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An Artistic Way to Honor WWII Veterans

This Special to the Tribune

Connecticut businessman Walter Schuppe was having trouble finding WWII veterans. A hobbyist photographer, he wanted to honor his heroes by taking black-and-white still photographs as they told him their stories of serving in the war. Schuppe explained, “When I turned sixty, I realized I wanted to do something to make a lasting positive tribute. I didn’t serve in the military. I’ve had an easy life compared to people who served. I wanted to honor them.”

Columbia SC campers hear D-Day veteran George Sarros’ s narrative on D-Day and WWII Normandy invasion at Brevard’s Veteran’s History Museum of the Carolinas.
Columbia SC campers hear D-Day veteran George Sarros’ s narrative on D-Day and WWII Normandy invasion at Brevard’s Veteran’s History Museum of the Carolinas.

The photographer initially had difficulty finding WWII veterans and getting them involved in his project. He got started by photographing a relative, but when he found lists of WWII veterans in Connecticut and mailed letters requesting their participation, responses were few. A financial services professional, Schuppe travels to Durham frequently, so he decided to try his luck here in North Carolina. He found the web site of the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas, contacted curator Emmett Casciato, and asked for help. It so happened that a museum volunteer had published a book of the stories of 22 area WWII veterans, so Schuppe and author Janis Allen embarked on this project. On September 6, eight WWII veterans (with their family members listening quietly) sat before Schuppe’s camera lens. The veterans reminisced about their experiences in North Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. After each “shooting”, Schuppe showed each veteran the shots and asked him to select his favorite.

As these eight veterans and their families arrived for their appointments in the museum, many sat down to listen to the stories of other veterans as they talked. Afterward, they met fellow veterans and compared experiences. Coincidentally, a Columbia, S.C. church group of young men camping in Davidson River campground came into the museum. They received a special “I was there” account of the D-Day landings on Normandy Beach from U.S. Navy LST Motor Machinist George Sarros. They received a guided tour of the museum’s galleries by Harold Wellington, who spent the war dodging German torpedoes in the North Atlantic. It was a meeting of young and old, remembering and learning, which often happens in the museum.
Schuppee will label, mat, and frame the photos and present them to the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas for a special exhibit. He will also give each veteran a framed copy of his photo, as well as displaying all the photos in Connecticut. The photography exhibit will be open to the public in the museum. We’ll keep you posted on the debut date!

The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas is located at 21 East Main Street in Brevard, and is open Wednesday – Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and Sunday from 1 to 4 pm. Admission is free. To arrange a group tour, purchase an Honor Wall plaque for a veteran, or for more information, please visit theveteransmuseum.org or call 828-884-2141 during open hours.

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