Don's hometown, Lock Haven, printed an article about his uncle:
The legacy of a name
October 10, 2011
The Express, The times were different, but they shared the same drive to do what was right and serve their country when they were needed.
Father and son Alvin Walizer Jr. and Alvin Walizer III each chose to serve their country, knowing the risks. Though their stories were different, they created a legacy of service that does Lock Haven proud.
Alvin E. Walizer Jr. was born Nov. 26, 1923, to Erma and Alvin Walizer in Lock Haven. Though his name was Alvin, he was usually called "Wally."
Alvin?Walizer Jr. and his bride,?Betty, on their wedding day.
Alvin?Walizer Jr. and his bride,?Betty, on their wedding day.
Wally attended Lock Haven High School, graduating in1941. He took a job with Piper Aircraft as an electrician. His wife Betty recalls that he was an "exceptionally bright young man." Betty and Wally were married in 1942. He was 18 and she was 16.
Throughout the early days of the war, Wally worked at Piper. He soon found out that Piper was getting him deferments to keep him from being drafted. Though he could have sat the war out by working, he enlisted in the Navy on Nov. 26, 1943. It was his 20th birthday.
"I was a little mad at him for enlisting," Betty recalls. "I figured if you could stay home, then stay home."
Wally went to basic training at Sampson, N.Y. From there, he shipped out to Ames, Iowa for technical training as an electrician.
"They wanted him to stay in Iowa and teach," Betty says. "He scored a 98 percent in his course grade."
Because of his previous experience at Piper, Wally completed the two-year course in four months. He opted not to be an instructor, however, and went on to Gyro school in California. At the conclusion of his training he was assigned to a heavy cruiser, the USS Tuscaloosa.
Wally sailed through the Panama Canal on his 21st birthday en route to the Pacific. The Tuscaloosa joined the 3rd Fleet at Ulithi in preparation for Operation Detachment, the invasion of Iwo Jima. Wally and his crewmates took part in the bombardment of the island as the Marines stormed the beaches.
Afterwards, the Tuscaloosa sailed back to Ulithi, rearmed and took on fuel, then promptly departed again. This time Wally's destination was Okinawa. Once again, the Cruiser stood offshore and pounded targets on the island. With only a brief break, the Tuscaloosa stayed on station off the coast for the entire battle, nearly three months.
The Tuscaloosa put in at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. At the conclusion of the war, Wally and his crewmates took part in mine sweeping operations in the Yellow Sea and the Wang Po River in China.
"The war ended in August," recalls Betty. "But he didn't start for home until December."
Betty explains that Wally stood extra watches when the other men wanted to play cards. From all the extra work, he was able to pay off the couple's house while he was in the service.
When Wally returned home, he went back to work for Piper.
"He received his five-year pin and his layoff slip on the same day," says Betty. "So he went and worked for the paper mill. He worked there for 38-and-a-half years."
Though Wally had already bought the house he and Betty lived in, he bought a plot near his parents' home and built a new house. Betty still lives in the house today.
"There was nothing that man couldn't do," Betty says. "The only thing he didn't do here was the plaster on the walls and laying up the brick. Everything else he did himself."
According to Betty, Wally's only hobby was work. Prior to building their home, he completely remodeled the house the family lived in during and immediately after the war. He worked at the paper mill all day then came back and worked on the house at night.
Wally was a member of the VFW and the Elks. While working at the paper mill, he also owned part of a business that sold and installed pools.
Wally and Betty have four children; Alvin III, called "Snap," Judy Haines, Charles and James. Alvin took after his father and signed up for the military when he was old enough.
"He was only 5 or 6 days old, getting a bath, when his grandfather walked in and said, 'He looks like a snapping turtle. He was called 'Snap' after that," Betty said.
Snap was born March 16, 1947. He showed an ambition and drive early in life, by joining the town boys choir at age 6.
"He couldn't read," says Betty. "And they wouldn't let him join if he couldn't read. But he said 'Mommy, I'll learn it.' He taught himself the entire Christmas concert."
Snap attended Lock Haven High and was involved in both chorus and wrestling. He graduated in 1965, but even before that he and several of his friends had enlisted in the Marines.
"When he came home and told me what he'd done, I coulda' killed him," says Betty. "Vietnam was already going on and we knew he'd be sent."
"Snap was a lot like Dad," says Judy Haines, sister. "He always had to be doing something. He raced motorcycles at a course in Swissdale. He had a really steady girlfriend. We would go to watch wherever he raced."
Snap received basic training at Parris Island, S.C. He was scheduled to receive pilot training, but he wore glasses, which disqualified him. He was sent to Quantico, Va. for advanced training.
"He wasn't in for very long," says Betty. "Just August to March of the next year. That was it."
Snap and two other Marines were on their way home for leave in a convertible when the driver lost control of the car and crashed.
"Snap helped them load the other two," says Betty. "Then he collapsed. They tried surgery, but he didn't make it. It was 12 days before his 19th birthday."
Wally passed away in December 1997.
"We had 50 years together," Betty says with a smile. Not many people can make the same claim.
True to the legacy of Wally and Snap, Betty has a niece Dorothy Walizer in the Navy.
"Dorothy Walizer. She's been in since the 70s and she works in D.C." says Betty. "She's in the Navy."
Wally and Snap were supposed to be on the same banner for the 2009 program.
"They put them both on the same banner, but said it didn't look right," says Betty. "So they made two banners for them for the same price. It's a great program."
Wally and Snap were cut from the same cloth. These two hard working and patriotic men put themselves in harm's way to do what was right. They stand as a testament to the patriotism and dedication of the Lock Haven community and as an example to those who would follow their lead.