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Top story for 2007: Tyrone residents turn negative into positive by replacing stolen bayonet on doughboy statue

(Editor’s note: Today continues The Daily Herald’s annual series of top local stories for the year.)
Over the 2007 Labor Day weekend vandals removed the bayonet on Tyrone’s historic “doughboy” statue in Soldiers Park. But, being the tight-knit, caring community Tyrone is, a group of residents decided something had to be done.
A concerned Tyrone citizen, Dr. Jason Henninger, continually noticed the bayonet was missing as he would drive by the park every day going to work. Henninger called Desert Storm veteran and Tyrone resident Todd Isenberg and decided that they were going to replace the stolen bayonet. The two, along with Isenberg’s brother Brooks, an Iraq War veteran, located a bayonet for the soldier always on guard in the park.
“We thought it would be something to support the community and serve the community and veterans who went out there and did their bid to protect and serve us,” said Henninger.
“It was a chance to give back.”
The Isenberg’s shared the same sentiments, both being veterans and understanding of what the statue represents.
“It’s just something we wanted to do for the community,” said Brooks. “It was a shame that somebody took it and we wanted to show our gratitude back to the community for our service,” said Brooks.
The history behind the statue is worth the attention itself. On May 30, 1921, the Tyrone Division of the Pennsylvania Railroad dedicated a memorial stone at the railroad depot on South Pennsylvania Avenue to honor its Tyrone servicemen who had served in WW I.
Charles H. Cassidy Sr., of Tyrone, posed for the statue, known to many as the “doughboy” statue because American infantrymen in WW I were referred to as doughboys.
Cassidy’s daughter, Ardis C. Rhodes and his son, Charles C. Cassidy were on hand for the presentation of the new bayonet. A step-daughter, Margaret Paterson couldn’t attend. They were very thankful the town took the time to honor their father and replace the bayonet, and Ardis explained how her father became immortalized.
“It started with the Sheridan Troop way, way back when they used the Armory and the horses, and a lady lived in a house between the Legion and the next house; she saw them riding down to the Armory and she picked dad out to pose – that’s as much as we know,” said Ardis.
She added, “He took the time to pose for this and it represents all the fellas and gals that went into the services, and I’m real proud of them.”
Charles stated, “It’s just upsetting that someone climbed up on it to take the bayonet off.”
After WW II, the statue and plaque were moved to Soldiers Park. The big stone, too heavy to move over the Pennsylvania Avenue bridge across the Little Juniata River, has become part of the Tyrone Rail Park.
A new stone was made from rock taken from nearby Dry Run by Jim Kilmartin, great uncle of Tyrone Mayor Jim Kilmartin, and the dirt around the new monument came from each of the 14 local cemeteries where Tyrone service people are buried.
Kilmartin said that it’s a very negative thing for someone to do by stealing the bayonet from the statue, but it also brings awareness to the good and what the statue represents.
“Sometimes you walk through this park or drive by and you don’t even notice the statue, you just become accustomed to it; this brings awareness to it – it was a negative thing, but from that, there’s a real positive thing to come out of it, so I’m very pleased and thankful for the fellas who came along to donate the bayonet and the different individuals who are helping to restore the soldier to its original form,” stated Kilmartin.
Not only was the bayonet restored, Jim and Matt Ray of Ray’s Burial Vault re-bronzed the statue. They lifted it off to work on it and put the bayonet on to make it extremely permanent.
The interesting part of the Ray’s duty was that the last time the doughboy statue was bronzed, their father, Jim Ray Sr., bronzed it in the 1960’s. Jim said the statue then had 11 coats of paint on it and his father had to sandblast it to get all the paint off before bronzing it.
Jim also stated that the original bayonet was volunteered by a Ray’s Burial Vault employee back in the 1960’s named Veryle Diehl, who happened to have a bayonet at his house.
Tyrone’s historic doughboy statue now looks like new and so many people were involved in making it happen. Borough council member Bill Fink helped organize the restoration, along with the men who donated the bayonet, Jim and Matt Ray’s work and Richard Searer, who helped fund the project.
Searer said it wasn’t important how he helped, but it was important that this recognition continues to be a part of the community, and hopefully what it would mean is that for folks yet to come, it will be meaningful to them to know that this memorial exists to honor, particularly WW I and more appropriately, all of the service persons from the Tyrone community who have served so valiantly over the years.
Also on hand for the ceremony were Roger Couch, VFW Commander and Sam Wheland, American Legion Commander. Both were there to represent their respected places and show their support for restoring the statue and seeing through a negative event into a positive one.
The historic doughboy statue was up and shining like new for the Veterans Day ceremonies.