A bugler who was credited with
saving lives by blowing a "Call to Arms" warning during
the attack on Pearl
Harbor, but who lay buried without a grave marker for nearly
now rests under
a plaque engraved
with his name.
"I'm very happy this was done," his daughter, Thea Allen Wudyka, her eyes covered with dark glasses, said while visiting her father's grave recently. "I can finally be at ease."
The bugler, Army Sgt. Theodore Allen, was buried in the same Port Washington cemetery plot as his younger brother -- a World War II airman who perished during the war -- when he died in 1990.
But for reasons not clear -- Allen's widow died in 2008 -- no grave marker was ever made for the older Allen when he was buried 24 years ago. So the grave the brothers share bore only the name of 2nd Lt. William Allen.
William Allen had been a crew member aboard a bomber when it was shot down over La Villabeau, France, in 1944. He and several crew members evaded capture for hours but were eventually cornered in a wood. A fellow crew member later wrote to Allen's parents that they were in the act of surrendering when a Nazi soldier stood over them and shot them anyway, wounding him and killing Allen. Buried in France, Allen's remains were repatriated in 1948 and buried in a family plot at Nassau Knolls Cemetery, in Port Washington.
Theodore Allen, as a 25-year-old movie theater manager, had been luckier. Drafted nine months before America's entry into the war, he was sent to Hawaii, which then was a sleepy territory in the remote Pacific.
His letters home conveyed his sense of the irony that he was socializing with grass-skirted islanders while soldiers in Europe were dying in battle.
That bliss was sundered on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, as waves of Japanese warplanes began sweeping in from the horizon. Allen later wrote about his bugle warning in a letter to his parents, saying, "I thought I'd blow my lungs out."
After Allen's widow, Margaret, died six years ago, Wudyka decided to secure a grave marker that the federal Department of Veterans Affairs offers for all veterans who are buried in private cemeteries.
But establishing the eligibility of a man buried for years in an unmarked grave proved no simple task. More time went by.
Then another snag arose.
Officials at Nassau Knolls told her they could not install the marker without imposing a fee.
Angered, she dug in her heels.
"It was a matter of principle," Wudyka, a retired supermarket employee from Levittown, said of her refusal to pay. "He was a hero. They should have been able to do a headstone without me having to do all this work to get it done."
Cemetery officials would not comment for this article. But in 2008, they told the New York Daily News that as a not-for-profit cemetery, they were prohibited by state regulations from waiving the fee.
The standoff came to the attention of Arthur Wade, the adjutant of Port Washington American Legion Post 509.
To put it mildly, the stalemate upset him.
"It was a disgrace," Wade said. "Here we have an American hero and we couldn't get a marker on his grave."
Wade put a call in to the office of Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), which in turn enlisted the help of Henderson-Marino VFW Post 1819 and parishioners at nearby St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. Members of the three organizations passed the hat and came up with money to have the new marker affixed.
Cemetery workers installed the bronze plaque bearing the names of both brothers late last month.
"It's a relief," Wudyka said. "It only took 24 years."