FARGO — Dixie McGillis cannot imagine what it must have been like for her grandfather to watch seven of his ten living sons head off, one by one, to serve in World War II.
Thomas Hoime’s boys left the family farmstead near Edmore, N.D., northeast of Devils Lake, for points in Europe, the South Pacific, Africa and other locales from December 1941 to December 1942.
McGillis’ father, Edwin Hoime, was the sixth son to go. As a gunner with the Army Air Corps, he would fly 51 missions from Italy over enemy territory, she said.
Miraculously, her dad and all of the brothers survived the war and were able to come home.
“It was quite amazing… that all of them lived through this horrific thing that World War II was,” said McGillis.
Sadly, there would be no parent to welcome the returning military members home.
Thomas Hoime died in January 1944, before any of the boys were discharged from service.
Their mother, Christina, had died when all of the children were young.
A Military Honor Garden on the campus of Mayville State University pays tribute to numerous veterans from the area who’ve served.
McGillis and her husband Larry, now living in Portland, N.D. and both alumni of Mayville State University, placed a granite bench in the garden to honor the Hoime brothers.
“This family of mine really weren't connected to Mayville... but through me. We decided that this would be a way to keep their memory alive,” she said.
Growing up on the farm
Thomas and Christina Hoime had 12 children altogether, McGillis said, including a son who died in infancy.
The ten surviving boys were Melford, Thomas Jr., Clarence, Edwin and Elmer, who were twins, Goodwin, Herman, Gilman, Joseph and Martin.
The latter three did not serve in uniform, but helped produce agricultural products for the war effort. The youngest child, a daughter named Geneva, would later become a riveter to help make the planes needed for war.
But when Geneva was just three years old, the children’s mother Christina died.
The girl was sent by her father to live with an aunt for a while afterward, thinking she needed a female influence in her life.
Geneva protested and would come back home, McGillis said, because her brothers “treated her like a princess.”
Joe Hoime was the designated cook of the family who baked about eight loaves of bread a day to feed all of those hungry children, McGillis said.
They lived in a tiny house on a small farmstead near Edmore, going to school and working on the farm during the week, then gathering with neighbors on the weekends to play music and dance.
“I don't know how they all fit in there. They certainly didn't have their own bed, I know that,” McGillis said.
Off to war, one by one
Clarence Hoime was the first son to be called to duty by the U.S. Army in December of 1941, to serve in Europe.
Six other brothers would follow mostly to the Army, except for Thomas, Jr., who was in the Navy.
Their departures occurred almost one per month, save for a stretch from June to October in 1942.
In November of 1942, Edwin Hoime joined the Army Air Corps where he served nearly three years, including on the aforementioned combat missions.
McGillis said her father was gentle and soft spoken and didn’t talk much with family about his time in the war.
But she knows of a few stories, including when her dad had to perform an emergency repair job as their plane flew over enemy territory.
In the cold aircraft, he had to take off his electrically-heated flight suit that was malfunctioning and fix it before getting it back on quickly.
“Luckily, no one shot at him at the time,” McGillis said.
And, there was the instance he was supposed to fly a mission on the day he learned his father had died back on the farm in Edmore.
Her dad was sick about the death and didn’t think he could fly; the officer in charge didn’t think he should, either.
“But you know, it was war,” she said.
The Hoime brothers were just one family among the 16 million Americans who would serve in World War II, and their memories will live on in a picturesque garden at Mayville State University.
The garden is a project of alumni and co-chairs, Dr. Martin Johnson and Lt. Gen. Emil “Buck” Bedard. Johnson served as a corporal in the Marines in the 1960s. Bedard, a retired three-star general, spent more than 37 years in active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps. An Argyle, Minn. native, Bedard now lives in Las Vegas.