Oldest-living Salamanca WWII vet among recent banner recipients

A “Hometown Heroes” banner for Edward Mohr Jr., the oldest-living World War II veteran in Salamanca, was recently installed on Wildwood Avenue. Shown (from left) are the banner’s sponsors Linda and Jim Howell, Mohr, Mohr’s nephew Bill Skoken and Bill Steckman.

SALAMANCA — A history enthusiast and his wife from Pennsylvania have sponsored three Salamanca veterans in the “Hometown Heroes” banner program.

One of those banners belongs to Edward Mohr Jr., the oldest living veteran in Salamanca from World War II.

On Sunday, Jim and Linda Howell, from the Pittsburgh area, joined Mohr, Bill Steckman and Bill Skoken on Wildwood Avenue to inspect Mohr’s of the recently installed banners. It’s one of about 200 in the city dedicated to those serving in the military installed this year.

The Howells formed a friendship with Steckman and Skoken seven years ago after stopping to examine bone and antler carvings offered at Steckman’s property on Broad Street.

“We were just driving by and noticed the signs and decided to stop. The two Bills were so outgoing, we made friends right away and have been visiting regularly ever since,” said Linda.

In addition to carvings, the Howells have purchased custom-made antler furniture by Steckman and Skoken.

Jim is especially interested in military history and is also a veteran of World War II, having served in the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command Security Services in Africa, Spain and the Middle East, flying Big Bombers like the B52 and B47 from 1958 to 1964. He then spent 31 years working for the police department in Mt, Lebanon, Pa.

His wife, Linda, worked for 38 years for Central Electric Cooperative in the engineering department. “We were so happy to help honor these veterans and support this fine program,” she said.

Bill Skoken spent two years serving in the United States Army as a radio operator repairman. He was stationed in Germany and also traveled to Austria, France, Switzerland and England.

“I returned to the United States during the Blizzard of ‘77,” he said.

“Ed Mohr is my uncle,” Skoken said. “When Jim said that he wanted to purchase banners for me and Bill Steckman, I asked him to get one for Uncle Ed instead. He got banners for all of us!”

At age 98, Mohr served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from 1942-45 as a sergeant stationed in New Guinea. He won many distinguished awards, including the Bronze Star, and worked repairing fuel cells for damaged aircraft. He reported that some of his least favorite encounters were with poisonous snakes.

“I’d do it all again if I could,” he said.

Bill Steckman served in the U.S. Navy’s construction battalions — known as the Seabees — from 1944-45. His job was the desalination of seawater into drinking water on transport ships that took men from island to island in the Pacific.

When the group gathered to examine the Hometown Hero banners, they were disappointed to discover that Steckman’s banner, also on Wildwood Avenue, had been sheared from its mounting by a passing truck. The Department of Public Works assured everyone that it will soon be replaced.

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