The life story of a WWII veteran from Chippewa Falls might have been lost forever if not for a sharp-eyed employee at the Goodwill store in Appleton.
“There’s a lot of things that come through here that you could turn in, but it’s not that interesting, not as interesting as this,” says Norman Parrottee, a United States Navy Veteran and employee at Appleton’s Goodwill Outlet.
It started with an ordinary three ring binder, something the Goodwill Outlet sees thousands of each year. Steps away from being tossed in the recycling, something about this particular binder was different, and caught a worker’s eye.
“It was like a regular school binder, just plain white. But what I noticed was that there was a lot of paper in it, very organized. That’s what caught my eye kind of,” says Laytaya Williams, the Goodwill employee who first found the binder. “It would have been a big loss, and maybe wouldn't have gotten to where it was today. It was lucky that I did find it and put it aside.”
Inside its pages, Williams found the life story of Lieutenant Colonel Eugene Tremblay, who was born in Chippewa Falls in 1905.
Tremblay served from 1943 to 1967 as a military chaplain, even joining the United States Air Force after its founding in 1947.
“The chaplains during WWII, they saw a lot. And they were in the front line, with everyone else. Unfortunately in war, there's a lot of death. And they're there to comfort folks in their most vulnerable moments,” says Dennis Zemialkowski, an Air Force Veteran and Leader of Logistics at the Goodwill Outlet.
Tremblay’s bravery earned him a Purple Heart, and other accolades that filled the binder.
That includes things like Tremblay’s early report cards, work with the Boy Scouts and record of graduation at Harvard University’s seminary. The book also chronicles Tremblay’s many travels, across Europe and into Japan during World War II. After his service, Tremblay continued working with the church and military, across Asia.
“Can’t really throw this away. Someone ought to see it. A vet shouldn't just get thrown into the garbage, you know,” Parrottee remembers thinking. “I noticed that there was a guy’s whole life inside there. Right from the beginning to the end, almost.”
That binder and it's treasure trove of history was sent to the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.