Gardener's Dirt: A patriotic honor to veterans at Victoria's Foster Field
While on vacation, I often gaze at the historical structure in front of me, wishing I could be transported back in time. Writing this article to honor the veterans of Foster Field has given me that opportunity.
Original structures of Foster Field
The Foster Field airbase was active from 1941-45 during WWII as a school training base for pilots of single-engine fighter planes. The first class of airmen graduated on Dec. 12, 1941. The Women's Army Corps, who also flew the planes, arrived in spring 1942. After WWII, the land returned to the landowners of Braman and Buhler.
During the Korean War, the base was reopened for training in 1952. It was later deactivated and closed in 1958.
Memories from Foster Field
History to me is so much more than a building, location or site; it is the stories of people involved in that setting.
A picture on a bureau
Grace Margaret Anderson, of Victoria, met her late husband, Conde Anderson, at Foster Field. Grace Margaret DeTar had been a student at the University of Texas. Her roommate, Virginia Pitovo, had Conde's picture resting on her bureau. While attending a dance at the Officer's Club at Foster Field, Grace Margaret walked up to Conde, and remarked, "I think I've been living with you for two years." He in turn replied, "I don't think so." As they say, the rest is history.
Grace Margaret and Conde married in October 1945. She said she and many other young women dated the flyboys during the flyboys' stay at the Foster Field base. Grace Margaret said the city swelled in size because of the influx of the airmen both during WWII and the Korean War.
Translator for the Aztec Squadron
A little-known fact of Foster Field is that it also housed the El Escuadron 201 squadron, a group of 300 Mexican nationals who helped our country as ground crew and pilots flying in 96 missions in the Pacific theater. Esther Morfin translated for this group, her daughter Esther Ozuna said.
Her parents met at Foster Field while her father Gilbert, originally from Nevada, worked as a ham radio operator. His rank may have been sergeant.
They married in 1945. The military pavers in the Master Gardener Military Honor Garden with Gilbert Trillius' name as well as Eli Ozuna, father-in-law of Esther, are both at Foster Field.
Those who came before us
Charles Amandee Fourier, father of Joanne Johnson of Victoria, also met his wife, Clemmie Killion, at Foster Field before going to Iwo Jima. Clemmie, as did other family members, worked as a civilian on the base. He was killed in action in Iwo Jima, and later buried in Hawaii. Joanne was 8 months old at the time. Her mother then married her high school sweetheart, Jacque Glenn, who was also based at Foster Field.
Closing of Foster Field Air Base
When Brig. Gen. Henry Vicellio came in 1955, Foster Field had already seen two wars. He resided at the base along with his family until 1958, when it closed. Then a major general, a promotion received in 1956, he was the officer in charge of the closure of the base.
Victoria Educational Gardens at Foster Field
In 2000, the Victoria County Master Gardener Association had a vision of transforming the area around the Foster Field Officer's Club into a series of gardens. In October 2001, work began on the first phase of VEG. With continuous care, it now flourishes with 19 mini-gardens, a greenhouse, gazebo and pavilion. You will find in these areas patriotic-colored flowers and military pavers to honor and respect those that have served our country.
With this article, I also want to honor all the other airmen and women of Foster Field and specifically Master Gardeners Ed Gregurek and Cliff Knezek who served in WWII, my own father and uncle, Joseph and James Pierce, and father-in-law Norman Kauffman, also veterans of WWII - along with other Master Gardener veterans - for their service to our country.
Through directed thought and planning and much hard work, the development of the gardens keeps the integrity and respect for the honorable intentions that came before them.
The next time you observe a plane flying over Victoria, think back to the time of Foster Field. Visit the Military Honor Garden at VEG. Consider the placement of a paver to salute and remember a loved one or friend who served our country.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.