By Sherrie Norris
Watauga County’s Dewey Rominger from the Laurel Creek Community was a World War I veteran who served in the US Army with the 83rd Artillery, stationed in Wyoming at one time and saw a little action in France as the war was ending. He died in the mid 1950s. Little was known about his military service, as it just wasn’t something he talked a lot about, according to his grandson, Bill Rominger.
In the last few years, the younger Rominger has learned more than he ever knew about his grandfather, mainly while searching through family keepsakes as he spent time with his mother before her death. “While she would be resting, I would be going through some of the drawers and boxes and ran across some interesting information,” he said.
However, a missing piece of his grandfather’s history — unbeknownst to the family — just arrived in Boone recently and is now in the younger Rominger’s possession — surrounded by a mystery that may never be solved.
A well-worn New Testament in a small burlap pouch was recently discovered in a shop in Oregon by retired Florida marine, James Gregory. Opening the testament, Gregory discovered between the pages a membership card to the Watauga County American Legion Post 130, Boone, NC, dated June 9, 1936, that had been issued to Dewey Rominger.
Gregory brought the pouch and testament back to Florida; upon learning that his cousin, Ken Shanley, was planning a trip to Boone, he asked that he try to deliver it to the American Legion Post. The men agreed that attempting to return it to the owner’s family was the right thing to do.
Unable to make contact with the Watauga post, Shanley contacted the American Legion’s national headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., requesting that they forward information to the Watauga post, which they did.
On the receiving end of the email message was Larry Osborne who learned that Shanley had something of importance to share with the post, but also that he would soon be leaving Boone and returning to Florida.
Osborne was instantly intrigued when he learned what Shanley had in his possession. “With the information that the national headquarters shared with me, I was able to contact Ken Shanley,” Osborne said. “We met briefly the day before he was returning to Florida and he passed the New Testament and membership card to me in an old military-type ammunition pouch.”
When Osborne returned home with the treasure, with the name Dewey Rominger still legible, he booted up his computer and began researching local genealogy sites.
“I found two Dewey Romingers in Watauga County from the early 1900s,” he said. “The one from Beaver Dam just didn’t fit the dates, so I researched Dewey Admiral Rominger from the Laurel Creek community and I got a match. I found out that he was born in 1898, married Rosa Florence Tester and was buried in the Pine Grove Methodist Church Cemetery. Together, they had four children; the two boys were Ronald and William, both veterans of World War II.”
Osborne was unable to find additional information about Ronald, but discovered that William had married Audrey Shook, who died in 2021, according to an obituary he found through Hampton’s Funeral Service.
And that obituary listed William (Bill) Rominger as her son.
“My wife heard me say something about Bill Rominger, to which she replied that she had gone to school with a Bill Rominger who was best friends with her cousin, Mike. She found Bill’s phone number and I called him.”
During that conversation, Osborne said, Rominger answered his inquiries with all the right answers — “I asked him about his parents and grandparents and his replies matched my information, so I knew I had the right family and told him the rest of the story.”
Fast-forward to Thursday morning, Sept. 15.
Bill Rominger, along with his maternal uncle, Errol Shook, accepted an invitation to the recently-begun coffee and doughnut social hour of the American Legion Post 130, during which he was presented with his grandfather’s New Testament, the membership card and pouch.
Additionally, Rominger shared some of his family’s military history with those present and brought a small worn disc from his pocket, which he identified as yet another of his grandfather’s personal items he had found “back in the 70s, while walking a dirt road in front of the family’s home place.”
Holding it up for everyone to see, Rominger said, something in the dirt had caught his eye as the sun reflected upon it, and at first he thought it was just a lid from a can drink. “I kicked it a little bit, and then seeing it was round, thought it was a 50 cent piece. I picked it up to see that it was actually my grandfather’s dog tag from the war with his name and serial number still on it. How it had been there all that time and nobody ever saw it before is beyond me.”
So, now, Bill Rominger has in his possession another piece of his grandfather’s military memorabilia. “This all means the world to me,” he said. “He got out of the military in 1919, and this card is dated 1936. We do have his billfold, too, that has other American Legion membership cards from the early ‘30s, but we will probably never know how this one got all the way to Oregon and now, all the way back to Boone. But I’m glad it did.”
Rominger expressed his appreciation to the local American Legion post, and especially to Larry Osborne for his diligence in seeing it through to the end. He also plans to contact the men from Florida to thank them, as well.
And, incidentally, Rominger said, during his military service, he, too was in the 83rd Artillery /detachment, similar to his grandfather. “I guess you could say that’s another coincidence.”
More About the American Legion Post 130
The Watauga County American Legion Post 130 is located at 135 Bear Trail in Boone. Commander Finley Hodges and the post members are happy to have helped make this connection for the Rominger family. It’s just one of the many services they have been able to provide for the community in recent years. They would like to invite new and existing members to the monthly meetings at 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month, as well as the weekly socials each Thursday at 10 a.m.
And everyone is invited to the monthly fundraising breakfasts held on the third Saturday of each month, weather permitting, beginning at 7 a.m.; $10 for a delicious all-you-can-eat country breakfast.