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WWII veteran gives to warm children's hearts.

Byline: Ellie Oleson

COLUMN: TELEGRAM & GAZETTE SANTA

One World War II veteran was hardly more than a child when he shipped out to Attu, Alaska, the final island in the Aleutian chain, which stretches

out toward Russia. Another veteran called Attu "the lonesomest spot this side of hell."

Every year, Chester Bundeff, 81, of 154 Charlton St., Oxford, donates to the Telegram and Gazette Santa to help make sure that area children have a warmer Christmas than he had during the winter of 1944 on Attu.

Mr. Bundeff grew up in Webster, son of Catherine and Andrew Bundeff, who had a tailor shop on Main Street.

After graduating from Bartlett High School in 1944, Mr. Bundeff immediately joined the U.S. Navy.

"I was 17 when I enlisted. My father signed for me," Mr. Bundeff said.

The United States had officially been involved in the war since Dec. 8, 1941. One horrific battle had been fought on a tiny Aleutian island at the tip of Alaska in 1943. The battle at Attu island received little press, since it coincided with the battle at Guadalcanal. At Attu, there were 3,929 casualties, including 1,200 injured by cold and 549 killed.

When Mr. Bundeff joined the Navy, he had never heard of Attu, though he would come to know it intimately.

"I was a Seabee in the 114th Construction Battalion. We spent a year putting in airfields and roads on Attu. What a desolate island. There are no trees. The sun didn't shine for months. We lived in six-man tents with wood sides three feet high topped by canvas. It was awful when the williwaw came," he said.

He described a "williwaw" as "a hurricane with snow." These storms sometimes blew the snow so high on the tents it was impossible to open the door from the inside.

"We had an oil burner in each tent. If you forgot to get your oil before the williwaw came, there was no way to get to the oil tank and you'd freeze," he said.

Summers were time for the Seabees to work. "Our motto is `We can build and we can fight.' That's what we did," Mr. Bundeff said.

While he served in the Aleutian Islands, his brothers, George and Andrew Bundeff, served in the South Pacific. "George was a radioman gunner on the aircraft carrier Hornet. My mother had a flag in the window with three stars on it, one for each of us," Mr. Bundeff said.

He and his brothers survived the war and came back to Massachusetts. Mr. Bundeff worked at Chaffee Brothers Co.

in Oxford making wooden boxes for everything from apples to micrometers. Later, he worked at Cranston Print Works Co. in Webster and Gordon Chemical on Old Webster Road in Oxford, before becoming a custodian at Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton for 12 years until he retired.

When he was at Chaffee Brothers, he met and married fellow employee Barbara L. Nelson.

"She was a great girl. She did everything, housework and yard work. I miss her," Mr. Bundeff said. His wife died in March after 56 years of marriage.

The couple had two children, and Mr. Bundeff now has three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

"Barbara loved kids," Mr. Bundeff said. "She made sure we donated to the Gazette Santa every year, even when times were tough. I will donate every year as long as I'm alive or she'd be mad at me. She was a great gal. My wife always wanted to make sure the children had a happy Christmas."

In its 69th year, the T&G Santa Fund collects thousands of donations from generous readers and area residents to help buy toys for children in need in Central Massachusetts.

Children age 12 and younger

who would otherwise not receive any holiday gifts are eligible to receive two toys each. When signing up at an area agency, parents or guardians should bring personal identification for each family member and proof of address and income. No applications will be accepted directly by the T&G.

Area agencies accepting applications for assistance include The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities Family and Children's Services of Southbridge, Gardner Community Action Committee, WHEAT Community Services and Winchendon Community Action Committee.

Anyone who wishes to contribute to the fund can do so by clipping and filling out the form in the newspaper and mailing it to Telegram & Gazette Santa Fund, c/o Commerce Bank, P.O. Box 15204, Worcester, MA 01615-0204 or by going online to www.telegram.com/santa to donate by credit card.

PREVIOUS BALANCE$30,484.26

CONTRIBUTIONS

In lieu of cards; O'Connell Fire Protection Inc$300

In lieu of cards; Bob O'Connell$100

Greendale Retired Men's Chorus$50

Santa's Helper$50

Santa's Helper$50

Derek, Andrea and Nicole$30

Mrs. Nancy Waite$25

My great-grandchildren Jonathan, Michaella, Christopher, Michael, Amanda and C.J.; Great-grammy Douglas$25

Paul and Grace Weaver$25

Santa's Helper$25

Santa's Helper$25

Santa's Helper$25

Santa's Helper$25

IN MEMORY OF

Grandpa Paul J. Dinneen; Love Travis, Tyler and Mackenzie$150

Florence and John Kelley; Reverend John E. Kelley$100

Patricia Doten (Hanlon); Her brother Eddy$100

Paul Kotseas; His family and friends$100

Tu-Tu, Gretta and Olive$100

Pepe George Roberts, Grandpa Donald Peckham, Grandma Santina Peckham and Dr. and Mrs. Joseph J. LeBlanc; Renee and Emily Peckham$75

Grandpa; Matt and Dan$50

Grandson Matthew P. Laino; Mr. and Mrs. Philip A. Laino$50

Henry P. Finnegan; His wife Pat$50

Kathleen and Tommy Dwinell$50

Kevin R. O'Neil; Reverend John E. Kelley$50

My parents Pat and Carrie, and wife Abbie; Patrick Gabriella$50

Pat Henault Connaughton; SGG's$50

Philip F. Roy; Family$50

Raymond and Jeffrey Scherdell; Their family$50

Tyler James Franco; Nana and Boppy Veaudry$30

Art and Jimmie Stone$25

Brother Dick; Helen$25

Dad, Mom and brother Gregory Palermo; Mary and Louis$25

Frank and Margaret Bovenzi; Son Vic$25

My loving mother Eleanor Margadonna; Daughter Sandy$25

My nephew Bob Pugliese Jr.; Auntie Judy and Uncle P.J$25

Our parents Helen and Tom, Pauline and Stanley$25

The 92 men who were killed in action from Company "B" 3/22 Infantry, 25th Infantry Division Vietnam; Dana F. Samuelson$25

My sister Gloria Fenuccio; Lorry and Cliff$20

Our loved ones; Sheila and Dennis Drake$20

Roy and William Racki; Racki family$15

Andrew$10

Arthur Brown; Phyllis Brown$10

Aunt Gladys and Uncle Phil Divoll; Niece Debbie$10

TODAY'S TOTAL$2,145

GRAND TOTAL$32,629.26
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Dec 4, 2007
Words:1098
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