Class of 1943 honoring one who made ‘supreme sacrifice’

Classmate killed in Battle of the Bulge to be remembered at City Cemetery ceremony

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

Oct. 5, 2007 - High school reunions are meant to be a time to catch up with old friends. Tomorrow, the Sulphur Springs High School Class of '43 will gather as one at Sulphur Springs City Cemetery to remember a fellow student who never made it to a single reunion.

That's because Robert Druce Bolton, who joined the Army less than a year after graduation, was the only member of the class to die in combat in World War II.

"Druce was the only one in our class who paid the supreme sacrifice during the war," said John France, president of the class.

Bolton enlisted at age 18 in April of 1944, and was sent overseas as a replacement in the 4th Division, 22nd Infantry, participating in several battles, including Luxembourg, the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, and along the Seigfried Line. He was killed in Pruem, Germany, on Feb. 12, 1945, after two months of combat.

Pfc. Bolton had been recommended for the rank of sergeant before his death, and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously. He was buried in U.S. Cemetery No. 1 at Foy Belgium. There, a young Belgian girl, Christiane Heintz, cared for the grave and planted flowers on it.

Four years later, in April of 1949, a train carrying Bolton body pulled into Sulphur Springs, where reburial rites were held and his remains buried in a grave at City Cemetery.

According to John France, president of the class, there were 129 students in the Class of 1943 — 54 boys and 75 girls. Only 66 members survive to this day.

More than two-thirds of the male graduates would serve in some form of the service during World War II, including 13 in the Army, 17 in the Navy, three in the Army Air Corps, three in the Marines and two in the Merchant Marines. Three received Bronze Stars, and four were given Purple Hearts.

But only Druce Bolton was killed in action, and his fellow classmates haven't forgotten.

Why now? Perhaps its because one reason the class — who are holding a reunion of sorts tonight at Best Western's Heritage Hall — plan to make a sizable donation to the Veterans Memorial Committee, just another of many charitable contributions the class has made to community projects in recent years.

Since their 50th class reunion in 1993, the class has gotten together for multiple reunions and other get-togethers, and invariably raise money for one cause or another.

The first was the restoration of a 1929 fire truck, which was finally restored last year and now sits gleaming in glory at Hopkins County Historical Society's Heritage Park. By the time the fire truck was unveiled one year ago on the downtown square, the class had raised more than $10,000, covering the cost of the renovation and a building at Heritage Park to protect it from the elements.

They also helped raise thousands of dollars for the restoration of  the Hopkins County Courthouse, challenging other graduates of SSHS to raise money for the renovation project. The Class of '43 ended up pulling together $1,000, although another, slightly younger class, who shall remain nameless, brought in $80 more. (It still steams their clams just a little.)

Besides the Veterans Memorial project, they plan to raise some money for the Sulphur Springs City Cemetery and Hopkins County Historical Society, France said.

"We're going to pass the hat around," said Nell Furney, another member of the class.

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