By Beverly Keller
For State Representative and soon to be Tuscarawas County Commissioner Al Landis, a project that has been a long time in the making was wrapped up on Friday morning in Wayne Township.
“I don’t believe it is ever too late to honor a fallen hero,” Landis said of the late Oscar F. Nicewander who called Dundee his home, losing his life in the Vietnam War on March 20, 1967, in Long An Province, South Vietnam, just days after his 21st birthday.
Landis noted that it was his honor to introduce legislation into the House of Representatives known as House Bill 347, shortly after Memorial Day 2018 to honor both PFC Oscar F. Nicewander and Cpl. Jerry Robert Spitler. “Having attended the funeral for PFC Nicewander in the spring of 1967, I first learned what ‘American Hero’ meant,” he shared. “By doing the road naming it honors not only their service but also the sacrifice of their respective families.”
A portion of State Route 520 in Holmes County was named in honor of Spitler. He hailed from Glenmont and lost his life in Vietnam on July 12, 1967.
For Landis, the dedication in honor of Nicewander was both stately, but also deeply personal.
“I watched his father Ben, who was in frail health, with the honor guard around Oscar’s casket, lean over and kiss his son one more time,” he recalled. “I saw his mother Ruby being escorted in. The next day we stood in the cemetery. In March 1967, we buried a Dundee hero, an Ohio hero. We buried an American Hero.”
That day in history Landis was only 12 years old. The man buried was his cousin.
“I heard the bugler playing Taps. I saw and heard the 21 gun salute,” Landis continued. “Fifty-one years later, I remember every moment and the effect it had on me.”
For Hottinger, the designation is important for other reasons. “This legislation ensures that the memory and sacrifice of PFC Nicewander and Cpl. Spitler is not forgotten,” said State Senator Jay Hottinger. “They paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom and this small act is the least we can do to honor these heroes.”
Landis was quick to praise those who helped to make the memorial possible. “We could not have done this without the Ohio Department of Transportation,” he said. “Thank you, Director Roxanne Kane, Dave Glazer and all of District 11 for the signage and traffic control.”
He also went on to thank the Wayne Township (Dundee) Fire Department in addition to the Wayne Township Trustees. “Teamwork,” he exclaimed. “We couldn’t have done this without the help and support of Senator Jay Hottinger.”
Nicewander’s brother, Jeff as well as a small group of surviving family members and friends gathered at the Wayne Township Fire Department for the official dedication last Friday.
“One of my last official duties as a State Representative was honoring a fallen soldier,” Landis said. “And it was a great one.”