Remembering The 44: The Stories Behind Memorial Stadium In El Reno

Friday, September 6th 2019, 10:47 am
By: Ashley Holden

The El Reno school district is rededicating its football stadium 70 years after it was built.

The memorial originated from a special research project in Brian Rukes' class. 
"It was something that was going to help them learn about their family, their history, their community and really to take pride in El Reno," said Rukes.
"What's the date on the back of there?" asked Madison Bollinger to her former classmate Everaro Solis. 
The pair was some of the first students in Rukes' research project. Two years later, they sat down with News 9 to talk about their experience. 
"History books can't tell you everything," said Bollinger. 
The goal was exactly that: study the thousands of El Reno high school graduates that didn't make it into the books. Today, class pictures dating back to the 1800s hang in various halls of the high school. 
Solis covered Lela Ankney. Two years ago, Ankney visited the high school. At that point, she was 103 years old. 
"I got to talk to Lela about things in her life like how she lived through the actual great depression," said Solis. 
Bollinger had several family members she studied, including her aunt and grandma. 
"There were a lot of memories that were brought up when doing this," said Bollinger. 
But the whole project changed in January 2018, when an article caught the attention of one of Rukes' students. 
"He knew that it had his person's name in it, and I was like, 'Oh, that's really cool, but then it had the 37 other names,'" said Rukes. 
They learned those names were the inspiration for the district's football field, Memorial Stadium. Originally, there were 38 men who served in World War II, who gave their lives in military service and, at one point, were students in El Reno.
"They never put a plaque on the stadium, and my initial thought was we have to do something with this," said Rukes. 
Rukes' class shifted their focus and started studying the original 38. 
During their research, the group found six others that fit the criteria. The list ended up growing from 38 to the final number, 44. 
Now, 70 years later, the school has planned a special ceremony to rededicate the stadium.
On October 4, the district is expecting family members related to the 44 men, community members and current students to be in El Reno. A memorial will be unveiled, permanently marking the field and letting future El Reno residents know why the stadium bears the name Memorial Field. 
"A big part of what we are doing is reaching out to the community," said Rukes.
The district is hoping current residents learn about the 44 and help the district celebrate their rededicated field. 
"People truly matter, and these people's lives matter, and the sacrifices that they made were real. It's not just a name on a plaque or a memorial," said Rukes.  
The district is selling shirts in honor of the 44 men. 
You can find more information, visit the district's website

Here is the list of names of the 44 being honored on October 4 with the Memorial Stadium Rededication:

Austin Ables, Cpl, U.S. Army Air Forces

Hampton Allison, T/Sgt, U.S. Army

Everett Bell, MM2c, U.S. Navy

Donald Bolinger, Aviation Cadet, U.S. Army Air Forces

Eugene Bradly, Aviation Cadet, U.S. Army Air Forces

Wilson Burns / Davis, S2, U.S. Naval Reserve

Roy Burton, SM3c, U.S. Navy

George William Crume, S/Sgt, U.S. Army

Earl Crump, NAM2, U.S. Navy

Rene Duffield, Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Wilburn Dyche, Cpl, U.S. Marine Corps

Arthur Eichor, M/Sgt, U.S. Army

Jack Evans, 2nd Lt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Roby Ferguson, MM1c, U.S. Merchant Marines

Leonard L. Flagler, T/Sgt, U.S. Army

B. Flippen, CM1c, U.S. Merchant Marines

Vernon Frazier, F1, U.S. Navy

DeLana “Gus” Funk, Capt, U.S. Army

Alfred Hinds, T/Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Olsen Hodges, ENS, U.S. Navy Reserve

W. “Rookie” Jacks, Tec 4, U.S. Army

Gordon Jackson, S/Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Clark “Sonny” Kegelman, Col, U.S. Army Air Forces

Roberts “Billy” Laird, SM1c, U.S. Navy

Leon Lucus, 1st Lt, U.S. Army

Richard Matthews, 1st Lt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Wilfred Miller, Pfc, U.S. Army

Arthur Miller, 1st Lt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Edgar Monday, Jr., ARM1, U.S. Navy

Howard Morgan, Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Forrest Moseley, Sgt, U.S. Army

J. Moss, S/Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Robert Eugene Mowry, Cpl, U.S. Army

Arthur Pearce, Jr., T/Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Dunfee “Jack” Ridenour, S1, U.S. Coast Guard

Thomas Rider, HA1, U.S. Navy

Dale Rukes, S/Sgt, U.S. Army Air Forces

Hendrix “Buddy” Smith, Jr., 2nd Lt., U.S. Army Air Forces

Allen Stewart, Pfc, U.S. Army

Leigh Taylor, 1st Lt, U.S. Army Air Forces

King Townsend, Lt, U.S. Naval Reserve

Edward Whitlock, Asst. Cook, U.S. Merchant Marines

Lee Wilson, WT1, U.S. Navy

Don Wright, SC, U.S. Navy








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