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Joy, sorrow by the rails

April 30, 2012

Photo by Joseph Bell – Extensive restoration work to the Pennsy Station along North Broad Street in Ridgway has enhanced one of the town's entrances.

On the night of Feb. 21, 1941, the Service Company 112th Infantry Pennsylvania National Guard, consisting of six officers and 112 non-commissioned officers and men, under the command of Captain John C. Ruggaber of Ridgway, left for the Military Reservation at Indiantown Gap.
"It would've taken them a few hours or so on the train, a couple of hours at the most," said Mary Kalinowski, executive director of the Elk County Historical Society. "It would depend on whether or not they had to go and pick up other soldiers in other areas. The soldiers are shown with their backpacks and it looks like it shows them marching to the trains, others show them saying goodbye to families and such.
"The background in one of the photos shows the Pennsy Restaurant and the H&A Hardware building."
After spending three weeks on maneuvers at A.P. Hill, Virginia, the company maneuvered in North Carolina for three months and was returning to Indiantown Gap when Japanese forces struck at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
The local outfit departed for Camp Beauregard, La. Jan. 9, 1942, and later went to Camp Livingston, La. before going to Camp Gordon Johnston, Fla., Jan. 13, 1943 for amphibious training.
Arriving at Camp Pickett staging area, the 112th took mountain training in West Virginia and further amphibious training at Norfolk, Va.
In the latter part of September they went to Camp Miles Standish, Mass., and embarked from that point Oct. 8, 1943, under command of Captain Charles Goodspeed, arriving in Cardiff, Wales, 10 days later.
Further training there prepared the 112th for their crossing of the English Channel and landing on the Normandy beaches July 22, 1944. They went into the Battle of St. Lo July 28, 1944, fought across France and paraded through the Arc de Triomphe of a liberated Paris Aug. 29. They continued their advance through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and into Germany.
The homeward journey started July 27, 1945, from LaHavre, France. The 112th landed in Boston Aug. 3 and was demobilized soon after at Camp Shelby, Miss.
About 15 members of the original outfit leaving Ridgway in 1941 remained with the Service Company during the war. There were many replacements because of transfers. Of the original outfit, one member, Chief Warrant Officer Ralph B. States, of Ridgway, lost his life.
"They were marching to the train during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II-- that was the train that they took and they always marched through the streets and the people were always there to see them," Kalinowski said. "When they came home on the train, everyone was there to greet them back. It's always been a significant part of history as far as that goes."
Despite the rich history of the historic location, years of neglect took its toll as it fell into disrepair and a destruction order loomed.
Dennis and Rose Heindl, Ridgway citizens and philanthropists, generously donated $100,000 to save the station.
Everyone can be a part of this historic restoration. With a donation of $50 or more, your name will be inscribed on a commemorative plaque to be displayed at the Pennsy Station for generations to remember those citizens who wished the Pennsy Station's history to live on.
Regardless of the size of your donation, your contribution will not go unnoticed.
Those wishing to donate may clip the form in Monday's newspaper and send the information along with your donation to: The Ridgway Borough, c/o Pennsy Station Rehab, 108 Main St., Ridgway, Pa. 15853.

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