by Dennis Dalman
Seven brothers and sisters, all from south St. Cloud, now have their names engraved on the Veterans Monument by Lake George because all of them served in World War II.
Recently, they visited the monument to see their names.
“I was so happy to see all our names together,” said Pearl Cordie.
The seven names are some of the nearly 1,000 names on that monument. About 300 more are scheduled to be added in the near future.
Recently, two of the sisters and one of the brothers gathered for a ham dinner at the Tom and Sandra Cordie home in Sartell. Pearl, who is 94, is the mother of Tom Cordie, an only child and the son of Pearl and the late Edward Cordie.
Also at the dinner were Bernice Dillon, 91, White Bear Lake; and Dale Schlagheck, 89, St. Cloud.
Those three are the only ones of the seven who are still living.
After dinner, the three of them, the Cordies and three other guests gathered in the living room and talked about their service to their country in those long-ago days of World War II.
Despite their advanced age, the three look remarkably young, with minds as sharp as tacks, their keen memories recapturing the past in vivid images.
Pearl, nee Schlagheck, still lives in her childhood home, not too far from South Junior High School. It is near what used to be locally famous as the “canning factory” or “pickle factory,” which was owned by the parents of Byron Barr, who went on to Hollywood fame as the Oscar-winning actor Gig Young. One of the oldest Schlagheck brothers, Emil, used to pick peas and work with Barr when he was one of the young bosses at the canning factory, a large glass-windowed building right across the alley from the Schlaghecks. The factory shut down for a time, but during the war it reopened to can peas and carrots as part of the war effort. Dale Schlagheck started working there when he was 16. Not too long after, he was away at the big war. When he returned home after the war, he was stunned to hear “explosions” from the canning factory. The place had become a factory where puffed-wheat cereal was made.
“They would literally explode the wheat kernels, and that’s how they got puffed up,” Dale noted. “It was the darndest thing. Made the loudest sounds.”
Times were tough in the Great Depression of the 1930s for the Schlaghecks and for so many others in the nation.
“We had a garden,” Bernice said. “And Dad was handy with an axe, so he would cut wood and people would pay him for it or give him something else for it. The barter system. We all worked together, our family, and we got along. That’s what helped us more than anything to get through hard times. We worked hard, and we liked one another.”
All of the siblings attended St. Cloud Tech High School, which was relatively new and wasn’t far from their home.
The Schlaghecks didn’t all get together and make some kind of patriotic decision to all join this or that branch of military service. It just sort of happened. The boys knew they would be drafted so they figured they might as well enlist. Ward was the first son to join the U.S. Army.
“He didn’t want to go into the Navy because he didn’t want to get his feet wet,” his brother, Dale recalled.
Orville, who just passed on last March, joined the U.S. Navy at age 17. Then Dale joined the Navy, as did Allen. Later, Pearl, Ward and Emil joined the U.S. Army (Pearl as a WAC), and Bernice joined the U.S. Marines as a WAVE. The other son, Omer, was mentally challenged and disabled since he was a young man.
The seven brothers and sisters served in a variety of places: Bernice as an aircraft mechanic in Cherry Hill, N.C., Pearl as a code typist in the Philippines, Allen on a destroyer in the South Pacific, Dale on the famous destroyer USS Converse, Emil in England, Ward in the Pacific, Orville at the Great Lakes Naval station. They all served in other places in between.
They still marvel at some of the coincidences that happened during their service. For example, Allen and Dale, both serving on destroyers, were stunned to meet each other at a ship rendezvous at sea near the Philippines. Then again, quite by chance, they met again near Okinawa. It was extremely dangerous work, with Japanese kamikaze suicide pilots constantly threatening the ships and with the ships having to ride out typhoons a couple of times.
Another coincidence happened when Ward Schlangheck, while in the Philippines, met a guy named Bill Dillon while Dillon was a mechanic working on a Jeep. Later, much later, stateside, after the war, Bernice Schlangheck met a man named Bill Dillon and the two married. At the wedding, Bernice’s brother Ward just about fell off his feet when he came face to face with his brother-in-law.
“I know you!” they both said, stunned. And sure enough, wonder of wonders, they had met during the war in the Philippines.
The Schlanghecks earned a dozen bronze stars for their service among imminent dangers. Dale, for example, earned two for his time in the Philippines and one for his service at Okinawa. Allen was given five bronze stars. Ward earned two, one for the Philippines, one for New Guinea.
The family still thinks it’s a shame Pearl didn’t get a bronze star because the code-typing office she worked in was very close to combat.
“I could hear the bombing,” she said, laughing, “so I guess I should’ve gotten a bronze star.”
Back home, many of the brothers and sisters went off in their own directions, founding their own lives here, there and everywhere.
Bernice, for example, worked as a beautician for years in the Twin Cities area. Pearl graduated from St. Cloud Business College, then worked for the St. Cloud Credit Bureau. Dale worked for 42 years at Franklin Manufacturing in St. Cloud (now Electrolux).
Pearl has one son, Tom Cordie; Bernice has five children, and Dale has four daughters. They all have many grandchildren.
You’ll never hear the Schlanghecks talk about regrets. They are all grateful for being blessed with long, productive, happy lives. They have always been a close-knit family, and they still very much like one another, being with one another. When World War II ended, they were all glad it was finally over and happy to be back together, safe and sound, home again.