QUIET AND POLITE, OVIST HAD MANY INTERESTS
The record on David Ovist of Alston reads like so many of the 58,000: Marine Corps Corporal, E4. Born January 9, 1948. Casualty date, March 22, 1969. Home of record, Pelkie, MIchigan. Ground casualty, hostile artillery, rocket, mortar. Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.
Friends remember strong athlete, and the bear
What the record doesn't mention is the bear that hibernated under David's back porch. Or the touchdown he scored for Baraga in Crystal Falls. Or the school 440 track record. Or swimming and snorkeling in Clear Lake. Military records don't mention all that. But David's friends and relatives remember.
Anne Sage of Green Bay is first cousin to David's late mother, Doris. She remembers "a very gentle, kind, young man who loved to ride his horse. He also did extensive trapping. He was shy, polite and caring. He was very helpful to his mother and father (Elmer) who were not in good health."
'He is not coming home'
Anne also vividly recalls David's military service. Having completed one tour of duty with the Marines in Vietnam, a family celebration was held at the Ovist home on Ovist Road. David was on leave, but preparing to begin his second tour in 'Nam. He was a "tall, strapping young man" in his uniform.
"As my husband and I drove out of the driveway David was leaning against the exterior wall of the house beneath a kitchen window. We had previously said our good-byes but there was that 'last wave'. David had a very wistful look on his face and I told my husband, 'He is not coming home'", Anne remembers.
Her words would be confirmed in March, 1969. David, a '66 BHS graduate, began his first tour of duty on Dec. 2, 1967. The radio operator died early in his second tour, after fighting in the brutal Tet Offensive.
Anne's parents wintered on Anna Maria Island, Florida in 1968-69. Anne and her husband were visiting her folks in March of 1969. They were at the local IGA grocery when they heard the owner say, "I have a telegram for John Howie. He is probably a snow bird and I don't know how to reach him."
"I piped up, 'That's my dad! I hope it's good news," Anne recalls. "I still remember the yellow, lined pages with the words, David killed in Vietnam, funeral arrangements incomplete. It was sent by my aunt. My folks immediately left for the UP."
"Doris wondered if he was really killed. The funeral director in Nisula said, 'Yes, it is David, hit by shrapnel.' He was her only remaining child. She had previously lost two female babies at birth," Anne explained.
A love of animals
David spent his childhood living on Clayco Road, and later, moving to a home on Ovist Road. School buddy Larry Oger, a year younger than David, noted that he went to the Alston School through tenth grade and then to Baraga for 11th and 12th grade.
"He had a pet deer that he took care of," Oger said. "It grew up to be a six-point buck."
Dennis Salbashian is among David's friends who remember another little pet - the bear.
"David raised a little bear from a cub. It must have been about 1963 and '64. He found the cub and had it home. It stayed there for about two winters. They never had it penned up or anything. He used to wrestle with that bear," Dennis said. "They used to take it inside once in a while to feed it."
Another Baraga schoolmate, Mike Cadeau, also remembers the bear.
"That bear hibernated under the back porch of his house. We used to joke about that all the time," Mike said.
David loved his horse, Comanche, and his pony, Poncho. He eventually acquired a motorcycle, and Larry remembers his old, brown Dodge car. "His mother had his toys and kept his bike as sort of a shrine to him," Larry said. "I remember him riding that bike." Anne Sage found a telescope in David's room years later after David's parents had died. He loved to read, too.
Swimming, football, track his thing
David is remembered for his athletic ability. Dennis says he was a strong, husky boy who could dive 16 to 20 feet deep in Clear Lake. "He loved to dive in Clear Lake by Nisula," Mike confirms.
"He was in good shape. He held the 440 record at Baraga school. Football and track were his sports," Larry Oger said.
"One time we were in Crystal Falls. They kicked off to us and we were back. I caught it and got tackled. I lateraled to David and he scored a touchdown. But we lost that game anyway," Larry said.
David graduated in 1966 and was in Vietnam for his first tour by December, 1967. Larry, a '67 BHS grad, joined the National Guard and kept in touch a few times with David. Dennis Salbashian saw firsthand the horrors of Vietnam. He was with the Army there in 1970 for ten months. He saw duty in several provinces of South Vietnam, and Cambodia. Nearing the end of his tour Dennis was hospitalized with malaria, and eventually shipped home to the States.
David Ovist wasn't so lucky. After all, he was a "ground casualty, hostile artillery, rocket, mortar".
But, to those who knew him he was the kid with the bear, the swimmer, the athlete, and "a very gentle, kind young man".
- Article by Barry Drue of The L'Anse Sentinel (Baraga Co., Michigan) -
Reproduced under 17 USC ï¿ 1/2 107