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Jack Michaels - NWPVA Founding Father

Jack Michaels - NWPVA Founding Father


By Terry Chenoweth

Formal photo of Jack Michaels at about age 50 Joe Sapienza, Duane Osborne, Mike Schifford, Jerry Lindsey - In a hotel lobby during the 4th Annual Wheelchair Games

Following WWII, in 1946, several veterans with spinal cord injury and disease decided to create an organization for veterans with Spinal Cord Injury/Disease (SCI/D). The organization would be called Paralyzed Veterans of America and it was later chartered by the US Congress. It was formed to enhance the lives of its members through sports, advocacy, protecting the civil rights of the disabled community, helping with the attainment of benefits and improving the accessibility of public lands and transportation. Some of PVA's members have service related disabilities and some are non-service related.

Captain Jack Michaels was serving in Vietnam as a Huey Medi-Vac pilot. His chopper sustained a direct mortar shell hit. His copilot was killed and Jack sustained a serious SCI. Upon returning home to Seattle, Jack along with Jack Martin, petitioned PVA to form a chapter for the Northwest. The new chapter would be called Northwest Paralyzed Veterans of America (NWPVA).

Close up of Jerry Lindsey while he was reading

Kelly Toomey, Rudy Garitch, Jerry Lindsey, Duane Osborne, Glen Galbreath and Joe Johnston joined and the chapter was formed.

Jack Michaels was elected President, Jack Martin Vice President and Jerry Lindsey was elected Secretary/Treasurer.

Jack Michaels was later elected as National Vice President, then Senior Vice President. He served two terms as President of PVA.

The first Board of Directors (BOD) consisted of Kelly, Rudy and Duane and Glen. The board members held their monthly meetings in a meeting room at Center Park, located just off Rainier Avenue in Burien, Washington. This was also the location of Jerry Lindsey's personal residence, and the chapter held its annual election banquet and Christmas party there, as well.

The first office was leased in 1980 and located in a building on SW 152nd, just west of Ambaum Boulevard. Donna Osborne (Duane's wife) was hired as the first Office Manager/Secretary for the chapter. Board members would sit in a circle, as space was very limited. Joe Johnston was appointed to be the chapter's first National Service Officer (NSO) for the Northwest. His office was in the first building and it was small, but we got by.

Jack Michaels and Chuck Karczewski sitting on a boat and holding a life preserver that says, 'Star of the Northwest'

George Turner, Joe Sapienza, Bill Robinson, Karen Andrews, Don Porter and Terry Chenoweth joined the chapter in the early to mid-1980's and were instrumental in the early years on the BOD. Gary Pearson, Marty Blaker, George Turner, Bill Robinson, Ron Elliot, Brent Gardina, Chili Perez and Don Porter all served as long time active BOD members.

Skip Dreps

Skip Dreps and Chuck Karczewski took over the Service Officer position at the Federal Building in downtown Seattle. Skip left that position and was hired as the first Chapter Government Relations Director. Mr. Dreps is still very active in the Chapter's dealings with Olympia.

Patrick carpenter and David Zurfluh presenting an award to Terry Chenowith

Bill Robinson, George Turner, Don Porter, Gary Pearson and Chuck Karczewski all served as chapter presidents. Jack Michaels and Ernie Butler served for many years as the chapters Executive Director and Brent King holds that position today. We are very proud of David Zurfluh and his rapid rise to the position of National Senior Vice President.

There have been other offices leased by the chapter for meetings and to conduct chapter business, such as an office leased on SW 153rd in 1990. This office had a nice place to hold meetings, but was a little cramped. It's currently leased by Burien Trophy. Meetings were also held at a local Elementary school on 147th for a while until the present office on SW 152nd was purchased and has served our needs very well since then.

Ernie helping a young boy named Jensen fix his bike

Poster of Jack Michaels


By Skip Dreps

Last month I received a message from the Veterans Cemetery in Seattle, Brenda Spicer (Office Manager) where I serve on the Advisory Board. They received a call from Ray Johnston who volunteers for the Medal of Honor Society. He thought he might have discovered the burial place of a Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient who was awarded in 1905 and buried in the Veterans Cemetery in 1950. I was stunned. I have been on the Advisory Committee for more than 25 years and we proudly recognized the 7 MOH recipients buried in Evergreen-Washelli's Cemetery in Seattle. The possibility that there was one more, and we missed him, was staggering, and thrilling!

His name is Emil Fredricksen. He died without next of kin in 1950 and was buried without a marker. He had paid for the plot and the only clue that he was even in the military was a note on faded receipt that he was in receipt of bonus for the MOH. He was buried Emil Fredrickson and had been forgotten until recently.

After a search of Washington State records in Olympia and a few calls to old friends in the Records Center in St. Louis I had enough information to confirm he was the same US Navy Watertender that was one of the heroes on July 5, 1905, when the USS Bennington exploded in San Diego harbor killing 57 and severely wounding 60 other shipmates. It was the worst disaster in San Diego's history at the time and rivaled September 11, 2001 tragedy in its relative scope of population/casualties.

Picture of the ship - USS Bennington after the disaster in 1905

USS Bennington Disaster 1905

241 Shipmates posing on the deck of the USS Bennington the Day of the Disaster

241 Shipmates the Day of the Disaster

Ship�s Rowing Crew the morning of the Disaster

Ship's Rowing Crew the morning of the Disaster

Emil was one of 11 sailors to be awarded our Nation's highest honor that day, and is the single event in military history where so many Medal of Honors awards were issued in peacetime.

Parade Procession through San Diego: Emil Fredricksen is third from left

Procession through San Diego: Emil Fredricksen is third from left

Yet, here was only a single, un-detailed line in his award that described his heroism, and generic, as it was the same in all the others. There had to be a story of Emil and I was going to find it in San Diego's History Museum in Balboa Park.

Thanks to Jane Kenealy, a San Diego History Archivist, we were able to piece together the details of that day, and after microfilm reel after reel, and several old volumes of naval archives, we found Emil.

Emil was preparing the boilers to get under way when one exploded, and then another. There were near the bow and he was at the stern. Immediately steam poured through the ship and four members of his crew where burned into the open hatch that housed the ammunition. Without hesitation he went below to secure the hatch. Then he rescued 5 other badly burned sailors and carried them off the ship to the dock before the ship lost its anchor and was towed to burn in the harbor.

Survivors after explosion

Survivors after explosion

I found more about Emil. His family came from Copenhagen, Denmark (courtesy of former Advisory Board Chairman Michael Eagan). My Father emigrated from Westphalia, Prussia. Emil was on the Ship's Rowing Team. He was a big man with a big smile. In finding him, I re- discovered myself. It was important for me to drive to San Diego and try and find a clue to remember him when the cemetery places a MOH headstone on his unmarked grave. Maybe its because I will be buried in the Veterans Cemetery too, and felt like a neighborly duty; or maybe it was because the story of 11 MOH awardees in peacetime in a single incident was worth finding the tale and to keep the story alive.

Above all, I remembered it is important to all of us that I went on this mission to find Emil more than 100 years ago. I went to find more than just a story of heroism. I went because no matter how long it takes, veterans have a sacred duty to honor their country by remembering its heroes.

Soon the Cemetery will order a Department of Defense official Medal of Honor headstone and maybe we will remember the act of bravery above and beyond the call to duty with full military honors, and tell more than a generic line and "...remember the Bennington".

We are eternally grateful to the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park who has enabled TWO Medal of Honor recipients to be afforded full military honors because of their compassionate professionalism.

Finally, I can't help feeling that there are other friends guiding this journey. Captain Jack Michaels seemed to whisper in my ear when he sees something important from his new home in Heaven and Colonel Phil Smart is sending Godwinks like sunbeams spotlighting what still needs to be done on my watch. I am thankful I still have good friends who guide me from an overhead platform that sees the battlefield of life and helps me choose my path in life.

Finding Emil was as entertaining as a movie, but it was more like going on a holy pilgrimage. Finding Emil helped me rediscover Skip, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I hope to invite you all to the dedication of Emil's MOH stone with full military honors. I look forward to seeing everyone there. It will be an historical event!!


The USS Bennington Monument

The USS Bennington Monument is a 60-foot (18 m) granite obelisk in the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, Point Loma, San Diego, California, United States. It serves as a memorial to the crew of the USS Bennington (PG- 4), a gunboat of the United States Navy, whose boiler exploded on the morning of 21 July 1905, in San Diego Bay. The explosion showered the vessel with live steam and scalding water, killing at least 60 men and burning an additional 46. It was the worst peacetime disaster for the U.S. Navy up to that time.

The dead were buried at Fort Rosecrans; some were later dis-interred and shipped home for burial by their families. The monument at the site of the graves was dedicated three years later, on 7 January 1908. One of the MOH sailors who died the day after the disaster is buried here.

By the side of the sea
The harbor bar
Where the white breakers
Roar and run
That each generation
Years come and go
Will remember the Bennington


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