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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — After 76 years, Jerome Schwartz has finally come home.
The Colfax native was killed during World War II in France on June 21, 1944, at the age of 24.
Last month, his only daughter, who was 10 and a half months old when he died and was born in Colfax, arranged for Jerome to be brought from a cemetery in Springville, Iowa, to be interred at Colfax Evergreen Cemetery where he is buried next to his parents, Barbara and Joseph Schwartz, a sister and his twin brother.
Jerome’s little sister, Gladys Tandberg, who just turned 90, said she appreciates having her brother here in his final resting place next to their folks, their sister and his brother, Frank.
“Those two were like peas in a pod. They were always up to lots of tricks. They could think of everything in the world to scare you,” Gladys recalled with a laugh.
Gladys was 13 years old when her brother was killed.
She remembers that he liked to tell jokes, had lots of friends and “got into lots of mischief.”
She remembers, too, the day George Hilson, who worked at the train depot in Colfax, came to their house in Colfax, at the corner of Maple Street and River Street, to deliver the telegram bringing the news that Jerome had been killed in the war.
“My mother knew right away as soon as she saw George Hilson. She always said that was the wicked part of the war,” Gladys said.
Her mother came in the house, carrying the telegram and crying. She went upstairs, “and I could hear her crying and praying,” Gladys recalled.
Jerome Schwartz was buried in the United States military cemetery located 20 miles southeast of Cherbourg, France.
He was survived by his wife, Ardis, his parents, nine sisters, three brothers and his infant daughter.
Jerome enlisted in the Army in 1941. He entered battle on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and was killed June 21, 1944, between Cherbourg and La Harve, France. He was a sniper on a mission and received a Purple Heart.
His daughter, Sharon Milburn, has the Purple Heart in her possession.
Throughout the war, Gladys said, her folks would spread out a map on the kitchen table so they could follow the war and follow where Jerome would have been.
Throughout the war, whenever he came home on furlough, Jerome had a friend with him, Gladys said.
Jerome and his friend had a pact, that if something happened to either one of them, the other would tell their folks about what happened. But when Jerome died, his friend never had the nerve to talk to Jerome’s family, she said.
Years later, after Gladys and her husband, Don Tandberg, were married and were living on their farm, they got new neighbors, a man named Harry Shay and his wife.
One day, Gladys and Don went to visit their new neighbors, and Don noticed a picture on the wall, the same picture that he and Gladys owned, a picture from the Army with soldiers during World War II, one of whom was Jerome Schwartz, Gladys’s big brother.
“My husband was looking at the picture and said we had one just like it and asked if he knew Jerome Schwartz,” Gladys said.
“Harry said Jerome was his best friend through the war. So my husband asked if he knew he was standing right next to Jerome’s sister. Harry almost fell over. They were great friends,” she said.
And after all those years, Gladys finally found out more, too, about how her brother had died.
If Jerome had stayed a private in the Army and had not pursued a promotion to sergeant, he most likely would have made it home, she said.
They were all in a foxhole, and the sergeant was sent out to check on a bridge. If he did not come back, they would know there were enemy soldiers by the bridge. Jerome did not come back, Gladys said.
Jerome’s wife, Ardis, stayed with Gladys and her family while she was pregnant with Sharon. After Jerome died, Ardis went back to Iowa where she eventually remarried, Gladys said.
Sharon’s mother, Ardis, met Jerome in Colfax.
“Her step-father was a dairy farm manager in Wisconsin and in Iowa, and he was managing a farm just outside Colfax,” Sharon said.
“Jerome was a hired hand on the farm, and my mother was expected to help with chores on the farm, and that’s where she met him,” she said.
After Jerome was in the service, they were married in Georgia, and while Jerome was in the service, Ardis spent some of her time in Colfax and some of her time in Springville, Iowa, with her family, Sharon said.
After Jerome died, Ardis moved back to Iowa with Sharon.
When the war had ended, “the war department sent a letter to my mom saying they would pay to have Jerome’s body brought back from France. So my mother had him brought back to Iowa where we were,” Sharon said.
Jerome Schwartz, after a funeral service at a church in Springville, was buried in the local cemetery. At the time, Sharon was five years and five months old.
Over the years, Sharon said she and her family, which included two half-sisters, would tend to Jerome’s grave at the cemetery in Springville.
After graduating from high school, Sharon moved away from Springville, got married, and knew she would never live in Springville again.
Today she lives in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I’m in my 70s now, and I think more about things like that. I’ve always thought it was not right that Jerome was in Iowa. He should be in Wisconsin with his family,” Sharon said.
Not that there was no one in Springville to care for his grave because Sharon’s two sisters continued to visit the cemetery. But still.
“He should be where he has family. He should be where people know his name,” Sharon said.
After thinking about it some more, Sharon contacted her Aunt Gladys to find out how Gladys would feel about moving Jerome to Colfax.
Gladys was receptive to the idea, so Sharon found out more information about what she needed to do to move Jerome.
“When I got serious about it, everything fell into place. It seemed liked the right thing to do,” Sharon said.
In order to move a body, for one thing, Sharon had to work with two funeral directors, one licensed in Iowa and one licensed in Wisconsin.
As it turns out, one of Sharon’s sisters works for a funeral home, so Sharon asked her if the funeral director where her sister worked could give her any advice.
The funeral director where Sharon’s sister works just happens to be licensed in both Iowa and Wisconsin.
“Every piece of the puzzle fell into place,” Sharon said.
When it came time to decide where Jerome would be buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Gladys noted the Tandberg family had eight lots available, so “there was plenty of room.”
Tony Braaten, the caretaker at Evergreen Cemetery and one of Gladys’s nephews, knew there was still room available next to Gladys’s parents, sister and brother.
“I wanted Jerome to be in a place where he is known. Where people know his name,” Sharon said.
“I felt like I was the last one who could do anything about it,” she said.
When she found out Jerome could be buried next to his parents, a sister, and his twin brother, Frank, Sharon said she got goosebumps.
“Colfax is home for him. Springville was not his home,” she said.
“I want people to know his name. I’m glad he is buried next to a sister, his twin brother and his parents. He has one sibling still living, Gladys, and I wanted her to know about it,” Sharon said.
Over the years, Sharon said she had visited Gladys in Colfax and felt she knew her Aunt Gladys the best of her Colfax family because Gladys was the youngest.
“At the end, at the cemetery, after Jerome was buried, Gladys turned to me and said, ‘Thank you for bringing Jerome home,’” Sharon said.
According to the Springville newspaper that carried Jerome’s obituary, “Sgt. Schwartz entered service November 23, 1941, and had been overseas since last March. He was with the first American troops to storm the Normandy coast on invasion day. Although his home was Colfax, Wis., he was well known in Springville and vicinity.”
Gladys said that as a young teen, Jerome’s death left an impression on her and that she had never really gotten over it.
“It was amazing. The casket was beautiful,” Gladys said.