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Phippsburg women revive lost piece of history

Verna Whaley and Louise Iacovetto led the effort to refurbish a military honor roll created in 1944 and listing all of the men from Phippsburg who served in World War II and the Korean War.
Kari Dequine Harden

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After digging a large wooden board painted with a long list of names out of storage at a Phippsburg church, Verna Whaley and Louise Iacovetto are determined to bring history back to life.

Measuring about 5 feet by 6 feet, the piece of plywood was originally created by the Phippsburg Women’s Club around 1944. Written in neat columns are the names of all the men and boys from Phippsburg who enlisted or were drafted for World War II.

There were originally 45 names on the military honor roll — mostly from families of railroaders, miners, ranchers and sawmill workers.

Ten more names were added after the Korean War. Stars mark the names of the four men who died serving their country.

And there’s only one family name on the board that Iacovetto — a lifelong resident of Phippsburg — doesn’t recognize. To the best of their knowledge, the two women can only point to one name on the board that they know is still living.

Iacovetto’s husband, Ray, is on the board, as is Whaley’s husband, Blaine. Both women started dating their husbands after they returned from service. Iacovetto can also point to a couple of other young men with whom she dated — usually either to the Saturday night dance or a movie in Oak Creek. One of those was Blaine’s brother, Harold.

Whaley grew up in Toponas before moving to Phippsburg in 1973 — when the kids were grown and gone, and there wasn’t anyone left to help on the family’s ranch. Her family homesteaded in Toponas in 1929, when Whaley was 2 years old.

There are a total of seven Iacovettos on the honor roll and four Whaleys.

The board was displayed on a vacant lot right off the highway until 1969 when the Phippsburg Post Office was built. About 1972, it was donated to the Phippsburg Community Club.

Nearly 50 years later, Whaley and Iacovetto rediscovered the display, but it had been badly weathered and at some point in time scrawled on by passers by.

They asked the club’s permission to take possession of it and asked Natalie de Stefano, the owner of Skullbone Gallery in McCoy to refurbish it — “Because it’s history,” Iacovetto said, “And our boys served our country.”

The two women are true icons of South Routt, and they both remember well when the boys went off to war and the women went to work. They helped their families run their ranches, caring for animals and harvesting lettuce, spinach and potatoes. Iacovetto also worked in her family’s grocery store.

They rode horses to high school in Yampa and remember rations for sugar and other commodities.

“It was just kind of hard times for everyone,” Iacovetto said.

At Christmas, they most looked forward to the treats like nuts and fruit, Whaley said, which were in short supply. Because of the war, Whaley said her graduating class started out at 21 and ended up with just 10 students.

They remember the parties held for the young men returning from war, at which Whaley’s aunt played the piano, so they could dance. And, “When a fellow came home, we’d have him over for dinner,” Iacovetto said.

When their husbands died not long apart more than half a century later later, the two women, already lifelong friends, Whaley and Iacovetto became a well-known team of two. Whaley was married to Blaine for 60 years, and Iacovetto to Ray for 59 and a half years.

For decades, they have helped to run the Phippsburg thrift store, which opens every Thursday out of the church. The money raised goes toward the town’s streetlights, park maintenance, as well as donations to families in need, South Routt firefighters and the Council on Aging.

Whaley and Iacovetto don’t yet know where the refurbished honor roll will be displayed — they are trying to find a place at the park and exploring other locations with space enough to properly honor and keep alive the memories of the young men from Phippsburg who served their country. Until then, it sits well-protected in Whaley’s garage.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.


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