Last Tuesday’s column featured a plea from a woman in Hawaii for information about a Roanoke soldier killed in Vietnam. Janna Hoehn sought photos or any other facts she could uncover about Aubrey Reid Jr., who died in 1969.
Hoehn’s a volunteer with the Wall of Faces project, an endeavor by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. It’s collecting photographs of the 58,319 service members killed in Vietnam for presentation online.
So far, the project has amassed 57,970 photos of fallen service members whose names are engraved on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington, D.C. Of the 349 to go, nine were from Virginia, including Reid.
Thanks to Patricia Austin Hall Brookman of Vinton, we now have more information about Reid. But much remains unknown. One key detail that Brookman provided was that Reid went by the nickname “Archie.”
Brookman, 73, was a classmate of Reid’s at Washington Heights Elementary School in the 1953-54 school year. Coincidentally, her second husband, Donald Brookman, was a next-door neighbor to Reid’s family on Tennessee Avenue Northwest during Donald Brookman’s initial years of elementary school.
Patricia Brookman detailed that and more in a couple of emails she sent to Janna Hoehn last week. Thoughtfully, Brookman copied me on those. Monday we had a chance to chat.
Washington Heights Elementary was torn down long ago, Brookman told me. Now some kind of medical building stands on that plot of land, she said.
“I’m somewhat obsessed about Washington Heights, our school,” Brookman told me. “The neighborhood kids, we still get together once a year for a picnic.”
Patricia Brookman and Reid were classmates in the second grade. Their teacher was Reba Walters. “We called him Archie,” she said.
Donald Brookman served in the Air Force during Vietnam. He was stationed in Thailand during the war, his wife noted in one of her emails to Hoehn.
As young lads, the two boys walked to and from school together. “They had a good little walk to Washington Heights school; it was about eight blocks each way,” Patricia Brookman said. “There was a little store on Tennessee Avenue where they used to stop and buy penny candy if they had any money.”
Outside of school, they were neighborhood playmates, she added. A downward-sloping empty lot next to the Reids’ house at 1212 Tennessee Ave. served as a sleigh-riding venue during the winter. They played in nearby woods, too.
On one occasion, the two boys fashioned bows and arrows from sticks they found in the woods, Patricia Brookman said. They tipped the arrows with nails and shot them into the side of the Brookman residence.
“Mr. Brookman [Donald’s father] wasn’t too happy when he came home from work and found nails in the side of his house,” she said, chuckling.
Unfortunately, from there the trail goes rather cold. Donald Brookman and his family moved to Fincastle when he was in the fourth grade, Patricia Brookman added.
She went on to Monroe Junior High and William Fleming High. But yearbooks from neither of those schools mention Aubrey (or “Archie”) Reid.
Brookman raised the possibility that Reid attended Jefferson High School rather than William Fleming. But I could find no trace of him on Monday while perusing 1963-65 copies of “The Acorn,” the Jefferson High School yearbook. Those were digitized and published online by the Virginia Room in Roanoke’s main branch library.
I also checked with Northside High School and Roanoke Catholic School, and officials there could find no mention of Reid.
His obituary appeared in The Roanoke Times on April 23, 1969.
It identified him as a U.S. Army private who had been in Vietnam about two months with the 577th Engineer Battalion. He was killed in action on April 18, 1969. According to the Wall of Faces, he died in Phu Yen, a Vietnamese province roughly 200 miles northeast of Saigon.
According to Hoehn’s records, at the time of his death, Reid was married to a woman whose first name was Tabitha. According to his obituary in The Roanoke Times, he lived at 4025 Kentucky Ave. N.W. He entered the Army in September 1968 and had previously been employed at Eaton Yale and Towne Inc.
That large manufacturing company produced locks, keys, industrial drives and forklifts, among other items. (Headquartered in Ireland, it’s now known as Eaton Corp. and still has a presence here in Roanoke.)
In the 1960s, Eaton Yale and Towne had two addresses in the Roanoke Valley. One was on Colorado Street in Salem, where Graham White Manufacturing Co. stands now. The other address was on Ninth Street in southeast Roanoke.
The obituary listed Reid’s survivors as his wife, Tobie Baker Reid; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Aubrey Reid Sr.; a half-brother, Lawrence Lee Sowers; and a sister, Eloise Ruth Flannagan. All were from Roanoke.
Reid’s funeral was April 28, 1969, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church — now, that’s known as the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and it’s in northern Roanoke County. He was buried at Cedar Lawn Memorial Park, a cemetery on Cove Road. Lotz of Salem Inc. handled the funeral arrangements.
And that’s about all Brookman knows at this point. It’s unclear where Reid attended high school, or if he did.
“Unfortunately I did not know his parents or his siblings or his wife,” Brookman wrote in one of the emails to Hoehn.
Brookman did find a photo of Reid, from when he was in second grade at Washington Heights Elementary. That came from one of the school’s annuals. She promised to forward that to Hoehn.
I’m betting we can find one that’s a little more recent, perhaps from whatever high school he attended.
Does anyone else remember an Aubrey or Archie Reid from a Roanoke Valley high school, class of 1964?
If so, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.