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Joan Anderson, Washburn

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Ashland soldier coming home after 69 years
19-year-old was first Wisconsinite killed in Korea

Edward Marshall Morrison, "Buster" to those that knew him best, couldn't wait to join the U.S. Army.

As soon as he graduated from Ashland's DePadua High School in 1949, he signed up, and after basic training was assigned to garrison duty in Japan. It was great duty if you could get it — no real threats, relaxed discipline, lax training schedules.

Those good times came to an abrupt halt when communist North Korea invaded South Korea, just across the Sea of Japan on the Asian mainland, on June 25, 1950.

Over the next three days, the North overwhelmed the unprepared South Korean Army and President Harry Truman ordered American troops immediately assigned to the embattled peninsula.

Among the first American units to arrive in Korea was Morrison's 34th Infantry Regiment, which was immediately put into the field near a village called Pyongtaek, north of the South Korean capital of Seoul. American military commanders hoped that American forces could quickly halt the South Korean rout.

But the Army troops in Japan sent to the battlefield were far different than the victorious forces that had defeated Japan and Germany in the Second World War five years earlier. Understrength, short on weapons and ammunition due to extensive military budget cuts, many of the men were also inexperienced.

The first encounters between the U.S. Army and the invading North Koreans were disastrous. Morrison and

about 1,000 other men in the First Battalion were confronted by a crack North Korean division with some 12,000 soldiers backed up by dozens of Soviet T-34 tanks.

The first to die was Morrison, hit by enemy machinegun fire as he stood in his foxhole. He was the first Wisconsin soldier killed in action during the Korean War.

His remains were left behind in Korea, forgotten by everyone except family members and a military unit dedicated to identifying and returning fallen soldiers.

Now his body is coming home to Ashland. This is the story of how the 19-year-old's remains finally were identified and returned to his family.

The telegram

Harriet Yachinich of Ashland was 7 years old and her sister Barbara Bjork of Iron River was 10 when their older brother went into the Army. They and sister Ann Krause, of Vancouver, Wash., are the last surviving siblings from the family of nine children of Edward P. and Hattie R. Morrison. They remember their brother as someone they both looked up to and pestered unmercifully.

Bjork said she and Yachinich were at home with their older sister Ann when the telegram informing the family of Morrison's death arrived.

"Mom was out of town, and Dad was out shopping, so Ann took the telegram and opened it, and she started crying," Bjork said.

Their brother Roy read the message and immediately went upstairs to his room, keeping his grief to himself.

"Daddy came home and he dropped both bags of groceries on the floor," Bjork said.

The California relatives that Hattie Morrison had been staying with immediately drove day and night and day to reach Ashland, and the family grieved together.

But there was no closure to that grief; Edward's body was not returned home, and repeated communications with the Army brought no results.

The war ended with an armistice in 1953 that left a divided Korea, with the North walled off and all but inaccessible to anyone from the West. Morrison's body mouldered thousands of miles away from his Ashland home.

As late as 1974, Edward's father asked Wisconsin Sen. William Proxmire for help in having his son's body returned. "We had made a request to have it brought back. The excuse they gave us was that he was buried in enemy territory. That hurt my wife very much and she never got over it to the day she passed away," he said in the letter to Proxmire.

There was nothing politicians, military commanders or the family could do.

The rout

After Morrison was stitched with machine gun fire, comrades moved his body to the unit's command post to take it to the rear. But North Korean troops soon overwhelmed the command post and Morrison's body was left behind. He was a little less than four months shy of his 20th birthday.

During the war, the bodies of American soldiers were recovered from battlefields all over the Korean peninsula. Many of them had no identification and were taken for burial in temporary Korean cemeteries. After the war, in 1954, they were moved to Japan for identification. Morrison's remains were deemed unidentifiable and they were interred in Hawaii's National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

With improving technology, it became possible to identify remains using DNA. In 2018, the military turned its attention to a mass grave of American soldiers whose bodies were dug up and examined using DNA analysis.

Among those remains were Morrison's. Nearly 69 years after his death, on May 31, specialists were able to make a DNA match with surviving family members. The discovery meant after nearly seven decades of not knowing, family members, including his three surviving sisters, could bring their brother home for burial in the community where he was born and raised.

Coming home

Yachinich said the identification of her brother's remains was "like a miracle,"

though her joy is tempered by the fact that neither of her parents is living to share the news.

Their mother had a heart attack shortly after Edward's death was announced, the first of several that eventually led to her death.

"He was her oldest son, that is something special, and it was very hard for her," Bjork said. "She thought of him all the time."

But for the remaining family, the return of their brother's remains will provide a sense of closure and recognition of his ultimate sacrifice for his country so many years ago.

"We have always been so proud of him, and now he's coming home," said Yachinich.

An honor procession escorting Morrison's remains will take place on Wednesday, with details about the procession to be made public as they become available. Local arrangements are being handled by the Bratley Funeral Homes/Frost Homes for Funerals in Ashland. A visitation is planned for Friday from 4-7 p.m. Military burial rites with the U.S. Army and the Chequamegon United Veterans will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 17 in the military section at Mount Hope Cemetery in Ashland.

Sidewalks a concrete problem in Washburn
City Council to hear presentation on fixing walks Monday

A demand from the city to replace his sidewalk would put Lance Bitzer in a financial bind.

The general manager at Hansen's IGA has about 350 feet of sidewalk on his property at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Fourth Street in Washburn. If the City Council ordered the dilapidated path fixed, the full tab could wind up on his shoulders under city ordinance.

"I don't know where I'm going to get that money," he said.

Many of Washburn's sidewalks are undeniably in bad shape. Grass has enveloped some paths completely, sections have buckled and trees overhang portions of walkways, making passage nearly impossible.

The situation is bad enough that when Washburn Girl Scouts searched for a community project to tackle in order to earn a Journeys badge, they eyed the sidewalks and met with the City Council in June to discuss their concerns.

The girls said people were at risk of trips and falls because of uneven surfaces,

and it was difficult — if not impossible — for people to navigate grass-covered sections on wheeled transportation such as bicycles, wheelchairs or strollers.

They asked in the interests of safety that the council at least consider fixing Washington Avenue's west-side sidewalks between Bayfield and Eighth streets.

But the big problem tripping up sidewalk improvements, as always, is the price tag.

According to city ordinance, property owners are responsible for paying the entire cost of repairing, replacing or installing a sidewalk. If the city does the project, a special assessment is tacked onto the property owner's tax bills.

And not many Washburn residents have that much extra cash on hand.

Several factors can affect the cost of a sidewalk project, said city Administrator Scott Kluver, including economies of scale, obstacles in the pathway and the possible need to install handicap-accessible ramps. The ballpark figure the city currently is using to estimate the cost of a project is $56.16 per linear foot, assuming a sidewalk width of five feet and a depth of four inches.

That would translate into a $19,656 bill in Bitzer's case if the entire length of his sidewalk were to be replaced.

Girl Scout leader Becky Shafstall agreed that cost was a factor, and she had warned the girls that they may fail to persuade the city to redo the sidewalks, although the mayor promised them the city would search for alternatives to billing property owners.

Regardless of the outcome, Shafstall at least wanted the girls to learn that some projects are worth making an attempt to accomplish.

But the Girl Scout troop now appears to have two allies willing to keep the ball rolling.

Linda Coleman and Connie Wroblewski asked to address the council about repairing all dilapidated sidewalks in the city — not just on Washington Avenue.

In response to the inclusion of the women's presentation on the agenda for Monday's meeting, Mayor Richard Avol cited one other factor to consider besides the cost of fixing dilapidated sidewalks: the possible loss of trees lining the streets.

Tree roots sometimes cause sidewalks to buckle, and fixing the walk by cutting the roots could damage or kill the trees. The city may have to decide between repairing a sidewalk or endangering a big, old tree.

On the other hand, safety is a real concern.

Anthony Budreau owns a house on Fifth Street with a short section of sidewalk in need of rehabilitation. He doesn't have a problem with paying to have the walk replaced because it would be safer for pedestrians.

A father of two young children and an 11-yearold stepdaughter, Budreau has seen children, especially in winter, walking on the streets instead of the sidewalks, and that's not safe, he said.

Eight-year-old Girl Scout Addi Warrell punctuated Budreau's concern in a letter she gave to City Council members to read for their June meeting.

The letter, illustrated with a scooter on top of a broken, grass-covered surface, included this message after describing the poor state of Washburn's sidewalks: "We end up walking in the street, and that's DANGEROUS!"

$500K grant to help build Red Cliff fish facility


Red Cliff tribal officials and commercial fishermen have dreamed for decades of having their own fish-processing facility that would allow them to clean, package and sell their harvests of whitefish and lake trout directly to customers.

That dream is one step closer to reality as officials of the Department of Housing and Urban Development Friday awarded the tribe a grant for $543,140 to be used for the improvement and expansion of the commercial fishing dock and it's access road.

The grant will be combined with funds received by the tribe as their portion in a groundbreaking legal case, Keepseagle vs. Vilsack, a decades long battle to resolve claims that the U.S. Department of Agriculture systematically discriminated against Native American farmers and ranchers.

Chad Abel, administrator of the Red Cliff Tribe's natural resources division, said commercial fishing is a form of traditional agriculture, sustainably harvesting fish from the lake, and HUD administrators agreed, awarding the tribe $595,000 to be used to construct a fish-processing building and install automated processing equipment.

The tribe also has filed another federal grant request seeking money to help fund initial marketing efforts and other start-up costs.

Abel said for the past 30 years the tribe has been interested in helping tribal commercial fishermen exercise greater economic control of their catch, but that effort has taken off in the last five years. A crucial key to making the efforts a reality was a 400-page feasibility study that made the tribe eligible for funds to construct the project.

"Despite having a substantial harvest of lake whitefish and lake trout from Lake Superior, we don't have a method of processing that catch," he said. "As a result, nearly all of that catch is sold off reservation to the wholesale market."

That puts tribal fishermen at a disadvantage on the prices they can get for their fish.

Abel said just one wholesaler is now buying tribal catch. He said the tribe wants to do all its processing on site, creating a ready-to-market product that could fetch a higher price for fishermen.

"Right now there is essentially a monopoly of who tribal fisherman can sell to, and as a result they are often offered a terrible price for their catch, especially when you compare it to tribal fishers in the Upper Peninsula who receive a better price at the same time of the calendar year — our prices are always much lower than what their fisheries are getting for a catch," he said.

Red Cliff commercial fisherman Bryan Bainbridge said the project will have important implications for the Red Cliff community and it's fishermen.

He said the new dock would allow the entire 10 big boat Red Cliff fleet to dock at the same time. Currently not more than five vessels at any one time can moor at the existing dock.

Bainbridge said he has advocated for the improvements for the 15 years he worked for the tribe's natural re-source department, and the time he served as tribal vice chairman and chairman.

"To establish our own fisheries infrastructure here will obviously have economic benefits for the reservation, but it is also important for tribal and other local fishermen. It's good to have more than one place to sell to, it will have an impact on our price for product," he said. We have good relationships with our fish buyers, but it's like any business, it is always good to have more than one."

He said the development would also provide opportunities for additional employment on the Reservation.

"It is going to be of great benefit for our fishermen and for Red Cliff," he said.

Marta Juaniza, a HUD public affairs officer, said the grants were the result of concepts developed by the Red Cliff themselves.

"They are the ones who know best what the needs of the community are," she said.

The grants have been in existence since 1977, and Juaniza said their goal was to help develop viable Indian and Alaska native communities, including projects like housing as well as economic opportunity projects.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)