She's watched over this WWII soldier's grave for 74 years. Geraci, Pfc. New York, Nov.
Mia Verkennis, 89, has been tending the grave of Pfc. She recently made contact with his living relatives.
On Memorial Day, she will do the same. They never mentioned him. The only thing we could figure was his death was such a shock. Joseph Geraci in He would be killed in action in Germany on Nov.
It was a bad idea. Geraci was one of them. The United States needed a place to bury its dead.
Photo provided by Donna Hooker The 1, inhabitants of Margraten, having been recently liberated from Nazi occupation by the Americans, welcomed the fallen out of a sense of gratitude and duty.
The mayor hosted commanders of the American burial effort in his home. Villagers helped dig. The first body was buried Nov. Between then and the spring of , hundreds of bodies were trucked in daily.
Mail, banks, and stores impacted by the holiday Over the next two years, some 17, American soldiers would be buried there. Many of them would later be disinterred and repatriated at the request of their families.
Today, about 8, graves remain.
The Geraci family had reason to be skeptical. A month later, the War Department sent them a temporary address for him. His family wrote him but received no response. Army Pfc. Then a letter arrived in July informing the family the War Department had no information on Geraci.
Records kept by the family from those years show Geraci was identified by two dog tags around his neck. He was buried Aug.
That was where, and roughly when, Verkennis first became acquainted with him. One of her servicemen was later repatriated. The other, Air Force Sgt. Geraci and Garvey were a mystery to Verkennis as she went about living the life they never would. She now resides in an assisted-living facility.
The grave "adoption" card issued in to Mia Verkennis, then Mia Smeets. She was 15 years old and she assumed responsibility for the graves of three soldiers, one of whom would later be repatriated to the United States.
Photo provided by the Netherlands American Cemetery But her attention to them never wavered. Verkennis, now 89, said she would often wonder who the soldiers were.
In late , she resolved to find out. Maria Bohler, the English-speaking friend who helped Verkennis track down and contact the Geraci family, recalled that she barely knew Verkennis when Verkennis arrived on her doorstep one day and asked for her help.
On Memorial Day there are flowers and American and Dutch flags.