Ronald Marcello was five years old when World War II soldiers starting returning home from the war, "strutting" around the Wrightsville area in their uniforms. As he grew up, three of his Boy Scout leaders spent hours around their cabin's fire, sharing war stories with each other and, by extension, Marcello.
Decades later, the personal stories from WWII still catch Marcello's ear.
As a professor emeritus at the University of North Texas and the former director of the university's oral history program, Marcello has spent years collecting about 2,500 interviews from WWII veterans all over the nation, learning their stories and sharing them in several books that give a more personal view of the war.
History books: Marcello, 74, stopped teaching full-time at the university 10 years ago, creating the time to travel back to Wrightsville more frequently to connect his hometown to the war. He conducted about 40 interviews with Wrightsville-area residents about their experiences in WWII, including those affected at home and those sent overseas. Many of those interviews are included in his latest book, "Small Town America in WWII: War Stories from Wrightsville, Pennsylvania."
Marcello spent Friday morning with students at Eastern York High School, sharing excepts from those interviews and talking about what he's learned over his years of research.
"It's a very personal kind of history doing this," he said of his work.
The 1957 Eastern alum said it was his first time back at the high school since he served briefly as a substitute teacher in 1962 following his time in the Coast Guard.
War stories: Marcello shared anecdotes from his books with the students at the high school, including one about a woman who moved from Wrightsville to Washington, D.C., at the start of WWII to work at the U.S. Department of State. She collected stamps from foreign correspondents to send to her brother still living at home, until one day when a memo came through: Then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed collected stamps, and the person who kept cutting them off of letters needed to stop.
Marcello also collected stories from people who worked in the Riverside Foundry, now a part of Donsco, Inc., creating millions of castings for hand grenades. And he included the story that's as close to a fairy tale as war stories go: As Marcello tells it, an American man met a German woman while working in a commissary overseas, and they returned to live in Wrightsville "happily ever after."
Marcello comes back each Memorial Day to visit family and friends still in the area.
"Memorial Day in Wrightsville is like a reunion," he said.
This year, he'll have a book signing at the Wrightsville Heritage Day Saturday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Marcello and his wife will plan to eat breakfast at the American Legion Monday morning, followed by the parade in Wrightsville.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.