It was 2007 when a worker, mowing the grass on the grounds of the Middletown Grange located in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania, discovered a gray stone nestled at the bottom of a slope near a trickling stream. Imbedded in the stone was a small brass plaque with the words:
In Memory of Our 4-H Friend, BUTCH
2nd Lt. William S. Geary USMC 1945-1969
After many inquiries by the Grange to the Bucks County 4-H, it was learned that Lt. Geary who resided in neighboring Montgomery County was a member of the Bucks County 4-H Club. His projects included raising goats and rabbits, mentoring younger 4-H youth and working at farms near his family’s home in Penns Park, not far from the Grange Fairgrounds. After his former 4-H members learned of his death in Vietnam, they arranged for the bronze plaque to be imbedded in the stone. There they had gathered at that quiet site to pay homage to their friend.
The Grange then decided that the stone should be moved from its setting and placed in a conspicuous site that would be more visible to the public. The Penn State Extension Office of Bucks County was contacted again and asked to designate a 4-H Club to take on the project of building a memorial garden for Lt. Geary. It was a given then that the 4-H Goat and Sheep Clubs would enthusiastically take on this task. Because a Penn State Master Gardener was also required to oversee the project, as a Master Gardener I jumped at the opportunity. Having researched and published articles about Vietnam about the eight nurses who died during the war as well as subsequent pieces about men and women veterans, the project became a personal duty of honor for me.
On August 13, 2008, at the opening ceremony of the annual Middletown Grange Fair held in Wrightstown Pennsylvania, the memorial was dedicated to 2nd Lt. William S. Geary, killed on April 5, 1969 in Da Nang Vietnam. Over two hundred fair goers including 4-H club members, veterans and the Geary family were in attendance. Butch’s best friend in high school, Steven Daniels the Chief of Buckingham Police as the Keynote Speaker gave a moving tribute to his “… best friend” and had kept up a correspondence with Butch after he had joined the military.
As there’s a story behind every name etched on the Wall, Lt. Geary–known as Butch by his former 4-H brothers and sisters–graduated from Council Rock High School in 1963 and entered Temple University on a Senatorial Scholarship. His leadership qualities that were honed during his 4-H years came to fruition at Temple. He was vice-president of the Young Democrats, president of The Newman Club and a member of the Men’s Chorus. He was studying law but after his 1968 graduation and with the escalating war in Vietnam, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
A Platoon Commander with the First Marine Division, it was on April 5, 1969 when his unit, part of a battalion operation south of Da Nang came under heavy gunfire. It was during a maneuver of his troops away from U.S. air support that he was mortally wounded by sniper fire. Lt. Geary was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Order of Valor and the Gallantry Award.
His mother, Polly Geary offered the flag that had draped her son’s coffin at his burial to be raised at this first memorial ceremony. She then donated his flag to the Middletown Grange which each year since 2008, those stars and stripes have been a part of the opening ceremony at the Fair.
On your next visit to the Wall, be sure to seek Panel 27 West, Line 17 and reach out and touch Butch Geary to honor his sacrifice.
On this Veterans’ Day, thank a Veteran for his or her service.