Navy veteran is Niles historian
Walter Beusse | Contributed photo
Updated: January 7, 2013 1:43AM
NILES — Walter Beusse, a Niles resident since 1955, served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946. In 2006, he was named a “Living Legend” of Niles.
Q. What were your responsibilities on the ship?
A. Our prime objective was to load the battleships with ammunition. We worked 12 hours a day. We would move 100 tons of ammunition a night to serve the fleet. I was transferring 500-pound bombs from one ship to another.
Q. What was one of the scariest things you experienced while at sea?
A. I was in a storm, and we were out in the ocean. We had a small craft that had about 50 Navy guys including me. There was a narrow channel that only the ships that were small could go through. We were out finishing our tour of duty supplying Navy crafts with ammunition, and a storm came up violently, and it was just unbelievable, bouncing us all around. We were going through there, and the boat forced us up against the rock. Three fellows went overboard. ... We had to jump from one boat to the other boat. ...When I was jumping to the bigger boat, I fell over the side of the ship. A guy grabbed me by my belt and pulled me back in.
Q. How would you describe the day that you got to come home to your family and friends?
A. It was so joyous to get home. It was really a blessing. I almost kissed the ground getting off the ship.
Q. What is your role at the Niles Historical Society and why is it important for you to stay involved?
A. I built an old-fashioned kitchen in 1986. I helped construct different rooms in the mid-80s. I was membership chairman for about eight years, and I’ve been president the last two years. I renovated the whole building and put in an elevator in 2009. I want people to see what we have.
Q . What challenges do veterans face today?
A. Veterans themselves need more support from the public. … I visited two schools in Niles by request as a veteran. When I made a little dissertation about the service, they didn’t seem to be very interested at the high schools. We should have some knowledge of World War II and all the fighting we’ve done since.
Q. How are you involved within the Niles community?
A. I was a park commissioner for 22 years. I was president there a couple times. I’m the fellow who initiated the bus service among all our parks. The Niles free bus service originated in the Niles Park District, and then the village took it over. I’ve belonged to the baseball league for about 50 years. I’m still a financial adviser for them. I was a commissioner, president of the board, board member, manager, coach, sponsor chairman. I belong to the Niles Lions Club. I belong to the Niles VFW, and I was a commander and a quartermaster for 13 years.