Norcross rededicates plaques honoring fallen heroes' service

NORCROSS - More than 60 years ago, Willard Davidson sent two trees to the city of Norcross in honor of his brothers, Joe and Aubrey, who died serving in World War II.

The city planted the trees, along with three others, near stone plaques in Thrasher Park that memorialized the hometown heroes who died while serving the country.

Over the years, three of the stones became lost or damaged, so the city recently created new plaques and installed them in a granite wall at Thrasher Park, which will reopen soon after undergoing renovations.

"It was real nice for them to do that for my brothers," Davidson, who is nearly 83 years old, said Monday at a rededication ceremony for the plaques.

Joseph Sharp Davidson, a machinist's mate second class in the U.S. Navy, was lost at sea Sept. 14, 1944, when his ship was sent out to avoid the Great Atlantic Hurricane that hit the east coast.

Four months later, Aubrey Eugene Davidson, an aviation machinist's mate first class, was killed when two 500-pound bombs left in a landing plane's bomb bay exploded on the aircraft carrier on which he was stationed.

After the brothers died, the military pulled their three siblings, including Willard, off the front lines.

The three other plaques were placed in honor of Wyly Quillian "Quill" Letson, an electrician's mate third class in the U.S. Navy Reserve; Joseph Harold Mitchell, a private in the U.S. Army; and Ralph Westbrook, a chief electrical mate in the Navy.

Letson died on a mine sweeper in the English channel during the Invasion of Normandy on D-Day. Mitchell was killed July 11, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. Westbrook died from complications of double pneumonia while still serving in the military.

"In their silent vigil, they will guard the park in remembrance for all eternity," said Pat Eidt, the event's master of ceremonies.

Connie Weathers, a member of the city's Parks and Greenspace Commission, said a committee worked for two-and-a-half years to research and create the new plaques.

"It's such a pleasure to finally see it come to fruition," she said.