WWI Fallen Veteran Nichola Elmo Remembered
The community of Trafford, located just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was founded in 1904 by inventor and entrepreneur George Westinghouse. When the country was thrown into the first World War, the citizens of Trafford answered the call and sent hundreds of their boys off to fight. Community members rallied behind their men and pitched in to provide support for the nation. Most of the men from the Trafford community returned home. A few men did not.
To honor all those who served in the Great War, a bronze tablet and granite stone was installed by the citizens of Trafford in their community park. The first appearance of the newly created bronze table, with the names of Trafford’s servicemen, was put on display inside the First National Bank on Oct. 23, 1919. A local newspaper reported that the new bronze tablet had 116 names appearing on the honor roll including two men killed in action in France - Homer Earl and “Chalky” Jennets.
As the citizens of the town went to see the bronze tablet on display at the Cavitt Avenue bank, three returning veterans would find their names absent from this first bronze casting - Robert O. Earl, Andrew A. Capets, and Ivan Mlinaric. Take note of this 1919 photo below that illustrates that there were no names in the left column below the name Ross Earl, or in the right column below the name Jack Winwood. The names of Robert O. Earl, Andrew A. Capets, and Ivan Mlinaric were later added to the tablet.
As preparations for the 1919 parade and memorial dedication continued, a souvenir program was designed by Rev. G.G. Gallagher and printed for the event. Rev. Gallagher knew something that the local papers did not know. There were actually four men from the community that died in the war, not just the two reported. Inside the Pastor's program appeared the names of four men from Trafford who made the supreme sacrifice. The men listed were Homer Earl, Nick Elmo, Frank Glendenning and Charles Jenets.
Frank Glendenning’s name was included in the first bronze casting because he was once a student at the Trafford schools, but his record of enlistment from Pitcairn likely prevented the newspapers from including him in their news reporting. Although the 1919 community memorial dedication recognized these four men who were killed, the name Nicola (Nick) Elmo was left off the bronze tablet.
Nicola Elmo was an Italian immigrant who once served in the Italian Army. Although he was married and had one child, he was drafted in 1917 and eventually served in France with the 145th Infantry, 37th Division. Seven days before the war ended, Nicola Elmo was killed in the Ypres-Lys Campaign. He is buried in Flanders Field American Cemetery, Waregem, Belgium. His death would not become known by his family until many months after the close of the war. A letter written to the War Department by his brother-in-law, Carlo Crispino, can only augment the sorrow his family must have endured not knowing the fate of their beloved Nicola.
The letter reads in part, “I have not been able to get any communication with Nick Elmo of Co H, 145th Infantry … I have heard he was killed please advise me if you have any record of him being killed, wounded, or captured.”
For years to come, the community of Trafford gathered in the park on Memorial Day to honor its fallen veterans. As years passed and new conflicts took even more lives, the memory of Nicola Elmo would fade with time. It is not clear why Nicola Elmo’s name was never added to the World War I monument, even after the souvenir program was printed by the Pastor and the citizens honored his service. Subsequent Memorial Day ceremonies may have verbally honored his memory; however, it is clear that years would pass and Nicola Elmo’s sacrifice would be forgotten.
When the community of Trafford celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2004, a souvenir book was published. Inside this booklet was a page to honor all the Veterans from Trafford who died while serving their country. Nicola Elmo’s name was absent from this 100th-anniversary book. It was proof that Nick was forgotten. We can say with certainty that there was no intention to exclude Nick from the book. However, it does illustrate that intentional efforts must be made by members of a community to remember the sacrifice given by men like Nicola Elmo or they will be forgotten by future generations. The photo below shows the World War I Memorial in Trafford before renovations.
It is with both pride and humbleness that the Trafford Veterans Memorial Renovation Committee gathered for several years on a monthly basis to ensure that the memory of Nick and the other fallen veterans of Trafford would be remembered for generations to come. In 2013, the Trafford community once again gathered in the park on Memorial Day to remember its fallen heroes. This ceremony was different from past events for it was the first time the citizens would dedicate a new memorial in the park honoring those veterans who served during the Global War on Terror. This day was also special because it was the first ceremony to re-dedicate the renovated World War I Memorial for the community.
The efforts included a much-needed cleaning and refurbishing of the older World War I Memorial as shown above. Plans were in place for the 2013 dedication and pamphlets were printed with the names of all known Trafford fallen heroes. Absent from this 2013 printing was the name Nicola Elmo. Nearly 94 years after the war memorial was about to be re-dedicated, Nick was about to be forgotten yet again at the 2013 Memorial Day ceremony.
However, for reasons we cannot explain, just weeks before the new memorial was to be re-dedicated, a local resident passed away and her son presented Mayor Rey Peduzzi with a box of old Trafford items that she collected over the years as a longtime resident. In the box was Rev. Gallagher’s souvenir program from the 1919 memorial dedication. The 2013 ceremony may have been the first time in decades that planners of the Memorial Day ceremonies would remember Nicola Elmo as one of Trafford's Fallen Heros.
A commitment was made during that 2013 Memorial Day ceremony to place Nicola Elmo’s name on the bronze table. This commitment was fulfilled on May 26, 2014, with the addition of Nicola Elmo’s name on the tablet after a 95 year omission.
Present for the re-dedication of the World War I Memorial in 2014 was Nicola Elmo's great niece, Mrs. Martha McSorley of Maryland. A local news station heard about our story and interviewed Martha which aired on KDKA News as part of the station's Memorial Day coverage. Watch the video here.
The story did not end with the 2014 dedication of the memorial. In 2015, because of the story that aired on KDKA, the author of the book Flanders Fields, Patrick Lernout, viewed KDKA's website and set out to make a connection with Nicola Elmo's family and Marth McSorley. Lernout contacted Andrew Capets who in turn contacted McSorley to let her know that there were distant cousins located in Italy that wanted to meet her. McSorley made the connection via email with her new found cousins and received this beautiful photograph taken at the gravesite of Nicola Elmo in Belgium. On the left is Nicolino Cortese, great-grandson of Nicola Elmo, and on the right, Alessia Cortese, great-great-granddaughter of Nicola Elmo.
Nick has not been forgotten.
Story by Andrew Capets