Seymour, Wis. (WFRV) – Oliver ‘Ollie’ Lerum was born on a summer day on June 12 in 1925.
He grew up a farm boy in Hicks Valley, Pepin County.
Lerum hoped to go to college, but that dream would be cut short as the draft for the second World War was looming.
” I got out of high school in 1943 and I stayed on the farm, I was deferred as a farm worker. But in ‘44, I decided I was going to go into the service,” Lerum said.
With four brothers already overseas, Lerum volunteered for the draft, hoping his younger brother Otto could avoid the war.
“Besides, my younger brother was two years younger than me and so if I didn’t go, he would. Well, he eventually went anyway but, I think that was my big reason,” said Lerum.
Lerum had already survived the Great Depression and now he was off to war with the 31st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.
“And of course then I got ready to go to Japan, but what saved me was Harry (Truman) dropped the bomb. So they deferred our ship to Korea for occupational duty at the capital, Seoul.”
Lerum served as the Captain of his company, looking after his fellow soldiers in what he describes as a motherly way.
After he returned from the war, Lerum got that college degree in 1950 from UW-River falls, and went on to spend 17 years with the Army reserves and 37 as a local teacher, working with agriculture and business students.
“I had a good job, one of the world’s best jobs, I worked with young people. But now I’ve got a better one for 34 years,” said Lerum.
That better job is retirement. But Ollie has been active in the military community since he returned.
He walked the route on Wisconsin Ave and Oneida for Appleton’s first Flag Day parade back in 1950. And now 71 years later, he’ll do it again, serving as the escort for the Grand Marshal American Flag.
“I always liked parades anyway, so I was thinking, ‘I was in the first one, I’d like to be in one more.’ So I called them up,” Lerum said.
He fought in WWII, dedicated his career to shaping young minds.
But if you ask Ollie, he says he’s not the one who deserves the recognition.
“I’m not a hero, I’m not a hero. But my brothers were, they’re my heroes along with my mother. I’ve got a lot of students that remember me, something I said or something I did for them or what. So I’m happy,” Lerum said.
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