‘Well, I guess I don’t have a dad anymore’

WWII Army veteran laid to rest in Plainfield 77 years after he’s killed

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a six-part story.

A cold winter day.

That’s how Georgia Donisch, 85, of Plainfield, remembers Nov. 20, 1944, the day she learned that her father, Arthur Countryman, a World War II soldier, had been killed.

Donisch, who was 9 at the time, was playing at a friend’s house when she was told her sister Eleanor, 14, had called and that Donisch was to go to her grandfather’s house right way. Charles, her grandfather, lived next door to Donisch’s home, she said.

“She was home because my mother was working,” Donisch said of her sister. “She was called over to Grandpa’s house when the minister came with the telegram from the delivery man that [their father] was killed.”

Donisch said her sister Mary, 13, was also called home from a friend’s house. So was their lone brother, Arthur Earl, 11. The minister “hung around for a while,” Donisch said.

She recalled that her grandmother mentioned that Donisch’s mother, Loretta, was working at “the plant,” meaning the Elwood Ordinance Plant, and that the plant was notified.

Eleanor had gone home to cook food. When Donisch and her siblings went home, they saw uniformed men in a car in their driveway.

“Then one got out and opened the back seat [door] and took my mother out and held her and brought her into the house,” Donisch said. “And then he left.”

Donisch recalled thinking, “Well, I guess I don’t have a dad anymore” and “Now we won’t have to sit on the porch and wait for him.” The American Legion in Plainfield sent a representative to help Loretta sign paperwork, she said.

Donisch said she once asked her mother how she managed on her own, raising four children.

“We were not good kids. We got into a lot of trouble,” Donisch said.

Donisch said her mother always amazed her. She not only worked and cared for the children, she performed home repair and gardening, too. Loretta added concrete to the basement – and a bathroom. The family had only an outhouse at the time, Donisch said.

“My mother did every bit of work she could possibly do – her and my brother,” Donisch said. “I remember her hooking up the faucets in the bathroom. She went up on the roof and put roofing shingles up, wearing out the knees in her overalls. There wasn’t anything my mother couldn’t do. She was the most independent person in the world … she worked five days a week. Yet she could sit down at night and crochet the finest, most delicate lace you ever saw.”

Over time, Arthur’s children married and had children. Arthur’s grandchildren are, according to his obituary, Daniel Pehlke, Dale Pehlke, Douglass Pehlke, David Papesh, Michael Papesh (deceased), Brian Papesh, Art Countryman, Gary Countryman, Terry Countryman, Pamela Larkey and Charles Donisch.

Arthur is also a “great-grandfather and great-great grandfather of many,” his obituary said.

For a long time, Brian knew his grandfather as “a great big picture of Grandpa in his fatigues on the wall,” he said.

He knows more now.

Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.