This is the new bronze plaque on the stone marker for Dennis J. Paquette in Woodruff’s St. Patrick Cemetery.
Dennis Paquette’s niece, Joan Frasier of Rhinelander, and nephews Chris Bucholz, right, and his brother, Charlie, gathered recently at Woodruff’s St. Patrick’s Cemetery to view the bronze plaque installed on their uncle’s stone.
8/22/2019 7:25:00 AM Marker installed on gravestone of Lakeland area servicemember lost during World War II
On Dec. 25, 1943, Arbor Vitae native Dennis Joseph Paquette, serving in the South Pacific with the U.S. Navy during World War II, celebrated his 26th birthday. It was also the last day of his life.
An Aviation Machinist's Mate Third Class, Paquette was a tailgunner aboard the Navy's version of the four engine Consolidated B-24D Liberator bomber, the PB4Y-1. The plane crashed off of Guadalcanal Koli Point, killing Paquette and three other crew members. The rest of the crew returned to Guadalcanal's Henderson Field.
A story about Paquette's death appeared in the 2019 edition of "Fallen Heroes," published by The Lakeland Times and Northwoods River News over Memorial Day weekend.
Paquette attended grade school in Woodruff, was a graduate of the high school in Minocqua and attended college at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
He joined the Navy on July 4, 1942.
His niece, Joan Frasier of Rhinelander, 10 years old at the time of Paquette's loss, told The Lakeland Times in April he "was a wonderful uncle, a kind person and always so gracious to myself and my brother."
"I really thought a lot of him," she said. "Dennis was my godfather."
Though his body is not there, a stone for him was placed next to his parents in Woodruff's St. Patrick Catholic Cemetery.
Mary Paquette passed away in 1960. Dennis's father, Charles, died in 1952, nearly 10 years after his boy was lost.
On July 20, 2019 there was a brief family reunion of sorts at the cemetery in Woodruff as Joan Frasier was joined by two of Dennis' nephews, Chris and Charlie Bucholz, to view the bronze marker - common on the gravestones of many U.S. veterans - which had been recently installed on the back of Dennis's stone.
For decades, there wasn't anything on the stone to signify Dennis Paquette had even served in the U.S. military, let alone gave his life during World War II.
Because of a Veterans Administration rule which states veterans who died before Nov. 1, 1990 are not eligible for a VA grave marker if they have a private marker, Paquette wasn't eligible for a free VA grave marker.
As a result, the bronze marker to designate he had served in the U.S. military had to be purchased privately.
Because of the size of Paquette's stone, the bronze marker, purchased with a donation from the Rhinelander AMVETS chapter as well as with contributions from family members, was smaller than most.
It was ordered and installed by Tim Haskin of Tomahawk Monuments, who waived the $150 installation charge.
Haskin also thoroughly cleaned Dennis Paquette's gravestone as well as those of his mother and father.
"We get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people when we hear of situations like this," Haskin said. "That's why each spring, we tend to look for a veteran we can help."
Haskin noted that he comes from a family of veterans which he said gives him a greater appreciation.
"We try to focus on them (veterans) as much as we can," Haskin said. "Because there are so few people that will."
Taking care of Dennis Paquette's marker was another way of doing that, he explained.
On July 20, Chris Bucholz, who was born several years after Dennis Paquette's death, said his mother - Dennis's little sister Clara who was 20 years old at the time of her brother's death - always spoke of him fondly.
"She said, 'If Dennis was still alive, he'd take you hunting, he'd take you fishing,'" Bucholz said. "She said 'He'd enjoy the heck outta ya. She ... thought a lot of him."
Brian Jopek may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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