Portrait of Heroic Florida Marine Comes Home Thanks to Sharon Resident
Deputy Police Chief J.J. McGrath found the painting in an auction, bought it, and donated it to a Florida museum.
What began last winter with a search for a gift for a Sharon Marine ended with Deputy Police Chief J.J. McGrath driving to Tavares, Fla. recently.
On May 17, McGrath and his wife Kathy delivered the painting of Private Robert McTureous Jr. to the Lake County Historical Museum, which has a display dedicated to the posthumous World War II Medal of Honor recipient, who grew up in nearby Altoona.
McGrath's trip happened three weeks shy of the 67th anniversary of McTureous' heroism on Okinawa that earned him that medal from President Harry S. Truman.
On June 7, 1945, McTureous waged a "furious one-man assault" on Japanese troops while his wounded peers were being evacuated under machine-gun fire, "thereby diverting the heaviest fire from the stretcher-bearers to his own person and, resolutely returning to his own lines under a blanketing hail of rifle and Machine-gun fire to replenish his supply of grenades, dauntlessly continued his systematic reduction of Japanese strength until he himself sustained serious wounds after silencing a large number of the hostile guns," according to MarineMedals.com. McTureous died on June 11.
McGrath says he bought the commissioned painting at auction last winter while "looking for something historical" for his 19-year-old son Shane, who is stationed with the 1st Marine Division at 29 Palms in California. "He's actually getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan in October."
Seeing the painting available while perusing the auctions changed McGrath's gift plans.
"I'm looking at it, and I'm saying, 'You've got to be kidding me.' It was like a disbelief that there could possibly be an original painting of a Medal of Honor winner from World War II out for sale to the general public," says McGrath, himself a Marine Corps veteran.
"My immediate impression was this was something that should be in a museum or someplace of honor, and hopefully wouldn't end up in somebody's private collection in a basement somewhere."
A history buff, McGrath says he began researching McTureous toward finding a new home for the painting.
McTureous served with Company H, Third Battalion, 29th Marines, 6th Marine Division, according to MarineMedals.com. Camp McTureous in Okinawa, Japan is named for him. McTureous had served in the Marines nine months before he died, the base's website notes.
McGrath says he learned that the Marine Corps commissioned the painting, and hung it in the base's chapel. He also learned that the painting was taken to the U.S. while the basw was being renovated during the 1960s.
None of McTureous' immediate family is alive, McGrath says.
For that reason, three potential options for the painting presented themselves, McGrath says: the McTureous Homestead and Museum, in the soldier's hometown of Altoona; the Lake County Museum; and the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center in Quantico, Va.
McGrath says he visited all three.
The Altoona museum was "in disrepair" due to funding issues, and was not environmentally controlled, he says.
The Lake County Historical Museum "already had a display case set up in their museum," including a black and white photo, and "a facsimile of his medal of honor," he says.
And the Marine Corps museum is "a different type of collection there. It's almost interactive."
"It's spectacular. It's the most amazing museum I've ever been to. But, it really wasn't a place where a portrait of one Marine Corps Medal of Honor winner would get the attention it would deserve, in my opinion. They even told me it would take two to three years before they could even display it, because they don't have a place to display it (until a new building section is built). It would never be displayed in a permanent way. It would be in and out of rotation," McGrath says.
Many of McTureous' colleagues are "in their 80s, or older," he notes.
"I wanted a place where they could go today and see this painting of their brother in arms," McGrath says.
McGrath says that when he called the Lake County museum to discuss donating the painting, the reaction was, "'We'd love that. We'll frame it. We'll put it up. It will be the greatest thing in the world to have.'"
Last week, McGrath got an unexpected gift as a result -- an e-mail, and then a visit from Marine veteran Joe Drago, who served with McTureous and now lives in West Roxbury.
Drago had read about McGrath's act in the 6th Marine Division newsletter, and came to the Sharon Police Station to thank him.
"That's pretty cool. (He's) 86 years old. He sat here and told me some of the stories from Okinawa, what took place there in the battle, and how horrible it was," McGrath says.