Honoring the fallen from a fishing village

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20160529/NEWS/160529569

Mary Fulford Green, 90, is the unofficial historian of the fishing village of Cortez. This photo is from May 2014. Staff photo by Thomas Bender

By Chris Anderson

Published: Sunday, May 29, 2016 at 11:13 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 29, 2016 at 11:13 a.m.

CORTEZ — Mary Fulford Green is sitting in the living room of her old house in the fishing village of Cortez. She is 90, and this is where she heard on the radio that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.

It was also in this house, she remembers, that her family would hang dark curtains over their windows so the German U-boats they feared were lurking in the Gulf of Mexico could not detect light.

She remembers wartime well — the boys who would gather old rubber tires out of the bay for people to use, the teen girls who would sell war bonds to the fish house owners, the residents who would eat rationed food when nothing was biting.

She also remembers those who served. Cortez is many things. It is a proud, hard-working fishing village that dates back well over a century, a place tainted by major drug smuggling in the 1970s and 80s, an area crushed by the net ban, forcing fishermen to reinvent themselves to survive.

It is also a village proud of those who served in the military. Cortez, according to a book titled “Fog’s Coming In” by Doris Green, had 67 residents serve in World War I and II. Five of those servicemen died fighting for their country, and at least three of the bodies never made it home.

Of the 67 who served from Cortez, according to Mary Fulford Green, only four are alive today. Included is 96-year-old Cleve Adams, who brought the body of Bridger Watson back to Bradenton from Pearl Harbor. Watson was the only person from Bradenton to die in the attack.

Green is an authority on Cortez history, and can spend days talking about virtually everyone who has ever lived there.

She used 92,000 rewards points off a credit card to buy a printer so she can print out old photos of war vets that families send her.

There are six military uniforms inside boxes at the Cortez cultural center, and she wants to put them on mannequins and set up a display with the photos.

“Somewhere in this town I’m going to have a veterans hall of honor where the names have to be read from five feet away,” she says.

There is a memorial in Cortez — hidden behind a tree near a restaurant — that recognizes fishermen lost at sea. It also has the names of the five who died while serving their country.

Warren Bell was a member of the Navy who served upon the S.S. Arthur Middleton. On New Year’s Eve 1943, his ship was torpedoed by a German submarine in Africa. He was listed MIA for a year before his family was notified.

James Campbell was aboard the U.S.S Yorktown when a Japanese plane dropped a bomb on the ship, and Green says his body was never recovered.

William Posey of Cortez was on the same PT boat that rescued General Douglas MacArthur. Posey’s boat was ultimately captured and he was beheaded. John Wayne once starred in a movie about the crew of the boat.

Leroy Wilson, Green’s uncle, was riding a motorcycle from Cortez back to his Army camp in Tampa when he crashed and died near the Manatee-Hillsborough county border.

The only World War I casualty from Cortez was James Coarsey, who was killed in France.

“I like the term ‘Lest we forget,'”Green says. “We have forgotten what they did.”

Chris Anderson can be reached at chris.anderson

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Published in: on May 30, 2016 at 7:47 am  Leave a Comment  

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