Remembering World War II Heroes: Templeton men who honored the call of duty

·4 min read

BALDWINVILLE – In the year 1733, the township of Narragansett No. 6 was initially laid out.

The town, later called Templetown and finally changed to Templeton, was incorporated in 1762 and presently consists of four villages. They are Templeton Center, East Templeton, Otter River and Baldwinville.

In Otter River, there was once a woolen mill, a brickyard and, still, a paper mill to this day. Baldwinville’s biggest manufacturer was the former Temple Stuart Company. The community was also well known for its many farms.

And when duty called and the country went to battle in World War II, many of their native sons answered the call and a total of 17 of them were among those lost during the war.

Baldwinville was home to Stanley Gontarski, Leon Graves, George Hawkes, Roy Hewitt, Herbert Miner, Walter Norskey and Prentiss Spaulding. From the precinct of Templeton Center were Leonard Aho, Charles Nygard and Warren Weir. Hailing from East Templeton were Tauno Kangas, Everett Koski, Paul Lojander and Charles Sylvester; while Otter River residents were Johnny Lendo, Ernest Rod and Roger Warfield.

The Baldwinville World War II Memorial in Baldwinville.
The Baldwinville World War II Memorial in Baldwinville.

Over the next few weeks, the series Remembering Local World War II Heroes will honor these men from the town of Templeton.

Lt. Stanley Gontarski (1916-1945)

Stanley V.  Gontarski was born on Feb. 15, 1916 in Baldwinville to Stanley and Anne Gontarski and lived in the village on Mason Street. He graduated from Templeton High School where he was active in sports.

While growing up in the town, he was a member of the Pulaski Guards of Baldwinville and played baseball with the Mohawks, a well-known club from that town.

He would go on to graduate from the State Ranger School at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.

Lt. Class Stanley Gontarski
Lt. Class Stanley Gontarski

Gontarski entered the service in February of 1941 and trained at Camp Edwards, Camp Wheeler, Georgia, and Camp Hood, Texas, before being commissioned in the Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia, in November of 1942.

It was while in Georgia that he met and married to Manelle Dolley of Macon, and would go on to receive his promotion to first lieutenant in January of 1943.

He was sent overseas in December of 1944 and was in Trinidad and France before entering Belgium during the German advance before Christmas with the 134th Infantry, 35th Division.

In late January of 1945, his parents received a War Department telegram stating that 1st Lt. Gontarski had been missing in action in Belgium since Jan. 6. He had been serving with Gen. George Patton’s Third Army and was a member of the 104th Infantry.

Tragically, about two weeks later, another telegram arrived informing the parents that their 28-year-old son had been killed in action on Jan. 9, 1944 in Belgium while he was serving with Patton’s Third Army.

Besides his parents and wife, he also left a sister, Mrs. Victoria Swercewski of Baldwinville, and his brother-in-law, Henry Swercewski, who had been recently given a medical discharge from the Army after being wounded in France.

Lt. Gontarski was buried in the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial.

Pvt. Leon L. Graves (1924-1944)

Leon Lewis Graves was born in Baldwinville on May 28, 1924, the son of John F. and Dora M. (Berard) Graves and lived on Royalston Road. He was employed in Boston at the time of his entrance into the army on March 11, 1942 and had been overseas in both England and Ireland for more than a year.

On Aug. 8, 1944 his parents received a telegram from the war department that 20-year-old Pvt. Graves had been wounded in action while serving in France on July 15. The parents would later learn that their son died of those wounds the following day, on July 16. There were no other details contained in the telegram.

Pvt. Leon Graves of Templeton
Pvt. Leon Graves of Templeton

Aside from his parents, he was survived by two brothers, Dellard of East Templeton and Louis of Newton Center; and three sisters, Mabel, Louise and Isabel, all of Baldwinville. In addition, he left a half-brother, Leo Boise of Boston and two half-sisters, Mrs. Ruth Ryan of Gardner and Mrs. Veda Carpenter of Baldwinville.

He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Winchendon.

Comments and suggestions for Remembering Local World War II Heroes can be sent to Mike Richard at mikerichard0725@gmail.com or in writing Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Rd. Sandwich, MA 02563.

This article originally appeared on Gardner News: Templeton soldiers Leon L. Graves, Stanley Gontarski killed in WWII