Monday, May 25, 2020
Thomas D. Howie (1908-1944): "The Major of St-Lô"
Images: Kable Hall and the memorial to Thomas D. Howie on the old campus of SMA, Staunton, Virginia, May 25, 2020
Somehow it has become something of a tradition for the Riddle family to go play some tennis on Memorial Day. Today with the courts closed down in Charlottesville and Albemarle, we made the trip over to nearby Staunton and played on the courts at Mary Baldwin College.
The courts are in a back section of the college, which was formerly the campus of the Staunton Male Academy, later known as the Staunton Military Academy, or SMA (a designation still prominently stamped in various places on campus). The school existed from 1884-1976. After the school closed, the property was sold to the adjacent Mary Baldwin. Notable alamuni of SMA include 1964 Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, folk singer Phil Ochs, and Tarheel basketball legend Lenny Rosenbluth (see the SMA Wikipedia article).
On a walk through this part of campus today, I stopped in front of Kable Hall, once the main dormitory at SMA, where there is a central memorial to Thomas D. Howie (April 12, 1908-July 17, 1944). Howie was a teacher and coach at SMA who died in France during the liberation of Normandy. For the Battle of St-Lô, see this article. A granite plaque records that he had challenged his troops in battle by saying, "I'll see you in St-Lô." It continues: "After he fell they entered the city and placed his flag draped coffin in the ruins of Sainte Croix Church." It then adds: "Wherefore in his nation's history, he is 'The Major of St-Lô.'" The memorial closes: "Dead in France, Deathless in Fame."
It seemed a fitting place to pause today as we enjoyed and considered the freedom given us by previous generations.