In Community

Celebrating Our Greatest Generation

Beacon Hill World War II veterans will be honored along with other veterans throughout West Michigan during a two-day celebration of the Greatest Generation, hosted by the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum on Tuesday, September 1 and Wednesday, September 2. The celebration commemorates the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II.

These virtual events will be streamed in our Community Room and Auditorium on both days. They can also be viewed at home on the Gerald R. Ford Facebook page via Facebook LIVE on Tuesday at 6:45 PM with an “In Memoriam Remembrance and Bell Ringing.” Guest speaker will be Jim DeFelice, co-author of “American Sniper” and “Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day.”

The second virtual Facebook LIVE event will take place the following day — Wednesday, September 2, at 6:00 PM with a “B-17 Armed Services Fly Over” along the Grand River. At 6:45 PM guest speaker will be Chris Wallace, author of “Countdown 1945.”

You can also celebrate the Greatest Generation by watching the B17, C47, and B25 Flyover! The planes are set to run along the Grand River near downtown Grand Rapids at 6:00 PM. They will do three passes while in Grand Rapids. The planes will travel to Grand Rapids from the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Michigan. Watch them fly over the Grand River, Downtown Grand Rapids Wednesday, September 2, 2020, at 6:00 PM

It was on September 2, 1945, that the Proclamation Signing of the Declaration was completed, aboard the U.S. Navy battleship the USS Missouri, bringing an end to World War II.  As Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur signed the proclamation he declared, “It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past.”

As part of the commemoration of the end of World War II and the honoring of those who served in that war, large photo boards displaying each veteran’s story will be created and used as a “stand-in” in place and in honor of each living WWII veteran. The photo display entitled “Their Stories Told” will be shown at various Senior Community Centers throughout the greater Grand Rapids area after the celebration.


The six World War II veterans from Beacon Hill are:

  • Etcyl Blair (picture 1)
    • US Signal Corp & Military Police
    • Technologist at Ft. Detrick; Frederick, Maryland
    • 1944 – 1946
  • Eileen Dechow (picture 2)
    • US Cadet Nurse Core
    • Women’s & Children’s Hospital; Chicago, Illinois
    • 1945 – 1948
  • Emiel Kempf (picture 3)
    • US Navy
    • Seaman First Class; Philippines
    • 1944 – 1945
  • Irene Murray (picture 4)
    • US Army
    • 1st Army Nurse; Casablanca, Morocco & Rome, Italy
    • 1942 – 1945
  • John O’Bryant (picture 5)
    • US Army
    • Corporal, Construction Foreman; Tokyo, Japan
    • 1946 – 1947
  • Charles Reinhart (picture 6)
    • US Navy
    • Yeoman 2nd Class, Bainbridge Island, Washington
    • 1943 – 1946


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