A century after death by flu, Delaware soldier honored

PAUL COMSTOCK
ThisWeekNEWS.com
Mike Serrott, a member of the city parks and recreation staff, cleans the gravestone of U.S. soldier and Delaware resident John Carroll, who died in France from the Spanish flu after World War I. Carroll was reinterred at Delaware’s Oak Grove Cemetery on Sept. 26, 1920.

U.S. soldier John Carroll died in France on Jan. 27, 1919, from the Spanish influenza pandemic – but he hasn’t been forgotten. 

On Sept. 26 – 100 years to the day after Carroll was reinterred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware – he was set to be honored with a memorial service at his grave. 

Carroll, born in 1893, was a Delaware resident and an Ohio Wesleyan University student before he shipped out for France in June 1918, during World War I. 

He served with the 147th Field Hospital, which was part of the 37th Infantry Division, made up of Ohio National Guard units. 

Carroll survived until Armistice Day, Nov, 11, 1918, after the 37th had fought in the Meuse-Argonne and Ypres-Lys offensives against the Germans. 

He was recovering from appendicitis when he caught the flu, which brought with it a fatal case of pneumonia, according to a Sept. 27, 1920, story about his burial in Oak Grove. 

Mike Serrott, a member of Delaware’s parks and recreation staff, recently discovered Carroll’s story. 

Serrott said the parks staff are the caretakers for the Veterans Plaza at the National Guard Armory on Houk Road, and also assist the staff at Oak Grove. 

The Veterans Plaza has markers for each war in U.S. history, and each marker sits behind an area paved with bricks. Families can sponsor an engraved memorial brick to honor a loved one’s service. The memorial bricks and an order form are on the city’s website. 

Serrott and his fellow parks workers noticed that markers for the nation’s oldest wars, such as the Revolutionary War and War of 1812, had no engraved memorial bricks. They decided to do something about that, he said. 

“Let’s just purchase a brick ourselves and we’ll put it at Veterans Plaza,” Serrott suggested to coworkers, with the idea of honoring a service member from the Revolutionary War to World War I. 

When it came to finding a suitable service member, he said, “Well, they’re all at (Oak Grove). I said, ‘Why don’t we just find one (there) and honor him?’ ” 

“Mike loves history, and through his work tending to Oak Grove and the Veterans Plaza out at the armory, he decided he wanted to honor a local veteran this year as a Memorial Day tribute,” said Lee Yoakum, the city’s community-affairs coordinator. 

“He discovered John Carroll’s burial stone. It’s right off the road he drives almost every day at the cemetery,” Yoakum said. 

Serrott soon noticed the gravestone naming Carroll and his parents is engraved with the date of the soldier’s burial at Oak Grove – an event that preceded the COVID-19 coronavirus by a century. 

That set in motion the plan to hold a memorial for Carroll on the anniversary of his Delaware burial. 

The 1920 newspaper account lauded Carroll as “an exemplary type of soldier and Christian character.” 

Those delivering the eulogy included OWU president J.W. Hoffman and Maj. Floyd Miller, who commanded the 147th Field Hospital. 

Six men who served with Carroll in the 147th Field Hospital were the pallbearers. 

Carroll left behind his parents, John Wesley and Willie Carroll, whose remains lie beside him at Oak Grove. 

Serrott said local veterans groups were expected to provide a color guard and participate in the Sept. 26 ceremony. 

The parks workers, who paid for Carroll’s memorial brick with their own money, hope to add more memorial bricks at Veterans Plaza in the future, Serrott said. 

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