BALDWINVILLE – In the year 1733, Narragansett Township No. 6 was initially laid out.
The town, later called Templetown and eventually changed to Templeton, was incorporated in 1762 and currently consists of four hamlets. They are Templeton Center, East Templeton, Otter River, and Baldwinville.
In Otter River, there was once a wool mill, a brick factory and, to this day, a paper mill. The largest manufacturer in Baldwinville was the old Temple Stuart Company. The community was also 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 the home of Stanley Gontarski, Leon Graves, George Hawkes, Roy Hewitt, Herbert Miner, Walter Norskey, and Prentiss Spaulding. From the Templeton Center campus were Leonard Aho, Charles Nygard and Warren Weir. Hailing from East Templeton were Tauno Kangas, Everett Koski, Paul Lojander and Charles Sylvester; while the residents of Otter River were Johnny Lendo, Ernest Rod, and Roger Warfield.
Over the next few weeks, the Remembering Local World War II Heroes series will honor these Templeton townsmen.
Lieutenant Stanley Gontarski (1916-1945)
Stanley V. Gontarski was born on February 15, 1916, in Baldwinville to Stanley and Anne Gontarski and lived in the town of Mason Street. He graduated from Templeton High School, where he was active in sports.
Growing up in the city, he was a member of the Baldwinville Pulaski Guards and played baseball for the Mohawks, a well-known Baldwinville club.
He would go on to graduate from the State Ranger School at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York.
Gontarski entered the service in February 1941 and trained at Camp Edwards, Camp Wheeler, Georgia, and Camp Hood, Texas, before being commissioned into the Infantry at Fort Benning, Georgia, in November 1942.
It was while in Georgia that he met and married Manelle Dolley of Macon, and he would receive his promotion to first lieutenant in January 1943.
He was sent abroad in December 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 1945, his parents received a telegram from the War Department stating that First Lieutenant Gontarski had been missing in action in Belgium since January 6. He had been serving in General 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 January 9, 1944, in Belgium while serving in Patton’s Third Army.
In addition to his parents and wife, he also left behind a sister, Mrs. Victoria Swercewski of Baldwinville, and his brother-in-law, Henry Swercewski, who had recently been discharged from the army after being wounded in France.
Lieutenant Gontarski was buried at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial.
private 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 entry into the Army on March 11, 1942, and had been abroad, both in England and Ireland, for over a year.
On August 8, 1944, his parents received a telegram from the war department stating that the 20-year-old private. Graves had been wounded in action while serving in France on July 15. The parents later learned that his son died of those injuries the next day, on July 16. There were no further details in the telegram.
Aside from his parents, he is survived by two brothers, Dellard of East Templeton and Louis of Newton Center; and three sisters, Mabel, Louise, and Isabel, all from Baldwinville. Additionally, she left behind 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 email@example.com or in writing to Mike Richard, 92 Boardley Rd. Sandwich, MA 02563.