Ringgold County

Glee Elton Spencer

Gravemarker Photo


Snapshots of History
by Mike Avitt

A military funeral service as seen
from the bell tower of the old Christian Church.

Sherry Sheil brought this photo in to me last week, but she didn't have any information with it.

Fortunately, I found enough clues in the picture to make what I believe is an accurate identification.

It's easy to discern that this is a military funeral procession because two caskets are draped in American flags and are making their way to Rose Hill Cemetery. But are these causulties from World War II or Korea?

The first clue I got was from the street light in front of the Mount Ayr Public Library. These lampposts were replaced with incandescent street lights in the winter of 1949-50. So then I knew these burials were from World War II.

The next clue came when I scanned the photo at 1200 dots per inch on my HP Photosmart 7510. I could see Freeland's Department Store on the east side of the square. Freeland's occupied this location from the summer of 1948 to the summer of 1949. The lack of leaves on the trees and the apparel of the funeral attendants suggested autumn.

I don't always guess right, but this time I did.

The Mount Ayr Record-News of November 4, 1948 reports on the burials of brothers Glee and Doyle Spencer.

Glee Elton Spencer was born to Henry and Dora Spencer on October 28, 1921. He left for Europe on February 3, 1944 and was killed in action at the Battle of the Bulge in Luxombourg on December 23, 1944. He was buried in Lorraine, France until his body was returned to the U. S.

Doyle Elvin Spencer was born near Mount Ayr on May 16, 1924 and left for Europe in April of 1944. He died on February 9, 1945 in Germany and was buried in Belgium.
The brothers were later brought to the United States and buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Mount Ayr on October 27, 1948.

The newspaper article said the funeral procession consisted of a jeep pulling two caskets on a trailer with the pallbearers walking along beside. Mount Ayr American Legion Post 172 had their honor guard following the jeep and trailer.

I found some information about Private First Class Ivan W. Mickael and how his body was returned from the Philippines. Mickael was killed in action October 25,1944 and was buried in USAF Cemetery No. 1 or 2 in Manilla along with 3,500 other U. S. military personel.

His body was exhumed and brought back to the states on the U.S. Army Transport Sergeant Crain. The body was brought by train to the American Graves Registration Distribution Center in Kansas City, Missouri before being taken to Diagonal on the Chicago Great Western Railway.
I assume the Spencer brothers' bodies were returned in a similar fashion.

Source: Mount Ayr Record News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 20, 2012


Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Mike Avitt in his "Snapshots of History" column in the December 20 issue of the Record-News answered a question that had remained an unsolved puzzle to me for over 13 years. This particular column was primarily solving the puzzle of an old picture of a military funeral in Mount Ayr, which Mike was able to deduce as being that of two World War II soldier brothers, Glee and Doyle Spencer, whose bodies had been brought back from burial places in Europe to be buried at Rose Hill Cemetary in Mount Ayr.

However, it was the concluding part of his article about Ivan W. Mickael that solved my own puzzle.

In 1999 while I was serving as president of the Ringgold County Historical Society, someone asked if I had or could find information on World War II soldier Ivan W. Mickael. I set about doing research, composed a biographical sketch that Ivan had a burial marker next to that of his parents (Leroy and Lizzie Mickael) in Rose Hill Cemetery in Mount Ayr.

But I could never feel certain in my own mind whether his earthly remains were buried in Mount Ayr or on foreign soil.
Ivan had been killed in the bloody battle to capture the island of Peleliu, 500 miles east of the Philippines, from the Japanese.

Mike Avitt in his research found that Ivan Mickael had been buried in a US military cemetery in Manila, Philippines. And that Ivan's body had been exumed and brought back to the states through military agencies and finally back to his native Ringgold county.

It is strange how unanswered questions and mysteries about any number of things sometimes receive an answer unexpectedly years afterwards.
~Raymond V. Banner, Creston

Source: Mount Ayr Record News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Spencer Brothers' Funeral Procession, October 27, 1948

Photographs courtesy of Donald "Jake" Dailey