Old News Archive

Veteran's Grave Maintenance Fund for Piscataquis County Unorganized Townships

February 06, 2012 - TRC - By Mike Smith

The government issue, gray granite tombstone of Lauren L. Cowallis, a 23 year old Milo man and bombardier shot down on December 6, 1944, was placed on a concrete base that has not withstood 68 Maine seasons.

Mainers are tough as anybody in February or August "Black Fly" season knows. The family fun and hard work goes on but the weather takes it's toll. That's life in Maine.

Mainers have honorably served in all our country's wars. Most return home to their family's vacationland and live out their lives in peace. Some die in battle yet still come home to rest in those same February and August weather conditions.

How much does a 26 in. x 11 in. x 7 in. piece of concrete mean to you? Not much, you say. What if that piece of concrete was a tombstone of a World War II airman killed in battle? Would it mean more? Of course it would.

Heading south from Milo on State Route 11, 2.4 miles on the left, Don Cote stopped by an old Orneville cemetery he's driven by for years. One of the 50 tombstones caught his eye. "Lauren L. Cowallis, Son of Winifred French, 558 Bomb Squadron, 387 Bomb Group, Sept. 1 1921, Dec 6, 1944. Killed In Action." Winifred French, his mother, died in 1974 and is buried next to him.

In November 2009, Mr. Cote's searched the Web for Mr. Cowallis's bomb group and squadron and found B26.com. It turned out Lauren Cowallis flew on a Martin B-26 Marauder. B26.com is dedicated to Marauder Men.

Cote's emailed the site, "I found the tombstone, photo attached, in a small graveyard in Orneville, Maine. I looked up the 558 Bomb Squadron and found b26.com. I thought you would like to know where one of your comrades is buried. I would also be very interested in knowing more about this young man."

Trevor Allen, b26.com's historian, answered with a brief description of what happened on December 6, 1944 and included the names of the six crewmen, only two survived, both were captured by the Germans. The war was over for this aircrew.

Mike Smith, founder of b26.com, looked up the two names in a Marauder Man directory. John Dragan, waist gunner. John Payne, tail gunner. One of them, John Payne, was listed with address and phone number. One call was made. After a brief introduction Mr. Payne said he never knew what happened to Lauren Cowallis. Payne knew Cowallis died because after jumping out of the spinning plane with his parachute open he watched the plane violently twist and spin down hard into the ground. On November 6, 1944, Smith's Uncle Bob Brockett was flying next to Cowallis's plane.

Brett Cowallis, Laruen's great nephew, wrote b26.com in 2008 asking for information about his Uncle. Brett's email address had changed and contact could not be made. More phone calls and letters sent out and Lauren's cousin, Robert Cowallis, was located in Bangor. This closes one chapter and opens the next.

Lauren L. Cowallis's government issue gray granite tombstone is on a crumbling slab of concrete. If the headstone had fallen forward on its face, he might not have been found so easily. The rest of his story would not have been told.

B26.com is collaborating with Milo Legion Post 41. A fund has been created for the strict purpose of repairing veteran's graves in Piscataquis County's unorganized townships. There are 19 organized towns and 90 unorganized townships in Piscataquis Country. The American Legion's District 14 covers Piscataquis County. Once again the citizens of Maine, led by men and women from District 14, Milo Post 41, are showing us that veterans will not be forgotten.

A call out to donate time, money or material to replace the base of Cowallis's tombstone. The 23 year old Milo man has been home for 68 years and we want his grave standing tall for a long time. He was buried in Orneville with other members of the Cowallis family. Piscataquis Monumental Company in Milo will replace the base of the tombstone for $750.

There are many veteran's graves in Piscataquis County unorganized townships that need help. B26.com and Milo Legion Post 41 announce the Lauren L. Cowallis Veteran's Grave Maintenance Fund for Piscataquis County unorganized townships. Please send your tax deductible monetary donations to Camden National Bank, 53 Main Street, Milo, ME 04463-1128. Checks made to "Lauren L. Cowallis Veteran’s Grave Maintenance Fund".

Rep. Paul Davis, hearing the story, submitted a Bill, “Resolve, To Establish a Stakeholder Group for the Development of a Plan for the Inventory and Proper Care of Veterans’ Graves” is currently within the committee process. On February 8th, 2012, the committee will hold a public hearing at 1:00 PM.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.