Surrounded Friday by friends and family at his home on East High Street, longtime Milton resident and World War II veteran Frank Bua, 93, was presented with a Quilt of Valor.
The 60- by 80-inch quilt was presented by one of its makers, Alice Johnson, Mukwonago. Often emotional, in her speech, Johnson said: “Your quilt was made by three volunteers. One did the top and backing, one did the machine quilting and one made the label. It was made in our homes of good fabrics and patterns. Each step was the best we could do to honor you and say thank you.
“It was an honor to make your quilt … No one knows what you experienced, but we know that you left your home and private life to serve in a faraway place.”
After the presentation, there were hugs, words of congratulations and cake. Frank’s daughter, Mary Lemirande, played the piano at her father’s request. When she finished, her sister, Lisa Bua, thanked her for the moment.
Mary’s piano playing is a cherished part of home, she said.
Finding home in Milton
A native of Beloit, when he was a teenager, Frank said, he was playing baseball with his brother in what was then an open field in Milton.
He told himself, he said: “If I ever get married, I want to build in a place like this.”
Years later, he did just that, building by his own hand, his daughter Mary said, his home and a liquor store on land located today behind Kwik Trip. The buildings were constructed in 1965.
Frank attended high school in Beloit, but before he graduated, he enlisted into the Navy, he said. He was 17.
Describing his youthful decision, he said: “I wanted to be patriotic. I wanted to get into the service, but my mother stopped me. I was 16 then. I started hounding (my parents) for a couple months, and then I enlisted into the Navy. I went to boot camp in 1943. I went to Great Lakes Naval Station (in Illinois). I was a gunner’s mate.”
After boot camp, he said, he was sent to Seneca, Ill., where, he said, his ship was built. After he and his fellow crewmembers, some 90 to 100 souls, boarded their ship, they headed down the Illinois River and then the Mississippi.
“We sailed to New Orleans. The boat was an LST-627, which stands for landing ship tank,” Frank said.
In New Orleans, the ship was outfitted with guns, which were tested in the Gulf of Mexico.
His was an armored division, Frank said.
Four days after leaving Illinois, the ship left for open water, arriving in the Panama Canal, which, Frank said, was “a treat to see how it operated.” The ship traveled to San Diego, Hawaii, and then to the Pacific theater.
His ship was involved in two invasions, he said: Luzon and Okinawa.
While at war, his ship sailed in a convoy. The first six months were spent preparing the men and the ship for war. The next two years were spent largely at sea, Frank said.
“It was a terrible thing going in on invasions. We beached with a ship, and the jeeps and tanks and soldiers went out. After we dispersed them, we got off the beach and anchored out at sea,” he said.
Frank was discharged May 2, 1946.
After serving in the war, Frank said, he returned to Beloit and took a GED examination. In 1949, he enrolled in Milton College.
While there, Frank said, he studied history and secondary education, and he was inducted into the college’s Hall of Fame. He held a batting average of 473, he said. The record will never be beaten because the college closed, he said.
While in school, he met his future wife, Betty. The two graduated in 1952 and were married the same year. The couple settled into a home on College Street and remained there until the home on East High Street was finished. Together, Frank and Betty raised six children, five daughters and one son. All the children were born while the family lived on College Street except the youngest, Frank’s daughter Mary said.
After graduating from Milton College, Frank went to work for the phone company in Milton serving as a general manager, Mary said. He did that work from 1952 until 1964 when he opened the liquor store. He ran the store until he sold it in 1981, she said. He also joined the postal service staff, serving as a rural route carrier until he retired sometime during the mid-70s, she said.
While working at the liquor store, postal service and after retirement, Frank served as a substitute teacher in the Milton school system. He taught every grade, he said.
After a battle with cancer, Betty died in 1998, Frank’s daughters, Mary and Lisa, said. She was 66. The couple had been married for 46 years. Frank married his current wife, Judy Janes, 12 years ago, Mary said.
Quilts of Valor
Johnson said Quilts of Valor Foundation is a nonprofit organization supported by volunteers in 50 states. The group has been presenting soldiers and veterans with quilts since 2003, and have, to date, presented 232,000 quilts.
The program was founded by Catherine Roberts, described by Johnson as a Navy wife, mother of three Navy enlistees, nurse and a quilter. Johnson said Roberts had a desire to bring warmth and comfort, first, to wounded soldiers, and later, expanded the mission to offer thanks to those who served.
Johnson said Frank’s quilt was finished earlier this month. The group began working on it in October. Frank’s was the first quilt Johnson has worked on as a member of the group, she said.
Presenting Frank with the quilt was an emotional experience, Johnson said, because she felt inspired by Frank’s story and it also brought her closer to her own father, Adolph Furstenberg. He was a member of the coast guard for 23 years, she said. He died 14 years ago at the age of 94.
“He would have loved this. When I do this, I feel close to my Dad, and I think they (soldiers) deserve it,” Johnson said.
To learn more about the Quilts of Valor Foundation, visit the website: https://www.qovf.org.