Morning Sun Article About My Grandparents

Submitted bydkranker onTue, 05/20/2008 - 02:15

My grandparents (Tony & Ruth Zemlock) were recently featured in a Pittsburg Morning Sun article.  You can read the whole article here.  I've also copy and pasted the whole article below in case the paper ever stops hosting historical articles.



Posted May 15, 2008 at 12:01 AM

Updated May 15, 2008 at 2:03 PM


Ruth and Tony Zemlock have endured many trials and tribulations during their marriage — from the months he was a POW during World War II to the loss of their Franklin home on May 4, 2003.

Ruth and Tony Zemlock have endured many trials and tribulations during their marriage — from the months he was a POW during World War II to the loss of their Franklin home on May 4, 2003.
They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary on Nov. 3, 2007.
The couple was honored Tuesday by Monty Busby, Arma Care Center administrator, with a gift card in recognition of their many years of marriage.
“We first met at the old Franklin Community Hall, the one that was destroyed by the tornado,” Mrs. Zemlock said. “We became engaged in 1939. I had graduated from Arma High School, and Tony lived and farmed south of the high school.”
Zemlock entered the U.S. Army in February 1942.
“It was on Friday the 13th,” Mrs. Zemlock said.
“I was inducted at Leavenworth, then went to Kentucky and California,” her husband said. “I got a furlough in California, and that was when we got married.”
“We were married at the First United Methodist Church in Pittsburg by Dr. Earl Raitt,” Mrs. Zemlock said. “Then I stayed with my mother and he went back to the service.”
“I was a front-line soldier overseas and I saw combat,” Zemlock said. “During the Battle of the Bulge I was captured by the Germans — SS paratroopers. They didn’t want to take any more prisoners, so they lined us up to be shot. An officer stopped the firing squad.”
Instead of going to a POW camp, the prisoners were forced to march through Germany.
“I was a prisoner 4 1/2 months, and four months of it I was on the road,” Zemlock said. “It was a death march, and we lost a lot of prisoners.”
Heavy bombing by the Allies had demolished many German towns and blocked roads.
“We were forced to clean up the destroyed towns for the Germans,” Zemlock said. “We weren’t fed or watered — all we could get was what we could beg or steal. Sometimes we found food stored in the basements of those destroyed houses.”
The prisoners did occasionally get Red Cross parcels.
“The parcels had cigarettes in them, and I traded mine for food,” Zemlock said. “You could get a peck of potatoes for half a cigarette.”
Just before the war ended, the Germans attempted to make it seem as though the prisoners had been well-treated.
“They took us to give us a bath, to a place where they had kept political prisoners and Jews,” Zemlock said. “There was something like a well where they had put the bodies. Some hadn’t been fully cremated, and you could see arms and heads. This was zero weather, there was no hot water to wash with. When we were dressed again, they took 25 soldiers and told us we had to pull a wagon full of human ashes to be spread as fertilizer on the fields.”
The soldiers were given a load of black bread.
“Several people wouldn’t eat the bread, because some of the human ashes had got on it,” Zemlock said.
The prisoners were finally liberated by some Welsh soldiers in northern Germany.
During the time he was a prisoner, his wife and family had no idea if he was alive or dead.
“On Dec. 19, 1944, the rural mailman took a telegram to Tony’s parents to tell them he was missing,” Mrs. Zemlock said. “I was working in the office at Newman’s, a big exclusive ready-to-wear store. I went to the Red Cross office, and they tried to find out something, but we had nothing. It was like living in a shell — you don’t know what’s happening.”
Zemlock was discharged from service on Oct. 22, 1945, came home and they resumed married life. He farmed, and the couple had two children, Denise Kranker and Tony Zemlock Jr., as well as six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
“I live and breathe for those children,” Mrs. Zemlock said.
But their troubles weren’t over. The couple’s home was destroyed by the May 4, 2003 tornado.
“It was a completely new start,” Zemlock said. “We lost everything we had.”
“He thought he was too old to start over at 85,” Mrs. Zemlock said. “I told him that those were just material things we lost. We survived.”
They now have a new home and remain part of the Franklin community. Zemlock’s medals and war memorabilia are now on display in the new Franklin Community Center and Heritage Museum.
“We go to various functions there, and people often come up, shake Tony’s hand and thank him,” Mrs. Zemlock said. “We’ve had lots of ups and downs, you just have to take it with a grain of salt and hang in there.”