Oakland Mall Macy's unveils WWII plaque rescued from closed Northland Mall
Troy — When Uncle Sam came calling during World War II, the employees of Hudson's answered the bell. More than 1,100 workers from Detroit's downtown retail fixture wound up serving in the armed forces.
Company officials embraced the sacrifice of those workers, putting up a massive plaque honoring them — a monument that could be found at the downtown location from 1947 until its closure in 1983. After a decade out of the public eye, and the merging of the Hudson's name with other corporate interests — the bronze plaque was installed at the Macy's store in Northland.
The closure of the Northland location two months ago led to a surreal and touching scene Tuesday morning as Macy's officials installed the plaque at their Oakland Mall store.
Amidst the racks of the women's shoe department, a small crowd of veterans, local officials and their families gathered for the re-dedication of the plaque in an emotional ceremony. John Symons was among the stars of the show.
"I was drafted from Hudson's," said the 99-year-old Northville resident. "And every Christmas they sent me a Christmas bonus all the while I was in the service."
Symons' affection for the department store where he worked in the furniture warehouse is evident. He brought along a photo of the Hudson's baseball team he played first base for, and there are news clippings of the store's hockey team on which he skated as well.
A 1947 commemorative plaque for Hudson's employees who fought in WWII is rededicated at Macy's Oakland Mall store.
The other Hudson World War II vets on-hand Tuesday were Eric Dueweke of Flat Rock and Donald Ulbrich of Detroit. Dueweke's brother, Otto, a fellow veteran, was also in attendance.
The 8-foot-wide by 9-foot-tall plaque now hangs in the elevator alcove just inside Macy's north entrance. It bears all 1,146 Hudson's workers who served during World War II. That includes 31 who died during the conflict.
It reads: "This tablet is erected in honor of the employees of the J. L Hudson Company who, in World War II, served with courage and devotion to preserve the dignity and liberty of our nation. We dedicate this tablet to all Hudsonians who placed the security of America above all else and helped achieve final victory August 14, 1945."
Farmington resident Nancy Benglian-Wisniewski came to the ceremony in honor of her father, Edward Wisniewski, and her uncle, Francis Sauve. She used a pencil and paper to take a rubbing of their names off the plaque. The Hudson's store in Detroit was a central point in her family's history.
"My father and my mother, and my uncle, Francis, and my mom's sister, all met at Hudson's after the war and then they all got married and went on to have families ... ," she said.
Her cousin, Mark Wisniewski, said he was glad to see the plaque find a new home.
"You wonder about all the (historical artifacts) that are being lost or destroyed," he said. "That they're saving something like this is very important to our history.
For Bloomfield Hills' Marlene Barnes, Tuesday was an opportunity to find her aunt's name on the Hudson's wall. Philomene Goodell Maixner of Lincoln Park had worked in the swimsuit department at Hudson's before working in the U.S Naval Reserve as a member of the Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service division.
"I had never seen it when it was at Northland — it gets you right here ... ," she said while touching the area over her heart. "And having this so close to Memorial Day too. It's just very special."