Janesville49.8°

Janesville remembers a proud veteran

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 2, 2009
— The file’s typewritten label says “American Legion.”

Inside, amid black and white photos of 1950s matrons, aging veterans and features about clubhouses and poppy sales, is the story of Ervin “Doc” Sartell Jr.


You can also find his story in files marked “Patriotic Society,” “VFW” and “40 et 8.”


Doc Sartell, Janesville native and proud veteran, died Sunday after a short battle with cancer.


“I’d have to say that Doc was the strongest proponent for recognizing our veterans,” said Al Funk, an active member of the local American Legion post.


That’s putting it mildly.


He was a member of almost all of the local veterans and patriotic groups and held leadership positions in many of them. He worked for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). He wrote letters to the editor about honoring veterans. He helped organize “Operation Flags,” an effort to line the streets leading into Janesville with American flags. And he attended military reunions all over the state.


Sartell started his service as a band mascot for the 32nd Red Arrow Division band that his father, E.J. Sartell Sr., organized. That band later became the Americal Division Band


Sartell joined the National Guard in 1940, right out of high school. During World War II, he served in the South Pacific and the Philippines as a soldier and a member of the band. He was a trumpet player.


Although band members played “entertainment tours,” they were also part of the work on the ground.


In 1950, Sartell was recalled to duty and sent to Korea as a platoon leader where he again saw action in the field.


His service—and his father’s service—transformed Sartell into a vigorous supporter of veterans.


“He didn’t like it that people were more apt to play baseball or golf on Memorial Day or Veterans Day than come out to services,” Funk said.


Almost every holiday, Sartell wrote a letter to the Gazette, encouraging people to attend services.


In 2004, Sartell wrote: “Attending ceremonies is the most visible way of demonstrating remembrance, and teaching the younger generation why it’s a sacred day, who we are remembering, and why we are remembering.”


Sartell’s patriotic activities were like breathing, said his wife, Pat Sartell


“He did things so automatically. He didn’t discuss it; he just did it,” she said.


“He was just a plain old flag-waving patriot.”



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