The following is the first in a series relating to a special honors program celebrating World War II men and women from the greater Charlotte area. A program is appropriately scheduled for November 11, Veterans Day. Recovered after 70 years, the Roll of Honor photos celebrate more than 500 veterans from the greater Charlotte area.
“You can’t tell a story of war without faces. Faces carry history.” Stephanie Zacharek, Time Magazine, July 31, 2017.
Can you imagine finding 550 World War II veteran photographs that have been absent from public view for more than 70 years? Last fall Neil Klaiss and Rod Weaver did just that in a search of historic Charlotte photographs. Even though they were searching for photos from the early 1900s, they stumbled upon an unmarked cardboard box at the Charlotte Fire Department.
Surprisingly, the photograph collection was owned by Randy Jewell who has since donated the entire collection to the Courthouse Square Museum. Following some detective work, Art and Ralph Vomberg were credited with starting the collection. Both Art and Ralph were World War I veterans and they thought it would be patriotic to display soldier and sailor photos in downtown Charlotte shop windows. By the end of the war more than 500 photos were on display in several storefronts.
When the war ended, Bruno Spagnuolo, also a World War I veteran, who owned the Main Sweet Shop, collected all of the photographs and boxed them up. When Bruno retired, he passed the photos on to his son, Sam Spagnuolo, who stored the “box” at Bruno’s Party store. Shortly after Sam’s retirement in 1997, he sold the Bruno’s building to Randy Jewell, and gave the collection to Randy. Sometime later, Randy passed the “box” on to the Charlotte Fire Department, where it sat until being discovered in the fall of 2016.
Since being gifted to the Courthouse Square Museum, the collection has been named: World War II Roll of Honor.
Since the Roll of Honor is so important and unique, the Courthouse Square Association has decided to display the entire collection at the 1885 Courthouse after a dedication ceremony on Veterans Day, November 11, 2017. The dedication ceremony will be held at the Charlotte Performing Arts Center (CPAC). A committee of 15 individuals is organizing the dedication event and permanent display. Part of their work is to identify living World War II veterans and family members in the area so that they can be invited to the dedication ceremony. In addition to inviting veterans and family members, the public will also be invited.
As this project has moved forward, the committee has discovered that the collection found last fall is missing a significant number of photos. Art and Ralph Vomberg were unable to get all of the veteran photos between 1942-1945. You can help to supplement the collection by going to the Courthouse Square Facebook page and check the list of missing WW II Veteran Photos. Even if a WW II veteran is not listed, we’d still like their photograph. If you know any World War II veterans and a family contact, please send the information via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The family will be asked to provide a photograph for the exhibition at the Courthouse Square Museum in Charlotte.
Article submitted by the Word War II Roll of Honor committee.