Five mid-valley residents will be honored Sunday at the Veteran of the Year Banquet, to be held at the Linn County Expo Center, 3700 Knox Butte Road E. in Albany.
The annual event honors veterans for their service to their communities and country. It kicks off Veterans Day activities, which also include the Veterans Day Service and Veterans Day Parade. This year's theme is “Bright Stars — Brave Hearts."
Doors for the banquet open at 6 p.m.
Tickets are $32.50 and may be purchased at The Frame House, 434 W. First Ave., Albany. They're also available by calling 541-981-2390 or emailing email@example.com. Tickets will not be available at the door.
Honored will be Veteran of the Year Roy Poppleton of Albany, featured on page A1 of today's newspaper.
Also receiving recognition will be Distinguished Veterans William "Bill" Clotere, Ed Groves and John McDonald, all of Albany; Tom Hyer of Sweet Home; and William "Bill" Woodke, Monroe.
William "Bill" Clotere
Nominated by Debra Blasquez, Jessica Pankratz, Mike Martin and Janet Steele
Clotere was active in the U.S. Army Infantry and Special Forces for 20 years.
"Bill doesn't talk about his time in the service," Pankratz wrote in her nomination, "and I wish he would. ... However, he is characteristically shy about talking about himself and instead, would rather focus on those veterans whom he thinks needs assistance or recognition."
Over the years Clotere has performed volunteer work with the Veterans Association and overseen the judging of entrants for Albany's Veterans Day Parade. He is a charter member of the Greater Albany Rotary Club, where he pays tribute to veterans and current military forces with a program at Monday meetings held before Veterans Day. He's also been an active member of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Ambassadors for more than 40 years. Clotere is also involved with Habitat for Humanity and the Albany ReStore.
"Bill Clotere is a thoughtful, kind and perceptive man who understands and truly honors veterans of all branches of the service," Blasquez wrote.
Nominated by Rick Dominguez and Carol Petty
Groves served in the Army as a Specialist E-5 from August 1968 to July 1972. Although his position as the motor sergeant was behind the scenes, he kept small engines and generators running. Later he served as the motor pool dispatch clerk. His decorations include the National Defense Service Medal and the Marksmanship M-16 Rifle Badge.
He returned to Albany after his service, working at Albany Upholstery and Custom Trim Shop. In 1978 he opened Mr. Ed's Upholstery and later bought out Quality Craft Marble, where he produced countertops, sinks and other marble items. In the 1990s he became a general contractor under the name "Edco."
Groves has supported the VFW, Eagles and American Legion for 15 years. He serves as the American Legion Post 10 Trustee and has also been its head of house, responding to needed repairs at the lodge. In 2016 he received the Legionnaire of the Quarter Award.
"Ed has a big heart," Petty wrote, "often helping others that are down on their luck."
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Nominated by Bill Clotere
John McDonald, 96, was called to active duty in April 1943, undergoing basic training at Camp Roberts, California. He was then sent to Brigham Young University, where he was involved in the Army Specialized Training Program before being assigned to the 70th Infantry Division at Camp Adair.
McDonald applied for and was accepted into Officer Candidate School and was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was commissioned Second Lieutenant, Infantry. He was then sent to Camp Roberts, California, as a replacement troop and was en route on a troop ship to Japan when Japan surrendered in 1945. McDonald was part of an occupation force in Hokkaido until he returned and was released in 1946.
He remained in the Reserve and was on a troop ship to fight in the Korean War when his daughter, Becky, was born. Because he now had three children under the age 5, regulations declared him exempt and he was released from active duty.
Later, upon his retirement from his civilian career, he and his wife, Dorothy Ann, moved to Palm Desert, California. After her death, he moved to Albany, where he lives with his daughter Diane Jones.
Nominated by Melissa Wise and Michael Melcher
Born in 1925, Hyer, now 94, enlisted in the Navy in 1942, following his older brother and father and grandfather, who were all Navy men. By his 18th birthday, he was in England, training in underwater demolition with the primary mission of joining the Land Craft Infantry at the invasion of Normandy. A horrific underwater explosive accident during training left him with broken eardrums and two of his fellow soldiers critically injured.
At 19, Hyer was reassigned to the USS Block Island, an aircraft carrier, and then a single-engine bomber as a torpedo man, where he developed a love for flying. Such two-seaters were used to chase German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean. According to Wise, "Their carrier proudly boasted that they had no incoming or outgoing accidents with any of their planes."
Hyer ended his service at Fort Myers, Florida, where he worked as a boatswain's mate on a tugboat on his days off. He continued working on the boat for several months following his discharge, until his mother summoned him back to Sweet Home.
Back in Oregon, Hyer married his wife, Betty, in 1952, raising three children and running a successful business, G&H Logging. At the age of 84, he rekindled his love for flying with his first powered parachute. In 2013, he was awarded an honorary diploma from Sweet Home High School, graduating alongside his youngest grandson.
"Tom set an example to me and so many others as to how to be successful and how to share that success with so many others in our little town," Melcher wrote.
William "Bill" Woodke
Nominated by Peter D. Salerno
The Eugene-born-and-raised Woodke enlisted in B Company, Second Battalion, 162nd Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade, Oregon Army National Guard in 1984 and was a drilling member in good standing. He served for more than 20 years, attaining the rank of staff sergeant in April 1992.
Woodke rose through the ranks, but found what Salerno described as his "true calling" as a machine gunner. When the events of Sept. 11, 2001, transpired, he was the weapons squad leader in 2nd Platoon, B Company 2-162. In April 2004, B Company began a year-long campaign in Taji, Iraq, with Woodke as the company commander's gunner. He engaged in many firefights, resulting in traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. He retired from the Oregon Army National Guard in 2006.
According to Salerno, the VFW Post 3957 of Monroe life member continues to serve in civilian life, caring for elderly VFW members by picking them up for meetings and appointments and taking them home. Woodke is also a member of The Cooties, a VFW organization that visits with hospital-bound veterans.
"He can be counted upon to shoulder whatever task is given him and is a pillar of our post," Salerno wrote.