Bernie Calvelage shows off his Memory Garden made to honor his late wife. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)
Bernie Calvelage shows off his Memory Garden made to honor his late wife. (DHI Media/Nancy Spencer)
OTTOVILLE — Bernie Calvelage was like most high school seniors in 1944. He was just waiting for his name to come up in the draft. It was World War II and the 1st Ukrainian Front of the Red Army entered Poland and British forces were poised to take Maungdaw, Burma, a critical port for Allied supplies.

“I was 17 years old and we were all waiting for our turn,” Calvelage recalled. And then he received his notice.

On Jan. 6, 1944, Calvelage joined the Infantry and was stations at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina, a WWII Army Infantry Replacement Center. He served as an artillery trainer.

Calvelage’s sister, Florence, was WAC and his brother, Richard, joined after Calvelage.

“My brother was older but went in after me,” he said. “He was in the barracks next to me and I didn’t even know he was coming. He shipped out to 10th Mountain Division in Colorado and then to Italy to combat. After fighting, he returned to the U.S. and was in Indianapolis and got hit by a bus and was killed.”

Calvelage spent two years in the Army stateside. When on leave, he would hitchhike home to see his sweetheart, Edie Remlinger. On Oct. 17, 1945, they married during one of those visits.

Calvelage got out of the service in 1946 and settled and farmed his and his father’s land. He and Edie had six children, Cheryl Kitson, Dale Calvelage, Dennis Calvelage, Nancy Calvelage, Alan Calvelage and Teresa Van Grootheest.

Calvelage had many jobs and business ventures throughout his life.

“I’d do anything to turn a dollar,” he said.

He worked at Central Soya for 17 years, did excavation, spread lime, was a hog farmer, had stock yard in Fort Jennings and built homes in Delphos. He was also on the Board of Directors at Fort Jennings Bank.

“He was the hardest-working man I knew,” Van Grootheest said.

When his wife passed at the age of 91 0n July 30, 2017, Calvelage wanted a tangible reminder and homage to her love for children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The grandchildren planted a tree on the family farm outside of Ottoville in her memory. Calvelage suggested a stone project as a love memorial to her. The is etched with “Edie’s Angels-Her Grandchildren.” Around the “Edie’s Angels” rock were 17 smaller stones with the name of each of the 17 grandchildren and their birth year. Etched on each of these stones are a pair of angel wings surrounding a heart. The idea of the angel came from Edie, who had gifted a hanging door angel for each great grandchild’s baptism.

When Calvelage moved to town, a second memorial stone garden was started and a “Bernie’s Bunch” stone was added. Around “Bernie’s Bunch” are 36 smaller stones with the name of each of the 36 great grandkids – two more to be added soon. Etched on each of these stones is a praying angel with the birth year of each child.

Calvelage furthered this garden with an additional stone called “Edie’s Angels – Precious Gems,” another way to keep his wife of 71 years (2 ½ months shy of 72 years) and mother close to everyone’s hearts. Etched on this stone is a butterfly.

“We have come to believe that when seeing a butterfly, Mom is with us,” Nancy Calvelage said.