World War II vet Howard Boomer’s service honored

Pictured during recent ceremony honoring Howard Boomer are Almont Officer Larry Jones, Gary Boomer, Peggy Ondersma, Micaela Boomer, Cynthia Coscarelli, ‘Howard,’ Haeley Boren, Paul Coscarelli, George Panduke and Todd Boren.

ALMONT — World War II veteran, Howard Boomer, received some welcome guests at his Almont home early last month.

Boomer, 93, is currently under hospice care, but continues to lead his life as he always has—with a positive attitude and love of life.

On Jan. 9, he was visited by a Custom Hospice representative, The Rev. Gordan Steinke; a U.S. military veteran who stopped by to acknowledge Boomer’s military service with a prayer, framed certificate of appreciation and a keepsake pin.

Steinke was joined for the pinning ceremony by other invitees including Almont police officer Larry Jones (a U.S. Marine veteran), longtime friends, Peggy Ondersma and George Panduke; and several family members.

Family members present for the ceremony were Gary (Howard’s son) and wife, Micaela Boomer; Cynthia (Howard’s daughter) and husband, Paul Coscarelli; and Haeley (his granddaughter) and her husband, Todd Boren.

After the ceremony, the family took photos and celebrated the occasion with a cake in Howard’s honor.

Micaela Boomer said Howard was very appreciative of the kindness shown by those who attended the ceremony.

“He was touched by the whole experience and became quite emotional,” said Micaela. “It was quite an honor for him.”

Howard’s son, Gary Boomer, said his father has never been one to relish attention, but that he thoroughly appreciated the opportunity to share his memories with his recent guests.

“My dad said it was so surprising to him that at this stage of his life, he would be recognized for something that happened so long ago,” Gary said. “Surrounded by all of his guests, including some strangers, he seemed to just come alive that day.

“He had a real glow about him,” he added. “It was a very moving experience for all of us. And especially for my dad.”

Military experiences

As a member of the U.S. Army’s 79th Infantry, 18-year-old Boomer was shipped overseas on May 20, 1944, and was among the replacements for the troops that landed and fought on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Family members said Boomer and his fellow members of the 79th Infantry hit the beach on June 10, four days after the original assault, and were met by “intense and continued mortar fire.”

Because Howard was still only 18 when his battalion landed and two days shy of his 19th birthday, he did not meet the legally required age to be fighting overseas.

Boomer’s daughter-in-law, Micaela, offered the following account of his first 48 hours on French soil.

“When he landed, he was handed a shovel and told to go dig a hole and stay put until his birthday,” Micaela said. “He described the horrific stench of burning equipment and bodies.”

Two days later Boomer was able to rejoin his unit as they began moving inland and taking the fight to the enemy.

Wade chronicles

In an article written in 2015 by Almont historian Jim Wade, Boomer recalled an occasion in August 1944, when he was encountered by a reporter who asked him what he was doing.

“What am I doing? I’m walking through all of France, by gosh!”

Boomer’s quote would later appear in the August 27, 1944 edition of the Detroit News in an article entitled ‘Detroiters on the Road to Paris, with a Halt at Mama’s Gas House.’

Wade’s article also documented how Boomer was hit by shrapnel in his back and lower leg while serving on a four-man mortar crew.

Wade wrote that Howard was hauling ammunition to the mortar, when “at midday, shells were being fired at them, getting closer and closer to their position.

“Howard heard the whistle of a shell, which exploded at their location —instantly killing his team. It wasn’t until dark that he was found by a medic.”

Due to his injuries, Howard was hospitalized until January 1945, when he was able to return to limited duty running communication cables for the 634th Field Artillery Battalion headquarters.

It was another year before Boomer would return to the United States, where he was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Badge, Good Conduct Medal, Victory Medal and three Bronze Stars for his service in Normandy, the Rhineland and Central Europe.

After being discharged from the Army in early February 1946, Howard returned to Almont, where he worked for the George Ebeling Dairy.

That experience led to his association with the Twin Pines Farm Dairy Company, an employee-owned business.

With Twin Pines, he distributed products directly to customer’s homes in Almont, Allenton and Berville, including regular deliveries of milk, cream, cottage cheese, ice cream, bread, potato chips, eggs, orange juice and other staples.

It was during that time that Howard met his wife, Betty Ann Gottsching, with whom he had four children, Ken, Gary, Susan and Cynthia.

When Twin Pines went out of business in the late 1960s, Boomer took a job as a supervisor at Hamill Manufacturing in Romeo. He was later employed by Firestone Tires, where he spent 17 years before retiring in 1981.

It didn’t take long for him to grow restless, though, and in 1984 he found himself pressing apples and making cider at the old King’s Mill in Almont.

While working at the mill, Boomer was joined for a time by his grandson, Aaron, who was age 16 and an 11th grader at Almont High School at the time.

Both Howard and Aaron were the subject of an article that appeared in the Tri-City Times on December 3, 1986.

The article, written by Times’ Staff Writer John C. Ashe, included quotes from Howard about the satisfaction he derived from hard work.

“You have to stay active,” said Howard in the article. “We all have to have something to do. People have a need to accomplish something in life.

“This job at King’s Mill has been great and I get a chance to work with my grandson,” he continued. “It’s good for him and good for me.”

According to Wade’s article, when the old mill closed, Howard began mowing lawns and doing odd jobs for widows and elderly women. At one point he was mowing 14 lawns per week.

In 2014, at the age of 89, Howard decided to “officially retire,” at which time he limited his mowing, trimming and raking to his own yard.

As a matter of note, Howard has four children, nine grandchildren (all are adults) and six great-grandchildren.

The grandchildren (and spouses) and great-grandchildren are listed as follows: Aaron (Teresa) Boomer of Durango, CO with Howard’s great-grandchildren, Ashlyn and Ian Boomer; Kara (Randy) Pugh with Howard’s great-grandchild, Ellie Pugh; Kelsey Boomer of Cape Coral, FL; Haeley (Todd) Boren of Shelby Township, MI; Lindsay (James) Degnan of Derry, NH

with Howard’s great-grandchildren, Ruby, Owen, and Lane Degnan; Megan Petraitis of Millis, MA; Lauren Petraitis of Dover, NH; Alexis Coscarelli of Monument, CO; and Gina Coscarelli of Aurora, CO.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.