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Exhibition Looks Back at World War II

Alumni, Cal U friends supplement Heinz History Center collection

Charlotte Glod Simmons’ big brother Walter graduated from California State Teachers College in 1942, planning to begin his career as a teacher.

Instead, he was drafted immediately by the Army and sent to South Carolina for training before being shipped overseas to serve in World War II.

He died in combat on Sept. 14, 1944.

“He was involved in every activity in California,” say Simmons, who graduated from “Cal State” in 1949. “It was a great loss to the family.”

To honor her brother, Simmons has loaned family treasures to Cal U to display in conjunction with We Can Do It! WWII, a traveling exhibition from the Senator John Heinz History Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

The items include a picture of her two sisters visiting her brother’s grave in France and a program describing the dedication of a Hammond electric organ to fallen Cal U students and all students who served in the war.

Simmons also shared her memories as part of a digital oral history housed at the library.

In addition, visitors can learn about the development of the jeep, produced by the American Bantam Car Co. in Butler, Pa., and hear stories about Rosie the Riveter and local Tuskegee Airmen.

Under the direction of William Meloy, chair of the Department of Library Services, and Daniel Zyglowicz, archives and special collections technician, Cal U is displaying artifacts from local history centers and World War II items on loan from alumni, staff, faculty and students.

“This is the first time I’ve been able to discuss my brother’s service, and it was hard to bring up the memories,” says Simmons.

“I deliberated when I was asked to do this. And then I thought, ‘I must do it.’ There’s a reason for me being on this Earth for 91 years — to bring back some memories and let the feeling come out that this was a great loss of a loved one.”

Jean Hale, executive director of community and corporate relations at Cal U, shared her mother’s collection of identification cards, dog tags and troop assignments.

A scrapbook includes a remarkable series of letters pertaining to her father, Thomas L. Cuccaro: the first to inform the family of his death, the second to explain that the information was unconfirmed, and the last to state that he was alive but had been taken prisoner.

“I have always felt that the letters about my father’s presumed death, and subsequent notifications sent to my grandmother, represent some of the most excruciating pain a mother could ever feel.

“It just seemed like the right time for me to share not only my dad’s story, but my mother’s remarkable stewardship of these materials.”

By Wendy Mackall, communications director at Cal U

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