Students Tell Local WWII Vets’ Stories in New Exhibit

The World War II experiences of 14 Muskegon area World War II veterans, as told to Muskegon Community College students enrolled in the popular Intro to WWII course, will be shared in a special exhibit, “Veterans’ Stories,” from May 4 through Aug. 4 at the USS Silversides Museum, 1346 Bluff St.

A special opening reception will be held at the museum on Monday, May 4, at 6 p.m. Light refreshments will be served at 5:30 p.m. MCC students Nicholas Haskins, Jessica Groenevelt, Kelsie Schultz and Mark Vitunskas will present their research. Admission is $5 per person and is free to museum members.

Patterned after the work of famous oral historian, journalist and The Good War author Studs Terkel, the MCC students who each assigned a local veteran to interview. The students also produced historical content highlighting their research. The compelling exhibit represents the collective culmination of their semester-long projects.

“With over 490 World War II veterans dying each day, it is important to capture their stories and recollections of the war,” said MCC Instructor Kurt Troutman, who co-teaches the course with MCC instructor George Maniates. “Many of the world’s greatest generation have not even shared their stories with their immediate families.”

The local veterans interviewed for the exhibit are:

  • Richard “Lefty” Backer, US Navy/Marines (1944-46)
  • Robert N. Boelkins, US Army (1944-45)
  • George Bull, US Army Air Corps (1942-46)
  • Harry H. Christiansen, US Navy (1943-45)
  • Burrill Colburn, US Army Air Corps (1943-46)
  • Arthur Dahlstedt, US Army (1942-46)
  • George S. Danigelis, Merchant Marine (1944-46)
  • Mauritz Erickson, US Army Air Corps (1943-45)
  • Richard Hoos, US Army (1941-46)
  • Ann Tardani Marinelli, US Army Nurse Corps (1944-46)
  • Shirley Peters, US Navy (1944-46)
  • Bill Rude, US Army (1944-46)
  • Tony Sass, US Marine Corps (1944-46)
  • Wally Wood, US Army (1944-46)

The other MCC students in the course are: Travis Friend, Dominque Goods, Steven Harris, Kennadi Hester, Chad Hirsch, Nicholas Hysell, Nathan Johnson, Colton Schultz, Tyler Self, Kathleen South, Adam Strahan and Austin Wright.

“This is ultimately a practical exercise, too, because it’s applying the history they learn in the classroom to the practical history you see displayed in a museum,” added Maniates.

USS Silversides Museum Curator Peggy Hennelly-Maniates saw the educational potential of sharing the students’ important research with the greater community.

“It is important to show the students how research and scholarly production can be the backbone for a museum exhibit,” she noted. “Too often, courses at the college fail to connect theory with practice. When I heard of this research, I knew we needed to spotlight the students an honor our local veterans.”

The collaboration between MCC and the museum over the past three years has produced the annual World War II lecture Series, an American Civil War presentation program on the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, and several interactive book discussions.

For more information on the Veterans’ Stories exhibit, contact Frank Marczak, associate director of the USS Silversides Museum, at (231) 755-1230.