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Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014

Greene County lost a good friend and a nice guy

Posted Friday, February 12, 2010, at 4:56 PM

The Greene County area lost a dear friend and a bonafide war hero this week with the passing of Sherl Edward Hasler.

The 89-year-old Bloomfield resident died Feb. 9.

Sherl was someone that I would call a friend and a real joy to talk with.

He always had a smile on his face.

He was a part of the fast-fading "Greatest Generation" of the same era as my own dad, who grew up in southern Indiana during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II.

Over the years, I have had occasion several times to write about his war time experiences and later his work at the old NAD Depot at Burn City that is today one of the largest military bases in the world.

The Naval Ammunition Depot (NAD) was commissioned Dec. 1, 1941. The initial mission was to prepare, load, renovate, receive, store, and issue all types of ammunition, including pyrotechnics and illuminating projectiles, and to act as a principal source of supply at a most critical time -- the early days of World War II.

To move the materials, a railroad was needed.

In 1941 at the age of 20, Sherl helped lay the first railroad line at the depot center, which was soon the largest Naval inland railroad switch yard in the world.

He was later a brakeman on the rail line that measured more than 180 miles.

"I helped to unload the first load of material that came into the railroad here," Hasler told me in 2004 during one of the annual retirement reunion gatherings at NSWC Crane.

Soon World War II broke out with the attack at Pearl Harbor. Hasler, at the time 22, who was raised near the Mineral community in Greene County, was drafted and went for induction into the U.S. Army on Oct. 2, 1942.

His 37 months of military service with the 862nd EAB Battalion took him to the front lines of war in England, Germany, France, Holland, and Belgium. He was discharged Dec. 5, 1945.

It was difficult to get Sherl to talk much about his war days, and he would simply say in a soft voice, "It was bad, but we made it."

A couple years back he penned a book about his war experiences. It was something that made him proud -- a legacy to leave his family.

After he was discharged from the military, he came back to his old job at Crane.

In May 1943, the depot was renamed the Naval Ammunition Depot, Crane, in honor of Commodore William Montgomery Crane, the Navy's first Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance. During World War II, civilian employment reached almost 10,000 and more than 1,300 Navy and Marine Corps personnel were assigned to the installation.

In the years after the end of World War II, Crane began to develop the expertise in engineering and electronics that has carried the facility into a leadership position in today's Navy.

He went on to complete 38 years of civil and military service -- retiring from NSWC Crane in January 1979 as the operational supervisor for the railroad.

The Bloomfield resident told me that he enjoyed returning to the center each year for the homecoming event and being able to see some of his former co-workers and buddies.

But I remember he told me, "There aren't many of them left."

Hasler acknowledged that the appearance of the base has changed since he first came to work as a young man. There are many more buildings scattered throughout the property than when he first worked there.

After his retirement, Sherl spend many hours enjoying his woodworking shop where he crafted many items of furniture.

He came to the rescue for my family a few years ago, when he re-tooled a broken down baby cradle that was used by my oldest daughter as an infant. Sherl painstakingly restored it. It is simply beautiful.

In recent years, when his health would permit it, he liked to hang out on Thursday mornings with the Newberry Cafe Veterans Club -- a diverse gathering of local military veterans from all branches of service who like to sit down, sip on some coffee and talk about the old days.

Sherl will be laid to rest on Valentine's Day.

He is survived by his wife, Eva Nell (Fortner) Hasler; sister, Enid Bohley Axe, and two daughters, Denise Robertson, Benecia, Calif., and Joyce Long, Greenwood,; three grandchildren, Liam Robertson, Chris and Valerie Long.

Visitation will be Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the funeral at 2 p.m. at Jenkins Funeral Home in Bloomfield.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Bloomfield Church of Christ.

Sherl was a good man and a friend to our community.

Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at 847-4487 or 1-800-947-4487 or by e-mail at schneider.nick@gmail.com .

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Just thought I'd let you know, great story Nick!

-- Posted by dorindaJ on Fri, Feb 12, 2010, at 11:21 PM

Yes Nick, this was a great story. Mr. Hasler sound like a good man. The way you describe him reminds me of my Uncle Paul. My Uncle Paul was in WWII in the battle of the Bulge and at Normandy. He is 84 years old now and in his twilight years. He too does'nt like to give much details about war. He loves to quote Abe Lincoln "The only good thing about war is it's ending".

-- Posted by Timothy E. Jones on Mon, Feb 15, 2010, at 7:51 PM

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