Memorial Day, 2019 Valley View Memorial Park, Soap Lake, WA
Research by Linda Lannigan Bonneville and Sharon Hastings
Presented by Jesse Huntwork
We gather here today to honor those brave Americans who have given their lives for our country. I am honored to tell you stories of military heroes—as well as other Soap Lake residents who served in their own way, working and raising their children or healing and ministering to their neighbors.
But first, let me share a bit about this beautiful cemetery. Valley View Memorial Park’s original 5.2 acres was platted on July 25, 1955. Later, additional land was donated by Madoline McNamara, who moved to Soap Lake in 1949 with her husband, Dr. Leonard McNamara and their two young children. Leonard and his brother, John, were respected physicians in our community for many years. Old records state that neighbor and friend, Larry Scheib, began clearing the sagebrush on the additional 1.5 acres until a tragic airplane accident in 1961 claimed the lives of both Larry and Leonard.
One of the beautiful statues at this cemetery is Our Sorrowful Mother. It was dedicated by Bishop Carlos Sevilla in 2000, in remembrance of Soap Lake’s Our Sorrowful Mother Catholic Church, destroyed by fire in 1996.
Four months later, in January, 1956, Virl W. Walker became the second person interred at Valley View Cemetery. Virl was born in Arkansas in 1895 and moved to Texas as a young child. He served four years in the Navy during the First World War. In 1938, Virl and his wife Ida moved to Soap Lake. As we researched Virl’s life, we asked the question: why did Virl and Ida move from Texas across the country to Soap Lake, WA? One clue: Virl was a WWI veteran. Many WWI soldiers suffered from Buerger’s Disease, the inflammation of small and medium blood vessels. During those years, many patients suffering from this debilitating disease vacationed at Soap Lake, soaking in the therapeutic mineral water and mud. Many visitors decided to make Soap Lake their permanent home.
When we contacted Virl’s family in Texas and Ohio, they verified that Virl did indeed have Buerger’s Disease. In fact, he lost an arm and a leg to the disease. His great-niece recalls stories about his hunting expertise, despite missing two limbs. He lived in our city until his death in December, 1955. Ida remained a Soap Lake resident until she passed 40 years later.
The earliest birthdate in this cemetery represents the life of Arvine Joseph Sanborn. Joe was born in Michigan in 1863. He owned a saw mill in Chehalis before moving to Soap Lake. He and his wife Clara lived with his nephew, Freely Sanford, who was the postmaster in Grant Orchards. Joe purchased land nearby in 1917 and farmed for over 30 years. He died in 1957 at the age of 94.
There are 10 headstones in this cemetery with death dates occurring before the park’s 1955 opening. We believe the remains of eight individuals, who passed between 1920 and 1945, were moved from other locations.
The other two early headstones recognize individuals who were laid to rest in another state or
Evelyn Hadley Lannigan and her twin, Lillian Christine, were born two months premature in 1909. Evelyn lived for 83 years but her twin lived for only 24 hours. Evelyn’s stone, here at Valley View Cemetery, also recognizes her sister who lies in an unmarked grave in Oklahoma.
Sergeant Cosmo Rex Barnes also rests thousands of miles away from this cemetery. Rex served our country in the Philippines during World War II as a Sergeant & Nose Gunner on a B-24J named "The Horrible Monster" in the 864th Bomber Squadron. On January 25, 1945, his crew took off from Tacloban Air Field for a bombing mission. His plane tragically crashed and burned on Samar Island shortly after takeoff. Sergeant Barnes was awarded the Purple Heart and laid to rest in the Manila American Cemetery, Philippines. The Manila American Cemetery contains the largest number of graves of our World War II military, a total of 17,058, most of who lost their lives in New Guinea and Philippines operations.
You will find Sergeant Barnes’ memorial stone, along with young Donna Erkela, Buerger’s Disease patient Virl Walker and farmer Joe Sanborn, in the Garden of Devotion, marked with helium balloons.