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Patriotic persistance pays off

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The Ann Arbor News

Monday, May 26,1980

Page 3

Patriotic persistance pays off

By William B. Treml


Anna Markey won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

And as a result, a new American flag will be flying from the pole at the front of St. Thomas Cemetery on Sunset Road by Memorial Day.

A long-time Ann Arbor resident, Mrs. Markey has been active in war veterans’ organizations for more than a half-century. Through those activities she has been a frequent visitor to the St. Thomas Cemetery to tend the graves of veterans.

ON A RECENT visit she noticed the pole at a monument for veterans had neither rope nor flag on it. Upon inquiry she was told the flag had been stolen. There were no immediate plans to replace it.

“Well I couldn’t take that, what with Memorial Day coming up and all,’’ she said. " So I just started calling people.”

The calls paid off: a veterans’ organization representative promised Mrs. Markey that a new rope and flag would be in place at the cemetery in time for Memorial Day services.

But the flag pole incident isn’t the first time Mrs. Markey has started things moving; Mrs. Winifred Rodriguez says the sprightly octogenarian was responsible for reviving Memorial Day services at the cemetery when it appeared the annual programs were to be abandoned.

“She’s a marvel. She gets people to do things,” Mrs. Rodriguez says.

Members Of the Erwin Prieskorn American Legion Post No. 46 and the Graf-O’Hara Veterans of Foreign Wars post have a warm regard for Mrs. Markey because of her many years of work with the auxiliary units of both organizations. A Gold Star Mother and widow of a decorated veteran of World War I, she has been an indefatigable volunteer for projects involving veterans.

AGAIN this year, through her efforts,the St. Francis Catholic Church’s Boy Scout troop will place flags on the graves of veterans at the St. Thomas Cemetery.

Despite her decades of work, she passes her efforts off with a wave of the hand:“ No, no. I haven’t done anything more than a lot of people. Probably not as much as many. But we should honor our veterans. We owe them a debt. We shouldn’t forget that."

Both Mrs. Markey’s husband, Frank B. Markey, and her son, Patrick, are buried in St. Thomas Cemetery. The senior Markey, an Ann Arbor native, was a decorated combat veteran of World War I. He fought with the 32nd (Red Arrow) Division at both Chateau Thierry and the Argonne Forest. He was wounded during the latter engagement and spent months in a hospital in France. He was active with the Graf-O’Hara VFW post here and was past commander of the local unit of the Disabled American Veterans. He died in 1965, five years after retiring from a 33-year career as a chemical engineer for the State Highway Department.

PATRICK Markey was 17 when he was killed in the 1945 Marine Corps assault on Iwo Jima. A star athlete at the former St. Thomas High School, young Markey was a friend of Mrs. Rodriguez’s husband, Joe, when both were students at the school. The two schoolmates entered the Marine Corps together and, although in different units, met several times in Hawaii while training for the Iwo Jima invasion.

Rodriguez’s 26th Marines was sent into the island fortress to relieve Markey’s 27th Regiment. During a brief lull in the fierce fighting, Rodriguez searched out the 27th to look up Markey. The Ann Arbor youth had been killed three hours before Rodriguez reached his unit.

Rodriguez, a veteran high school wrestling coach whose son, Pete, was a state champion wrestler at St. Thomas, still recalls a conversation he had with Pat Markey before they both entered the Marine Corps.

“I asked Pat if he wasn’t a little scared and he said, ‘No, my dad told me the greatest thing a man can do is give his life for his country and his friends.’ The day I found out he’d been killed I remembered that,” Rodriguez says.

THE Rodriguez and Markey families have remained close to this day.

Rodriguez was a battle comrade of the Marines who were photographed raising the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima. He was in an earlier picture taken by Associated Press Photographer Joe Rosenthal on Suribachi moments before the famous picture was snapped.

Mrs. Markey says it is people like Joe and Winifred Rodriguez who will help carry on the tradition of honoring America’s war dead, not only on Memorial Day but throughout the year. She says it is a labor of love which should never be forgotten.

VETERANS' TRIBUTE: Mrs. Winifred Rodriguez, left, points out to Mrs. Anna Markey, a Gold Star mother, the decorations at the monument to war veterans at the St. Thomas Cemetery on Sunset Road. For more than 30 years Mrs. Markey headed an informal committee which placed flags on the graves of veterans each Memorial Day and conducted services there.