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William Doy Stone

Pfc. William D. Stone, courtesy Stone family

West Virginia
Veterans Memorial

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William Doy Stone
1925-1944

“We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.”

Madeleine L’Engle

Army Private First Class William Doy Stone (“Doy” to his family) was born to Ohmer Morris and Sarah Elizabeth Priestley Stone at Tango, Lincoln County, West Virginia, on September 2, 1925. He was one of the family’s three sons, the others being the Rev. Lester Priestley Stone and Eugene Henson Stone. The family also included two daughters, Helen Louise Stone (married name: Chafin) and Mabel Merle Stone (married names: Beard, Goldsberry).

Doy was an affectionate and loving member of his family and was adored by each of them. He doted on his mother and was close to his brothers and sisters. He even helped his grandfather, father, and brothers build a new family house in the late 1930s.

Doy attended Lincoln County schools through 1940, spending his freshman year at Duval High School. Then the Stone family relocated to Boone County, and he and Eugene attended Sherman High School, from which Doy graduated in 1943. Along with other members of his family, he attended Cobbs Creek Baptist Church in Lincoln County.

Only a few months after his high school graduation, Doy Stone enlisted in the service (on October 1, 1943, at Columbus, Ohio, according to U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946). Doy took his training at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas, which was referenced by a reburial notice in the Charleston Gazette (December 2, 1948, p.21).

Assigned to the infantry (133rd Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division), Pfc. William Doy Stone became part of the Italian campaign in July 1944, where he was killed in action in the Po Valley of Italy on September 21, 1944, his third day of combat. The history of the 34th Division is well chronicled, so it is possible to trace the day-to-day movements of the various units within its ranks. One account indicates that fighting began early in the morning:

Again the night was relatively quiet until 0455 hours on the morning of 21 September 1944, at which time Company “A”’s forward elements on Hill 810 were receiving a counter-attack from an undetermined number of enemy and were forced to withdraw to Hill 791. Casualties were inflicted on both sides, Company “A” suffering two men killed and one wounded. (Source: 34th Infantry Division, “133rd Infantry Regiment: WWII Narrative History [A Work in Progress],” accessed September 10, 2013, http://www.34infdiv.org/history/133narrhist.html/.)

It is quite possible that Pfc. Stone was one of the two mentioned in this account; casualties later in the day are mentioned in the narrative, but they all appear to be counts of the wounded.

Temporarily buried in Italy, Pfc. William Doy Stone’s remains were returned to West Virginia in 1948, where on December 5 he was buried in Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans, following a service in his home church, Cobbs Creek Baptist. His father and mother were buried nearby after their deaths in 1966 and 1978, respectively. Doy’s niece, Carolyn Chafin Lilly notes that her mother, Helen, decorated the family’s graves each year as long as her health held out, and now Carolyn continues that tradition.
Grave marker of William Doy Stone

Grave marker of William Doy Stone, Cunningham Memorial Park, St. Albans, WV, photo courtesy Robert Fitch, Find A Grave, accessed November 15, 2013, http://www.findagrave.com

According to his niece Christine Chafin Podeszwa, Doy was the youngest child, but after he joined the military, he worried about his older sisters, Merle and Helen, who were back in West Virginia raising their daughters. He often wrote them with advice and “words of wisdom.” Merle and her young daughter, Virginia Louise, were visiting with her parents when they got word of Doy’s death. Needless to say, many, many tears were shed. When his brother, Lester, who was attending New Orleans Seminary at the time, learned of Doy’s death, he was deeply saddened and grieved, especially because Doy died so young. His brother, Eugene, a corporal in the U. S. Army Air Corps stationed in Florida, was told by his commanding officer about Doy being killed in action, and he immediately fell apart emotionally. He and Doy were the closest in age and had spent more time together than the others. They corresponded regularly, and today those letters provide many chuckles for his nieces.

Helen [Stone Chafin] often recounted the last time Doy visited her a few months prior to his being sent overseas. Prankster that he was, Doy crawled through the window at Helen’s apartment, and Carolyn remembers Doy coming through the window even though she was very young. During his visit, Doy met Helen’s newborn daughter, Christine, even before her dad, Christopher Chafin, saw her because Christopher was also stationed with the U. S. Army in Europe serving with one of their automotive maintenance companies. Fortunately, Eugene and Christopher returned from their military service and were able to resume their normal lives with their families. Doy’s nieces—a total of eight—mostly remember him from the large oval picture in his Army uniform that hung in his parents’ living room while they were growing up, and it was always a reminder of the great sacrifice that Doy made for his family and country.

Christine Podeszwa summarizes Doy’s legacy thus: “Our parents talked about Doy in a very loving way, but I think his death was difficult for them to deal with and they didn’t speak of him often. But Carolyn [Chafin Lilly] and I were able to glean a little information about him to add to his biography. He became very real to us when she and I had the opportunity several years to go through the satchel that he had while in the Army. His death was a great loss to our family, but we are proud that he made that sacrifice for all of us.”

Family information gathered and provided by Christine Chafin Podeszwa and Carolyn Chafin Lilly. Article prepared by Patricia Richards McClure, who gratefully acknowledges the postings of Sherry Patterson on Find A Grave (“William D. Stone,” “Ohmer Morris Stone,” and “Sarah Elizabeth Priestley Stone,” accessed November 19, 2013, http://www.findagrave.com)

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