enter the 60th anniversary of the Korean War on June 25, 2010, perhaps there will be a story for all members of the “Forgotten War.”
For the Caretti family and many more like them, we are eternally grateful.
Edward R. Fellabaum Jr. is a 1951 graduate of Powhatan High School. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1951-1954 and is the founder, past president and current secretary of the Ohio Valley Chapter No. 70 of the Korean War Veterans.
Lt. Lila Caretti