Mysteries and myths continue to enshroud the life and death of George Budde.
The baffling circumstances of his death, certainly. And other quandaries: Where does Budde’s body now rest, for instance? Is he sleeping eternally in a family plot at an aging Cincinnati cemetery, as many believe, or is he still interred in the earth—half a world away—at a farmstead near a town called Mouze?
“It’s astounding how little information is actually out there,” says Price Hill Historical Society volunteer Richard Jones, one of those who have been tracking down elusive connections. “I’m disturbed to not find more about George Budde in the [burial] records.”
Jones and other battle buffs have made a mission out of delving for answers, plumbing through historical society and military archive vaults. Fortunately, some original source material does survive, not the least of which are fellow soldier’s correspondences from the wartime front.
Version one from a comrade: George’s body is buried on the banks of the Meuse River, about three kilometers below the town of Mouzon, and the grave was properly marked.
Or, by another official report: George’s remains were carried back across the river and buried near the Lasatelle Farmhouse on the road between Beaumont and Pouilly, about half a mile inland from the Meuse.
Yet another version has George’s coffin returned home.
There certainly was a ceremony back in Cincinnati. Newspapers report George being laid to rest at the Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Price Hill, after a glorious military parade from Holy Family Church. The funeral service itself was elaborate. A catafalque representing Budde’s coffin was draped with an American flag, “while 10 soldiers from Fort Thomas were on guard.” Khaki-colored candles flickered in tribute.
Cemetery records, however, state “No record of internment” of any body beneath the headstone at the family plot.
Family markers note the graves at Old St. Joseph’s today. George’s tombstone is still flanked by his parents and siblings. A huge catalpa tree towers over the gravesites, dropping palm-like leaves on the landscape. Each Memorial Day, members of the now-disbanded George W. Budde American Legion Post No. 507 gather at the grave for a commemoration ceremony.
If he is indeed buried atop these bluffs of Price Hill, George has a view of his home on Hawthorne Avenue.
Safe Environment Coordinator for Children and Youth Archdiocese of Cincinnati
On The Watch | Thomas Coz has his keen eye on some 79,000 church employees in Southern Ohio. As the new point-man responsible for protecting any child who attends the region’s 300 Catholic parishes and schools, Coz is busy overseeing a number of critical changes in how the archdiocese does—and will do—business.
New Beginnings | “During 2012, we will begin to implement a new national child-protection training program called VIRTUS, to allow us to more effectively track our training and compliance efforts.” The program emphasizes best practices to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, protect victims from any further abuse, discourage bullying and cyber-bullying, identify and punish offenders, and assist leadership in setting other priorities.
The Enforcer | You don’t want to find yourself fibbing to Coz; he has the know-how and FBI information network to assure that every worker’s personnel record is clean as a whistle. “I supervise the fingerprinting and background check work that we do to ensure that no person with a criminal background comes into contact with children anywhere in the archdiocese.“
Restoring Faith | Don’t think of him as just a snoop or private-eye. Coz sees his primary role “to protect, enhance and in some cases restore the trust that our faith calls for, between agents of the Catholic Church and the children and adolescents entrusted to their care.” His watch list extends to all clerics, staff, volunteers, substitute teachers and even those personnel furnished by third-party contractors. Be it the groundskeeper in the parish garden or a nanny in the nursery, he’s got his eye on you.
To Protect And Serve | The task is immense. “With over 79,000 names in our databases, keeping track of who has received the training, who is current with training updates and who is not should dominate my time,” Coz says. His territory covers 214 parishes along with 113 primary and secondary schools. If an employee at any of these locations is promoted or moved into any other role, beginning now, he or she must agree to be fingerprinted yet again. The Archdiocese will also forbid registered sex offenders from entering a church property except to attend Mass.
The Road To Now | The attorney finished his JD at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1979, then spent his early years at PepsiCo and NorthAmerican Van Lines. More recently, he’s served as general counsel to Wild Flavors Inc. in Erlanger, Ky. The father of two sons and a daughter, he’s a member of St. William Parish in Price Hill. “Our family returned to Cincinnati in 1992 where we purchased the home that my wife (Maureen Murphy Coz, Class of 1982) had grown up in.”
When a Xavier student can’t quite meet the monthly rent, handle a bookstore tab or pay off a niggling registrar bill, that’s when the McCormick family steps in to help.
Matt and Susan McCormick come to the table offering whatever it takes to keep a needy kid inside the Xavier classroom: “There have been over 60 kids now where, whether it be rent money or book money or registration fees, we’ve helped,” says Matt.
This is the very reason that the couple established The Brian McCormick Memorial Fund—to assist financially struggling students, regardless of academic abilities. “Brian’s Fund is for anyone in economic distress, it doesn’t matter, race, creed or whatever, they just have to be Xavier students in immediate financial distress,” says Matt.
Matt, who earned a BSBA in 1992 in finance and an MBA in 1995 in marketing, and his wife Susan, a 1991 communications major with a minor in business, are doing all this in the name and memory of Matt’s brother, Brian, who died suddenly in 2008 at the age of 33. Brian graduated from Xavier in 1997 with a BA in advertising. “We were truly blessed to have him for 33 years,” says Matt. “Brian loved his family with his entire heart and soul. He was truly one of a kind and would light up a room with his boundless energy, amazing humor and unforgettable zest for life. Brian also loved Xavier and enjoyed playing rugby for his school. He was one of Xavier’s men’s basketball team’s most passionate fans. He relished in our team’s victories, and absolutely loved beating UD in every way possible.”
The establishment of Brian’s Fund is a bittersweet moment.
“This is not what we wanted, of course,” says Susan. “We would much rather have Brian still with us. But this is a fund that Brian always talked about getting together. He was one of the biggest, most loyal fans of Xavier. Brian just had this awesome spirit about him. He loved Xavier and was always grateful for the chance it took on him.”
The couple was gratified by the immediate reaction and support for the fund. “So many people reached out to us when Brian died and wanted to know what they could do,” says Susan. “Thanks to them and their contributions, Brian’s memory will go on.”
“Can you imagine the multiplier effect from these 60 students?” says Matt. “We only ask they remember down the road, when they are in a position to help Xavier students in need, that they remember what the fund did. That would be a great end result.”
“The wonderful thing is we are not talking big numbers,” says Susan. “It’s small numbers, $200 here and $200 there. But the impact can be huge. Eventually, we’d both like it where the fund is self-sustaining and around Xavier forever.”
Matt is portfolio manager for Bahl & Gaynor Investment Counsel Inc., and Susan is president at Blarney Communications. Between the two of them, they spend a great deal of time thinking and planning for the fund. The couple’s latest project involved a huge Dana Gardens fundraising party before a Xavier-Dayton basketball game.
The love for Xavier and its community is a family affair for the McCormicks. “Our kids, who are age 10 and 6, are certifiably brainwashed about Xavier,” says Matt. “Let’s put it this way: Both have been going to games since they were three months old. My son can rattle off player numbers going back to David West. They also, honestly, enjoy the Dippin’ Dots at Cintas.”
“We have always had in our wills that we would give something to Xavier,” says Matt. “We wanted to formalize a process to make a contribution that will last longer than we will.”
In July, Brian D. Till becomes dean of the Williams College of Business. Xavier magazine sat down with him to learn more about his vision.
Xavier: You’re coming to Cincinnati after nearly two decades at the John Cook School of Business at Saint Louis University, a Jesuit institution. What will you bring along with you in terms of that SLU experience?
Till: A very strong commitment to the value of a Jesuit university education and its corresponding ethics and values. One of the things we have at SLU is a “Service Leadership Certificate” for undergraduate business students. Students take workshops on campus, attend speakers and participate in service projects in the community. I think that’s just a perfect program for a Jesuit university. It’s important that business students have out-of-class opportunities to engage and live Jesuit values through service work.
Xavier: Is there anything that the Williams College needs, or needs to change, in your view?
Till: I’m not coming on campus with pre-determined set of programs. As I learn more about what is unique at Xavier and the Williams College of Business, naturally I will have some ideas. But most importantly, I intend to work with the various WCB constituencies—faculty, staff, students, business community—to craft a strategic direction for the College. That said, I have a few focus areas. I want to assure we maintain a strong undergraduate program connected to their liberal arts education. I want to enhance students’ global perspective and ensure that students integrate learning across disciplines.
Xavier: Your background includes corporate stints in a variety of foreign countries. How does that affect your viewpoint?
Till: As I mentioned, it is important to look at ways to improve students’ exposure to international opportunities. I have developed strong personal ties with two countries in my life: Norway and Colombia—Norway through friends and Colombia through teaching experiences. I am particularly interested in connecting with Latin America. Colombia is becoming an important business hub for that part of the hemisphere. I think it’s an area of the world that has a lot of potential, but it isn’t as bright on people’s radar screen as is China, India or Europe.
Xavier: Without revealing any master plan, you must have some process in mind for the future?
Till: I want to immediately develop a strategic plan, which will provide a blueprint for what we do as a College. This strategic planning process ought to be very inclusive. It will include staff, faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and our board of advisers.
Xavier: You come to campus as a proven branding, creative advertising and marketing authority, having written a book and a number of articles on these topics. How will this influence your decisions?
Till: As part of the strategic planning process, we will define the Williams College of Business as a brand. I don’t know yet what that answer will be. But we will be exploring the question of what we want the Williams College of Business to stand for—what makes it unique and what are the defining characteristics of a Williams College of Business educational experience?
Xavier: You’re a native of St. Louis. How will this color your experience living here?
Till: I think there are a lot of similarities between St. Louis and Cincinnati. I look forward to learning more about the city and experiencing what makes Cincinnati unique and special.
[divider]At a Glance [/divider]
Name: Brian D. Till
Title: Dean, Williams College of Business
Education: PhD in Business Administration, University of South Carolina; MBA and BS in advertising, University of Texas at Austin
Author: The Truth About Creating Brands People Love (2009)
Background: Professor of marketing and department chair, Saint Louis University, 1995-2012; Special assistant to the dean and visiting professor, Loyola University Chicago, 2010-2011; Assistant professor, Drexel University, 1992-1995; Product brand manager, grocery division, Purina Co., 1985-1988.
Two years ago, police Sgt. Tia Pearson Miller was just another officer on the beat. As covert and stealthy as one of her undercover cohorts.
But she was everything producers from The Learning Channel were looking for when they came scouting for a new show—tough, no-nonsense, an Iraq War veteran who rode a motorcycle in her leisure time and practiced strength-training and kickboxing. So they made her a centerpiece of the reality television show “Police Women of Cincinnati,” and now she’s practically a household name and an equally recognizable face—at least, for the show’s 1.3 million weekly viewers.
“People keep coming up to me, asking for autographs,” she says. “I have new respect for celebrities. I would never approach a celebrity now because it can be so annoying. Sometimes.”
At work these days, the Hollywood era appears to be over. TLC shifted its focus to policewomen of other cities, but Miller turned her TV life into a new career as communications liaison for the police department, going out and talking with young adults who feel trapped by the urban street-scene. “I try to be the voice for the parents,” she says. “I listened to my mom, but whenever a star said it, I really listened.”
She can also offer a lesson on education. In May, she walked across the stage at Commencement after earning her master’s degree in human resources, a subject that’s totally different from police work, she says, and bound to keep her away from the TV cameras.
“Life has gone on,” she says, “but it will probably never be the same.”
Just a few days after their wedding, Karen and Michael Budkie noticed a sick puppy abandoned on the side of the road.
Touched, the newlyweds picked the dog up and took it to a nearby no-kill pet shelter where the dog got food, treatment and a new lease on life. But the biggest impact may have been on the Budkies.
The couple began volunteering at the shelter, a simple move that opened a door to them leaving their jobs and creating a nonprofit animal rights agency, SAEN—Stop Animal Exploitation Now. From their modest headquarters in Milford, Ohio, the couple rigidly defends the “implicit rights” of laboratory chimps, sheep, cats, dogs and other creatures used at medical research clinics.
Unlike their better-known big brother, PETA, which draws attention for its over-the-top behavior, the Budkies tend to stay more to the straight and narrow. They dutifully compile watch lists, serve as a clearinghouse of information, dig for buried USDA documents and other obscure federal reports, track mishaps at animal labs, coordinate petition drives and launch protest campaigns. Still, their daily charge against antagonists to the animal kingdom has garnered national attention, glowing press and, yes, some harsh critics.
One wag, in an essay titled “Animal Crackers,” rebuked the duo as misguided if not malicious. Another targeted them as a pawn of their primary funder, the Hoffman Foundation, “which has the stated goal to restore God’s original creation intent of a plant-based diet.” The Budkies brush off such criticism, saving their ire for what they see as a shadowy world of negligent medical bureaucracies and elusive pharmaceutical corporations, questionable pseudo-scientists and vivisectionist villainy. If torturing a single animal in your own home is considered cruelty, they ask rhetorically, how can abusing many species at once be truly called science?
“With the help of grassroots activists, we’ve ended pound seizure—the sale of former pets from animal shelters to labs—in Nashville,” says Michael. “We also ended abusive experiments on primates in San Diego. Our recent investigations revealed abuses within labs from Boston to California and from Florida to Washington.”
For his part, Michael, a 1981 theology graduate, maintains that his life’s work began in the classroom. “Xavier gave me my grounding in ethics and the belief that animals have an intrinsic, God-given value. They shouldn’t be abused.” Karen, a 1985 computer science major, handles the data mining, bookkeeping and business side
“We are very different,” says Michael, “but we work well together and complement each other with our different approaches to the cause.”
For Sherry Brubaker, the first time’s been all the charm. Brubaker finds herself the co-author of a children’s picture book, Cup of Glitter, which has won raves and awards from the publishing industry.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, to write children’s stories,” says Brubaker, who earned a master’s degree in education in 1996. “But I wanted to write at a higher level than a picture book. I wanted to spark questions and discussion between parents and children, so they can start to talk and share ideas.”
In Cup of Glitter, two flying forest fairies named Glitter and Dart are trapped in the bizarre world of human beings, where litter can easily become their deadliest enemy. In this case, the villain of the tale is an upside-down paper cup from a fast-food restaurant, which flips over and ensnares Glitter. Dart is left to rescue her, aided on a wing and a prayer by dragonflies, a border collie and a human boy.
“It’s really a book about being scared, and how to deal with those feelings,” says Brubaker, whose day job is as director of human resources for The Children’s Home of Cincinnati. “Dart has to be a little ingenious to find a way to get Glitter out.”
We won’t spoil the ending. Suffice it to say, there’s a fairy song—sheet music and lyrics included—for children to sing, as well as a back-of-the-book identification chart that displays the animals and insects featured in the tale.
Cup of Glitter, which is illustrated by her husband Robert, has already won the pair some literary kudos—including honors as a finalist in the International Book Awards and a nod from the USA Best Books competition.
“We started researching how to get a children’s book published, and decided to do self-publishing,” Brubaker says. “We did the research and ended up starting our own company, Gilded Magic Publishing.”
Expect to see lots more pixie dust in the future. “I’m planning to do a series about Glitter and Dart,” says Brubaker. All proving Brubaker is one belle you don’t want to tinker with.
A frigid, gloomy drizzle permeates the air as dawn begins to break through the trees of the Argonne Forest in northeastern France. Pvt. George Budde and his fellow Marines of 17th Company slop their way through the mud along the western bank of the Meuse River.
The diminutive 23-year-old Budde is fresh from skirmishes at Soissons and an uphill charge at St. Mihiel. He is a survivor of the slaughter at Belleau Wood and still bears the scar on his shoulder from an exploding missile at Chateau-Thierry. For the past nine months he has endured squalid shelter and rancid rations, relentless chlorine and mustard gas attacks, and incessant pounding from artillery shelling. As a result, the movement along the Meuse is all too familiar. George Budde knows war.
As the Marines creep along, the first sign of trouble begins to appear—the bullet-ridden bodies of Army engineers killed while attempting to construct a flimsy pontoon bridge lashed with planks across the Meuse.
As they reach the bridge, visible only by a guide rope strung along posts, the Marines can see just halfway across before everything disappears into the mist.
Their orders are to cross the bridge and carry the fringe of hills and woods on the opposite bank, thereby securing the right flank of a larger frontal assault. Under cover of the dense fog, the Marines traverse the rickety footbridge one by one. Then, some 500 yards on the other side of the river, just outside the desolate village of Villemontry, everything changes. A German machine-gun nest opens fire and their world turns to utter chaos.
As the fighting grows thick, Budde strikes out on patrol.
As he approaches the enemy location, a sudden burst of gunfire is heard.
Then…nothing. Just an appalling silence.
[divider] ••• [/divider]
As Budde lies prostrate in the clay muck, wounded in the heart and soaking in his own blood, Big Ben begins ringing in London for the first time in four years. Celebrating crowds flock the cobblestone Parisian streets. Joyful New Yorkers spill onto Broadway with impromptu revelry and a ticker-tape parade. The entire globe rejoices.
It is Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918. At dawn, inside a railroad carriage near Paris, officials sign a declaration of peace, which goes into effect at 11:00 a.m. and ends the confrontation so naively labeled as the “War to End All Wars.” By official service records, Budde, a 1917 Xavier graduate, is gunned down just minutes before the deadline, earning him the melancholy distinction as the final American foot soldier to perish under enemy fire in World War I. The last casualty.
For his “extraordinary heroism and gallantry,” Budde is posthumously awarded the triumvirate of American valor medals: the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross (along with a Silver Star Victory Medal and French Croix de Guerre). Only a handful of leathernecks ever achieve such high accolade.
Almost a full century after Budde’s demise, however, doubts and questions persist about what really happened on that dreary November morning. The Marine rifleman died a combat hero where there should no longer have been combat. Some records indicate Budde and his fellow infantrymen were trying to rescue an injured comrade. Others point to the hubris of at least one callous American field commander looking for glory. Another baffling account says Budde decided “upon his own initiative after the general fighting had ceased” to scramble ahead and fool-hardily storm the machine-gun nest, a full-frontal attack by himself.
Today, family members take issue with the reports. Buck privates don’t have the luxury of taking their own initiative, they argue. The soldiers crossed “No Man’s Land” to get there, they say, so this was no accidental foray, no “oops” moment. And they question whether Budde—cut down at the very hour the peace agreement took effect—should have ever been ordered into a corridor of live fire.
The combined forces knew for days about an imminent armistice. Both sides were hammering out final details of the treaty. At night, American troops could hear the Germans singing and playing band music across the Meuse River in anticipated celebration. Harmless fireworks replaced incoming mortar fire.
Only now are declassified military documents, secret Congressional papers and battlefront diaries coming to the forefront. But none of them offer a clear picture as to the final minutes of World War I, and, thus, the question persists: Why did George Budde die?
[divider] ••• [/divider]
As flowers that bloom in thorny lair,
with added beauty gleam
Kind words shine in this world of care,
and all the brighter seem.
—George Budde, “Kind Words,” a poem published at Xavier circa 1915
[divider] ••• [/divider]
Budde, the studious Xavier upperclassman, seemed to be regarded best on campus as an emerging poet. In the classroom, the thoughtful English major busied himself with lofty literary ambitions, submerging himself in the foremost prosaic writers of the time. On stage, he performed Moliere and Shakespeare in a dramatic circle known as The Buskin Club. In The Xavierian News fortnightly bulletin, he scribbled out essays on esoteric topics. In the student Athenaeum literary magazine, he authored various installments of bright and fanciful prose. At one instance or another, Budde served as treasurer of the Junior Literary Society, president of the Social League and two terms leading the Acolythical Society. He won commencement merits in Greek, history, English precepts and English composition.
Budde would, nonetheless, be a surprise choice for anyone’s fledgling poet. Born at the close of the rough and rowdy 1800s, the scrappy kid grew up first in gritty downtown Cincinnati and then on the streets of the city’s blue-collar west side. His father, John, was born in Germany, his mother, Elizabeth, in Ohio. George weighed in as third youngest of his siblings: Josie, Mary, Loretto, Norbert and Louis.
The boy lived most of his life in the insular world of the family’s two Price Hill homes. The last Budde home—a buff, brick Colonial with ornate fireplaces and crystal chandeliers—still stands and is often included in the neighborhood’s architectural history tours.
The youth joined the newly formed Cincinnati Automobile Club, devoted to promoting the future of a “horseless carriage.” He reveled in the game of croquet with his fiancée. And he played doting big brother and uncle to his extended family.
As he was preparing to graduate from Xavier, though, a dustup began in the Balkans, half a world away. Before it could be settled, a chain of alliances would force more than 30 nations into global conflagration—and change the direction of George Budde’s life.
[divider] ••• [/divider]
You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye,
who cheer when soldier lads march by
Sneak home and pray you’ll never know,
the hell where youth and laughter go.
—Royal Welsh Capt. S. Sassoon, “Suicide in the Trenches,” 1918
[divider] ••• [/divider]
A blurry Marine registration card is all that’s left of the day George signed away his life. The young man, who apprenticed a short time with his father’s cleaning products company while attending Xavier, spotted the Marine Corps recruiting posters urging young men to be “First to Fight in France!” Reaching his own personal epiphany on Dec. 22, 1917, he opted to enlist.
Not your prototypical “war hero,” Budde was barely tall enough to make the Marines’ height cutoff. “George volunteered because most of his friends were going,” his brother, Norbert, told the Cincinnati Times-Star a half-century later. Their father likely expected a different outcome, assuming his eldest son would one day run the family firm. Older sisters Josie and Loretto, who attended Xavier’s commerce school, already worked at the company as stenographers. “I think George kind of planned to run the business when he got back,” said Norbert, who was only 12 years old when his brother shipped overseas.
From basic training at Parris Island, the elated tenderfoot wrote back to pals: “We are at work drilling almost every day. I am enjoying every minute of my life here and learning quite a few new and novel things.”
[divider] ••• [/divider]
What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle …
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells.
Just shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells.
—British 2nd Lt. Wilfred Owen,“Anthem for Doomed Youth,” 1918
[divider] ••• [/divider]
Interwoven in the mix of George Budde’s life of blood and war is a love story. A cheerful item in a New York City newspaper reported this interlude under the headline: Arrives in Time to Bid Sweetheart Goodbye: “A romantic, cross-country chase to see her Marine sweetheart before he sailed for ‘somewhere in France’ and which, after many disappointments, had a happy conclusion when she found him on an Army transport in an Atlantic port, was the recent experience of Miss Regina M. Brown, a Cincinnati girl. Miss Brown’s fiancé is George W. Budde, a Cincinnatian in the Marine Corps. Budde was stationed in Washington and wired Miss Brown and his parents that he had been ordered to leave.”
Brown—“an attractive brunette who had grown up a few blocks from George on Crestline Avenue”—immediately hustled to the nation’s capital with George’s mother and father in tow, then traveled down to Quantico, Va. Ultimately, authorities directed the trio to the nearest Atlantic naval port. Budde, already aboard his troop ship, was granted two hours to spend with his fiancée and parents. “As the vessel steamed slowly out to sea, the girl waved her farewell. He was gone—but she had been able to say goodbye and she was happy.”
Her happiness would not last, however. Brown, a Red Cross nurse, died a month before Budde at age 21 in Ohio’s influenza epidemic.
[divider] ••• [/divider]
Now all roads lead to France.
And heavy is the tread of the living,
But the dead returning lightly dance…
—Royal Lance Corp. Edward Thomas, “Roads,” 1917
[divider] ••• [/divider]
The liturgy of war has a cadence all its own. The march toward the front was at once halting and hurried—as Budde chronicled in his pocket diary—both funereally paced and, in a sudden heartbeat, impetuously and furiously launched. Troop movements swept his pale battalion through offensive campaigns at Aisne, Champagne-Marne, the Second Battle of Aisne-Marne, St. Miheil and Meuse-Argonne, with particularly ferocious encounters at Belleau Wood and Soissons. Shell-shocked soldiers wandered the bleak landscape. In one clash alone, Meuse-Argonne, more artillery shells were fired (4 million in sum) than in the entirety of the American Civil War.
“I was always glad,” Budde wrote to his parents, “when the various positions we held in the woods had a few holes strewn around into which we could crawl when necessary. The shells were really going over us, and besides, there often was a perfectly splendid ditch alongside the road. … There were hours at a time we would lie while a steady stream of missiles would be going sweetly over our heads, just a continuing humming whir-r-r that can’t be described. Most of the big ones do give notice of their approach most politely, and one generally has time to duck or take cover.”
He described the Western Front, essentially a double line of trenches, as a scene percolated in the hellish imagination of painter Hieronymous Bosch: flies buzzing obscenely over damp earth and purple-black bodies, the air choking with the oppressive odor from pungent explosives. Mustard gas scarred his comrades’ lungs and burned through the foot soles of his field boots. He softened the wording for his mother, speaking of his “elegant blisters.”
[divider] ••• [/divider]
Artillery makes the same old noise; valor is an
attribute of boys
All soldiers hear the same old lies; dead bodies have
always drawn flies.
—1st Lt. Ernest Hemingway, “All Armies Are the Same,” 1919
[divider] ••• [/divider]
Not all of the missiles sailed by safely, though. On June 6, Budde was wounded by shrapnel—a detail he gently described in a letter home.
“Friday night I was assigned to a listening post in front of our lines. My job was to keep a sharp watch for ‘Heine’ and to give the alarm in case of attack. … Soon, the whole line was blazing away [with artillery shells]. It seems I did a funny thing. I chose a position right where one of these big boys was going to hit. It hit alright, I hit, too, and also got hit. Nightfall found me laying out on a listening post, about 50 yards in front of the lines. About midnight the Huns began sending over their high explosives. One came too close. It must have borne my number, because when I got out of there, I was carrying a piece of Heine’s iron with me. … Yes, I am wounded, but it is merely the slightest thing, hardly more than a scratch. We’ve got Heine on the run for good now.”
Truthfully, the jagged metal pieces so deeply imbedded in Budde’s shoulder that doctors feared they would kill him trying to remove them all. He also neglected to clarify to his mother that flying debris mangled part of his face. Taken first to a dressing station, Budde found himself relegated to the Red Cross and the American Military Base Hospital to convalesce. Despite having an excuse to nurse his wounds in a Paris infirmary, he hounded his doctors. He desperately wanted back to the front action and his mates.
“The thing is up with Fritz. He’s on the run now, and we’ll keep right on his heels,” he wrote home. “I will write again as soon as possible, and in the meantime, do not worry. The beginning of the end is at hand.”
[divider] ••• [/divider]
In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between
the crosses row on row …
We are the Dead. Short days ago, we lived,
felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
—Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields,” 1918
[divider] ••• [/divider]
While news of mutually assured peace spread like wildfire among the ranks, some senior officers chose to conversely intensify their actions. On the eve of Nov. 10, 1918, and repeatedly through the night, word of the impending end to the entanglement was affirmed by radio transmissions to Gen. John Pershing and his command. Pershing dutifully relayed the wonderful confirmation to subordinates, but left his commanders in the field with the decision whether to march on and advance their columns, or to spare their own men further agony and fatalities.
Some ambitious officers may have seen their chances fading fast for field promotions and medals. Lipstick lieutenants and shavetail hotshots, who were anxious to tidy up annoying dents in the map of the Western Front as history would record it on this last full day of action, weren’t averse to losing a few expendable privates.
A few of George’s immediate superiors in the Second Division/Fifth Regiment would take flak for their judgment calls on this day, including Capt. Charley Dunbeck, who favored walking in front of his assembled guard in a jaunty manner, brandishing a swagger stick in one hand and an automatic pistol in the other.
“The story is told that the men of the 2/5 were sensibly reluctant to cross the bridge [at Villemontry],” reads the account in Battle History of the United States Marine Corps. “In fact, they soon had a situation in which Marines were beginning to take off. Charley Dunbeck said something to his men as he stood by the bridge. ‘Men, I am going across and I expect you to go with me.’ … What seems to be a bit unusual (or even stupid?) was to waste so many brave men in an unnecessary crossing of the Meuse River the night before the war ended. Maj. Gen. John Lejeune could have stalled it, if he had chosen to, much like Maj. George Shuler did to save the 6th Marines.”
Lejeune himself recalled the fading hours of the war and his visit to a wounded sergeant in a field hospital during that fateful day: “I asked him if he had heard before the battle that the armistice would probably be signed within a few hours. He replied it was common knowledge among the men. What induced you to cross the [Meuse] bridge in the face of that terrible machine-gun fire? In answer, he said, ‘Just before we began to cross the bridge, our battalion commander, Capt. Dunbeck, assembled the companies around him in the ravine where we were waiting orders, and told us ‘Men, I am going across that river and I expect you to go with me.’ What could we do but go across, too?”
After the war, a secret Congressional panel (referred to obliquely only as Subcommittee 3) convened to investigate the frontline commanders’ decisions during this 12-hour period. They would suggest that, in select incidences, squad leaders crossed the line from “sacrifice” of enlisted men to “murder.”
[divider] ••• [/divider]
Slumber well where the shells screamed and fell;
Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor;
You will not need them anymore.
—U.S. Army Sgt. Joyce Kilmer, “Rouge Bouquet,” 1918
[divider] ••• [/divider]
The intervening years have obliterated evidence, obscured truths, blurred memories—but family members have continued to dig for answers. William Budde, a cousin and a Xavier grad, has made a hobby of tracking family histories. “He certainly was brave,” William says. “But what he did might sound, at first, a little like he was playing Russian roulette.”
Maj. Mark Budde, a relative and himself a retired Marine who served a half century later in the same regiment as George, agrees: “It does sound a little crazy to be poking around the front lines in front of the German machine. I do not understand. Why didn’t they simply sit in their trenches, on both sides, and wait until 11:00 a.m. on the 11th?” Maj. Budde went so far as to launch informal inquiries from the Corps, including as recently as March 2012. “I’d like to hear the rationale for what the command was attempting to accomplish,” he says. No answer has been forthcoming.
Dr. Louis Meiners, a 1967 Xavier grad and great grand-nephew of Budde, has a collection of Budde’s wartime letters that offer a hint of clarity. “He was wounded at the front, sent to the hospital, returned to his position, and then his wound re-opened,” says Dr. Meiners. “He was sent back to the hospital, and he begged this time to return to the front, to give the Germans ‘one more go.’ ”
So does this portray Budde as a glory hound? Can his excursion be written off as youthful misadventure or misplaced bravado? Or was it something else, something infinitely more sad—the final action of a despondent man who just lost his fiancée? “They bought a house together that they’d never live in,” says Dr. Meiners. “I’ve always wondered in the back of my mind, if he knew Regina had just died, if he wasn’t being just reckless.”
Another scenario is proffered: Perhaps these particular Marines hadn’t gotten the message of the impending peace. This was, after all, still an era of carrier pigeons and horseback messengers. “That was always my thought, that communications weren’t that great back then,” says niece Jean Meiners, a 1960 Xavier grad.
If there’s any lesson of significance to absorb from Budde’s sacrifice, perhaps it’s in the often fruitless injustice and arbitrary fraudulence that accompanies war. There’s a famous quote by Joseph Persico that William Budde likes to reference today, if by way of meager comfort: “The pointless fighting on the last day of the war is the perfect metaphor for the four years that preceded it, years of senseless slaughter for hollow purposes.”
The storyline goes like this: Two airheads stumble into a nearly empty campus radio station. The dysfunctional duo wrangle control of the microphone, and proceed to channel a blend of Jerry Lewis and Les Nessman. Panic ensues.
You couldn’t script a better screwball comedy, but Guy Hempel and Larry Holt recall that’s how they lived it. “Hempel and I were the first two students on the air at WVXU in the fall of 1970,” says Holt. As he recounts the scenario, faculty members were manning the control board in the basement of Alter Hall. “The station was on the air only two hours a day,” he says. “We stopped in to see if we could get on the staff. They basically said, ‘What are you doing today?’ and we were on the air. As you can imagine, we had no idea what we were doing.”
“That’s very accurate,” says Hempel. “We left for the summer thinking we would come back to the low-watt AM WCXU, in hopes of getting a position playing rock ‘n’ roll. Surprise! We came back to an ‘educational FM’ WVXU and we were the first two student staffers. Then we had to get creative to fit what we wanted to play into the ‘educational’ mold.” This involved a mishmash of news and disc jockeying, alternating jazz with comedy. There was always beer in the fridge, says Holt, and all the expected firestorms, fistfights, on-air f-bombs and a GM “who used to quit in a huff about once a week, and then show up the next day as if nothing had happened.”
“I still can hear the phone calls: ‘Guys, this is the FCC calling,’ ” says Hempel with a laugh. There are, of course, memories they’d rather forget. An in-studio bachelor’s party, for one. And some imported programs. “ ‘Good Music for Good Neighbors’ was the bane of our existence,” says Holt. “And ‘In the Bookstall.’ We got tapes from some guy at Ohio State who just read books out loud.”
After graduation, both bounced around broadcasting. Holt worked a dozen years at WKRC-TV in Cincinnati along with some other outlets and now heads up Max Marketing and Productions. Hempel, meanwhile, became vice president and general manager of WHNS, the Fox affiliate in Greenville, S.C.
Mike Feeney has been called just about every name on the block: Cheese Whiz. Big Wheel. Even the Big Cheese.
As a senior executive at the online distributor CheeseGuys.com, Feeney’s certainly been around the dairy aisle more than a few times. “Basically, I’m a cheese broker,” says the 1972 public relations grad. “It’s not very glamorous. It’s kind of a quirky little business, a closed fraternity.”
Skim his résumé and his creamy credentials rise to the top: regional manager with Welch’s Grape Juice, sales manager with Beatrice Co., liaison to Gordon Food Services and finally, the CheeseGuys.com. As the website announces: “Feeney’s vast experience and practical product knowledge make him an excellent resource for any cheese question.”
Any question? We take him up on it.
The worst cheese mistake ever? Culinary horror stories abound, though one error is unforgivable. “Freezing it. We cringe at that whenever we hear it. Freezing drives out the flavor,” says this cheese cognoscente.
The best selection for all-purpose use? No stuffy Stilton or connoisseur’s Camembert for this proud Midwesterner. “My personal favorite is a 50/50, mozzarella-provolone blend. It has a nice stretch and rich flavor.”
The best location to shop? France, perhaps, or Switzerland? “No,” he growls, curdling at the suggestion. It’s only herd mentality that promotes Bleu and Brie from overseas. “Wisconsin alone has 12,000 dairy farms,” says Feeney, who claims some neutrality on this point as a resident of Michigan.
Feeney—a first-generation college student whose dad worked in a Steubenville steel mill—keeps true to his campus roots. During his second day on campus, he met his wife of 41 years, Pam Weniger, an English and MEd graduate. Their son is named Benjamin Xavier Feeney. True story. (“We still joke with him that he should be glad we didn’t go to Slippery Rock.”)
And he’s thrilled to help cheese—once characterized as plain milk’s bid for immortality—in any way possible. “My Michigan license plate is CHZ GUY.”
“Again, it’s not very glamorous,” says Feeney. “My wife, the English professor, affects far more lives than I do. I just raise cholesterol.”