Forgotten for decades, fallen NY soldier finally honored

Published 8:26 am Monday, May 25, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. — Carroll Heath didn’t have it easy growing up in the Great Depression. His father wasn’t around, his mother was a patient in a mental hospital and he kept largely to himself. Soon after graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army and wound up in the Philippines, where he’s believed to have died sometime in 1942.

It was a short life that went largely unnoticed, even in Pvt. Heath’s western New York hometown of Gowanda. For 70 years, he was the forgotten soldier, his name not listed among the town’s war dead, not inscribed on a World War II memorial in the middle of town.

And that’s likely how things would have remained had it not been for one of Heath’s high school classmates, a now-92-year-old WWII vet who enlisted his son to track down fading recollections that Heath went off to the Philippines to fight the Japanese and never came back.

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“The guy had a pretty tough life,” Robert Mesches said by phone from his retirement home in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “This man should be remembered.”

Late last year, 66-year-old Alan Mesches, who grew up in Gowanda and now lives outside Dallas, began trying to find out what happened to Heath. “I’d like to complete the story. I’d like to see him get recognition.”