Not many parks in Detroit named for the ladies..only a few more after this one..
BEST FRIENDS IN WARTIME
Walter Josefiak Jr. and his siblings Robert, Harry, John and Geraldine were raised as eastsiders on Fairport Street. Walter graduated from Detroit’s De LaSalle Collegiate in 1942 and enlisted in the US Marines for the WWII effort. He was assigned to Camp Lejeune, home to the War Dog Training Center in North Carolina. Here he trained as a soldier and dog handler with the Marine 3rd War Dog Platoon. Rusty, a faithful Doberman Pinscher would become his protector and best friend during his days on Guam and Iwo Jima. They shipped out for the fight in the Asiatic Campaign from Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, CA.
War dogs were used by both the Allies and the Japanese in WWII. The dogs varied by breed and were specifically trained to scout, guard, attack, carry messages, detect underground land mines and trip wires. They were an important part of the Asiatic campaign and a contributing factor to the liberation of Guam in 1944. Additionally they had their own cemetery and were assigned rank. Rusty was a Corporal.
SURVIVAL THEN RETURN FIRE
On March 22, 1945, Walter and Rusty were leading a patrol on Iwo Jima searching for snipers. Scouting about 15 feet ahead of the unit, they were first to sniff out two hidden Japanese soldiers. Josefiak shot the first soldier; his rifle then jammed and he won the fight in hand-to-hand combat with the second soldier.
A short time later, the duo continued up along a ledge to the mouth of a cave where several enemy snipers were holed up.
Josefiak began firing but was downed and wounded from return fire. Fulfilling his duty, Rusty guarded his master, staying between Josefiak and the snipers. The Japanese began to throw hand grenades; Rusty was hit full force. Seriously wounded, Rusty crawled to Josefiak’s side to protect him while grenades continued to blast around the pair. In the meantime, Marines in the unit threw a rope to Josefiak and pulled him to safety. Regardless of his wounds, Josefiak refused to be immediately evacuated and ordered others to remain under cover until the enemy soldiers were annihilated. He was later taken to a battalion hospital where he died. Lt. William Taylor, the commanding officer of the unit, noted that Corporal Rusty died as well, ‘on the scene without a whimper’.
Walter Josefiak Jr. earned the Silver Star posthumously for his assertive nature in combat and courage. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery with a full Marine military salute. The small playground honoring him is stocked with newer equipment. It is located on Grenier St. near Fairport – around the block from the Josefiak‘s childhood home. In 2014, it was adopted by volunteers and was well tended during the warm Detroit weather.
Thanks so much to the Josefiak family and John Monigold of De La Salle Collegiate for their assistance with remembering Walter’s story.
All rights reserved. Copyright Andrea Gallucci, 2015.
I meet a lot of kind and generous people when researching parks. They come in the form of people who live in the neighborhood and start talking to me; folks I meet through online databases and those who contact me because they enjoy reading this blog. I found this tiny story while randomly flipping through the card catalog at Detroit Public Library. Little did I realize it would be tied to a Detroit Park.
It was just a small clipping glued to a card. I read it and snapped the photo because I thought it was a really cool story of days gone by. A time that would never return. I could easily imagine this couple living in the woods; it felt romantic. I laughed with gratefulness 8 months later when I realized I could connect it to a playground. Continue reading “Bringard – Boulder Playground Park 37”
Taken Too Soon
“It was a shock to me when the doctors told me that I had six months to live. My first thought was of my family and then the thought flashed through my mind of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane and what he said, Thy will be done, not mine”. – Leonard Kerschke
March 1, 1957
Gentlemen – Leonard Kerschke, employed by the Department as a recreation instructor, has recently been advised by doctors that he suffering from cancer and has less than six months to live.
Mr. Kerschke, married and the father of two young children has been an efficient recreation instructor and a loyal employee and since his illness has displayed a remarkable spirit of cheerfulness in the face of overwhelming adversity.
The Department would like to recommend to your Honorable Body that the playlot located on the south side of Seven Mile Road between Chalmers and Celestine, which is the general neighborhood of his home, be named for Leonard Kerschke while he is yet alive, as a tribute to his admirable courage and spirit.
J. J. Considine
Lived and died on the eastside
Leonard was born on September 26, 1929. He was a deep eastside Detroiter. He attended the Detroit Institute of Musical Art; met his wife at Bethesda Missionary Temple; married at Immanuel Bible Church; began his career in the Detroit Parks and Recreation Dept. Shortly before Leonard passed, he began writing about his journey through cancer. His article was picked up by the Associated Press; he received nationwide response and well wishes. Leonard died on April 15, 1957 – he was 27 years old.
The small playlot bearing his name is still located on Seven Mile Road between Gratiot and Hayes Road.