Deford Schwall, a member of what Tom Brokaw has named the Greatest Generation, will soon join the ranks with other distinguished Ohio veterans such as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, and Clark Gable. Schwall, a decorated veteran from Wauseon, has been selected to be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Created by former Governor George V. Voinovich in 1992 to demonstrate his concern for Ohio veterans, the Hall of Fame is not a military hall of fame but rather acknowledges veterans for their lifetime contributions.
To be eligible, a veteran must have been born in Ohio or lived in Ohio for a minimum of five years and have received an honorable discharge from active duty. The nomination process includes a summary of the veteran’s educational and professional employment, civic contributions and honors, veteran’s advocacy contributions, and a detailed narrative of why the veteran is deserving of such an honor. Floyd Franks, a veteran himself, nominated Schwall based on his patriotic and civic minded contributions to the community of Wauseon.
Deford served with the 101st Airborne Division with the United States Army as a paratrooper during World War 2. He is a decorated veteran with three battle scars, a Bronze Star, two purple hearts, and an arrowhead. An arrowhead recognizes those who were involved in an invasion. For Deford, he saw action as a co-pilot of a C 42 glider at the Operation Market Guard invasion in Holland. Despite these honors, Deford stands by his belief that he is no hero.
“After the war, we veterans just came home and worked. We never talked about our war experiences.”
After returning home from war, Deford, a graduate of Ohio Northern, practiced law for three years and hated it. He returned to Wauseon in 1951 to join his father in the insurance agency business. He and spouse Lois decided to make Wauseon home and raise their family.
Deford credits having a wonderful office staff at the agency which allowed him to be active in the community. He was always active in the Wauseon Chamber of Commerce and served as President. Homecoming Parade contributions included serving on the committee, entering a business float in the parade, announcing the parade route for twenty-five years, and even serving as Grand Marshall of the parade one year. Schwall was also active with his church Christ United Methodist in various roles. He served as a Master in the Masonic Lodge and was instrumental in the building project of the Lodge on the corner of Clinton and Elm Streets.
The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame also considers a veteran’s advocacy and contribution to community awareness and recognition of patriotism and veterans. Deford who emphasizes his passionate love for the American flag and his country has worked tirelessly to spread his heartfelt sense of patriotism to others. In 1993, urged by a sense that the overall sense of patriotism was lacking, Deford organized a 20 person committee that met evenings. Together, they collaborated and orchestrated an event called “Celebrate America.” The event, held at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, included a publication of veterans’ photos, information about the American Legion and the VFW, various patriotic publications, and advertising from businesses which funded the event. Deford worked closely alongside Sherryann Franks.
Sherryann Franks expresses, “Mr. Schwall’s endless contributions are extremely hard to track. I have never met someone who does so much for others and always under the radar of recognition. This man truly gives from the heart and never expects anything in return. I am proud beyond words to say he has been my role model for years.”
Deford, a lifetime member of the Wauseon American Legion Post 265, served as Commander for a time and was instrumental in starting a public candlelight steak and crab dinner to raise funds for the Legion to use towards services and programs for the area veterans. He also organized an Americanism committee and started a Memorial Day program. For the program, he secured such speakers as Woody Hayes. Deford has fond memories of sitting in his living room visiting with Hayes.
Deford describes himself as “tremendously proud” to be an American. He stresses that all of America, from those involved in the military to the farmers and factory workers on American soil, restored freedom in Europe during World War 2. Because the young men returning from war didn’t talk about their experiences, much living history has never been recorded. About 8 years ago, Deford created a living history video project and interviewed Fulton County veterans in a recording of over 60 hours of veterans’ experiences.
The combination of his many community and civic projects and his dedication towards veterans has led to the decision of Deford Schwall to be one of a select, distinguished few to be inducted in this year’s Veterans Hall of Fame. Because of his health, Deford has asked Floyd Franks to accept his award at the Induction Ceremony at the Lincoln Theatre in Columbus on November 6th. Although Deford is unable to attend this event, he was recently honored at the local Fulton County Veteran’s Service Office on October 15th by State Director of Veteran’s Services, Timothy Gorrell.
Humbled by the honor, Schwall believes he is not a hero but simply a man who loves his country. Deford’s tireless efforts for the community of Wauseon make him a hometown hero to many and a Veteran to honor this Veteran’s Day.