May 9, 2012
by Alex McGregor
Some special visitors were welcomed to Hooper Saturday, April 28. Chuck Turbak of Mill Creek, Wash., the son of John Blair Carter, a Hooper resident who was killed in action on Omaha Beach in Normandy, came to visit the flagpole in the town central park that bears his father’s name. He was accompanied by Stephan Persyn, from Paris, France, who has been caring for John Blair Carter’s gravesite at Omaha Beach.
Stephan Persyn is a member of a society of French nationals who sign up to care for and honor the graves of fallen U.S. soldiers. He also belongs to a group that has restored World War II vehicles – he has a 5th Engineers Special Brigade jeep of the sort that was used by John Carter’s unit. As Chuck puts it, “Stephan is passionate about his interest in World War II history. He also reveres my father as if he was his son.” His efforts, Chuck says, show that “France remembers those who sacrificed for their freedom.”
Joining them in Hooper was William Christ, from Puget Sound. William was riding his bike in France in 2004 and met Stephan, who offered him a ride in his jeep to Normandy. Discovering that William was from Washington State, Stephan told of his difficulties in locating members of the Carter family. William later drove to Hooper and got to know local people, including Chuck Tobin, who had been a tank driver and was badly injured in the same massive Normandy invasion of then Nazi controlled France.
Chuck Turbak and other members of the Carter family got in touch with Stephan Persyn and in 2009 Chuck met him at his father’s grave site in France.
Stephan spread some Omaha Beach sand at the flag pole base in Hooper and returned home with soil from the town where John Carter was born that he will spread at his grave site in France.
Chuck Turbak and members of his family have helped refurbish the flagpole and added lights so the brightly lit American flag would become a very visible sign, night and day, of the valor of his father and all the American troops who fought the Nazi war machine with so much courage and dedication.
Chuck, Stephan and William had lunch, prepared by Nancy Meise of Washtucna, and traveled with Alex McGregor to see wheat fields, the rangeland canyons and Palouse Falls.