Ralph Elliot Holcomb - Supreme Sacrifice
The reality is, I don’t know much about Ralph Holcomb. I am including this with the short biographies but the article is really about his funeral. He died in 1919 as a casualty of the First World War. Ralph Elliot Holcomb was born on October 9th, 1898 to Reuben T. Holcomb and Amber Fessenden. His parents were in Monticello, Wisconsin for a couple of years and then moved to Monroe. Reuben served as the elected Clerk of Court for Green County beginning in 1896 so it might be assumed that Ralph was born in Monroe. The Holcombs built a house on the 800 block of West Russell Street in the 1890’s (now the 900 block of 10th Street). At that time, they were living at the edge of town on Monroe’s northwest side. The house still stands today, though it has been substantially altered.
It might be assumed that Ralph lived a fairly normal late 19th/early 20th century childhood in the small, but bustling county seat of Monroe. There was plenty of open countryside for exploring, right near his home. It is also likely that the family paid an occasional visit to his uncle’s farm in the Town of Adams where Ralph’s father had grown-up. It would be easy to construct a Norman Rockwell image of his life but there were some hardships to endure as well. On the day after Christmas, December 26th 1902, when Ralph was just a few months past his fourth birthday, him mother Amber died at the age of 36.
Mrs. Amber Holcomb, wife of R.T. Holcomb, former clerk of court, died at her home in Monroe Friday, aged 36 years. A little son and little daughter are left with the husband to mourn their loss - from the Albany Vindicator (01/01/1903).The Holcomb home was a bustling place in those days. Amber's mother and sister and Reuben’s mother would live with them at various times in the first decade of the 20th century. The larger extended family meant more helping hands before and after Amber's death. Also, after she died, Reuben would venture to western Iowa for three years, though it is unclear if the children went with him. In 1906, he returned to Monroe with a new wife and a baby. We can only speculate what the effects of these trials and tribulations might have had on young Ralph but he seems to have overcome them all and grown into a well respected young man.
|Click on to view the details of Ralph Holcomb's enlistment.|
|The coat of arms of the 13th Field Artillery Regiment. Created in 1916, the|
regiment is still active today. The photo is of a typically field battery in WWI.
“ . . . It is fitting that citizens of Monroe should give public recognition to this world war hero . . . he deserves every honor we can bestow upon him, for he died for us. He made the supreme sacrifice and what does that mean? He gave up everything dear in this world, the only things that he kept being an honorable name and hope of immortality . . . He was one of 100,000 Americans who paid with their lives that we might live in safety. He died in the cause more heroic than Tennyson’s ten thousand, more worthy than the 600 who died at Balaclava, greater than the one for which 300 died at Thermopylae. He died in the most heroic and sacred of all causes, that of the angel in man against the beast in man, henceforth he lives not in body but as one of the immortals. He lives in the memory and hearts of his countrymen. Whether we live or die, the only life really worth while is the life given in some great cause. He was a volunteer in a great and sublime cause and is now one of the ‘Choir Invisible’ whose music is the gladness of the world . . . "
The Reverend went on to read from Paul, “. . . for I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day . . . "
And then he continued his oration: “ . . . It is hard to give up those whom we have loved, it is hard for us all. We would have it otherwise if we could. There is some comfort, however, in the thought that he died in the great cause and that his name is inscribed with the imperishable ones of this republic who died for freedom and liberty . . .”
During the services, Mrs. Amelia Churchill played Handel’s “Dead March” and Mendelssohn’s “Consolation.” The Reverend McLaughlin read a poem by Harry Lauder called “My One and Only Boy” and sang “Beautiful Isle of Somewhere.” Six members of Company I acted as pall bearers and included: Alfred Baltzley, Walter Burgy, Harry Roth, Lawrence Stauffacher, Leland Lynch and Clarence Keel. Ralph Holcomb was buried at Greenwood Cemetery where taps were sounded at the grave by Ralph Krueger.
The news account concluded with a remark about the town, “As a mark of respect for this war hero, most of the business places in the city were closed during the hours of the funeral.”
|Ralph Holcomb is buried near other family members at |
Greenwood Cemetery in Monroe, Wisconsin
Research Notes: Much of the information for this post was found in a newspaper article from the Monroe Evening Times (January 14, 1919). Additional information was obtained from the United States Census and other web-based and local sources.