Former Rome mayor among those who served in World War I

Published Dec 3, 2017 at 9:02am

A former Rome mayor was among the city residents who fought in World War I. Mayor Alfred M. Hoehn served in France from 1918 - 1919, and later served as Rome’s mayor from 1950 - 1951.

Cpl. Hoehn was among the more than 1,200 Romans who fought in World War I. Of those, 41 lost their lives. The dead are among the 81,000 Americans killed in the war who are being saluted this year, the 100th anniversary of America’s entry into the war. They will be remembered, along with other deceased veterans from all wars, at the Wreaths Across America event, at noon Saturday, Dec. 16, at six local cemeteries in Rome, Lee and Western.

More information about Hoehn, from research done by his grandson, Kevin Hoehn of the town of Floyd:

Hoehn was born in 1896 in the “Old Canal” area of Rome, according to a 1949 Rome Sentinel article. He attended St. Mary’s School, then St. Francis College in Trenton, N.J., then Immaculate Conception Seminary in Syracuse. He wanted to become a priest, but came down with scarlet fever, from which it took two years to recover. When he did, in 1915, he took a job in the chemistry lab at Revere.

After the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, Hoehn enlisted in the Army on Nov. 30, 1917, and arrived in France on March 11, 1918.

The doughboy served with the 2nd Battalion 30th Engineers 1st Gas Regiment Company D. He fought in Chateau Thierry Sector, Aisne Marne Offensive, Vesle Sector, St. Michel Offensive, Meuse Argonne Offensive and 1st Army Defensive.

In a letter to his parents, Joseph and Anna Hoehn of 137 Wright St., published in the Sentinel, Hoehn described some of the action he saw at the front:

“There were wounded lying all around, and also very many killed,” after one of the battles. In another, “Many of the boys were hugging ditches, holes and everything else that afforded shelter.” And another: “A few days ago, after one of our operations, we underwent a similar barrage, only it seemed as if whole freight trains were coming over when the big ones landed.”

More than 50 percent of Hoehn’s regiment were casualties. Hoehn was wounded, and suffered gas poisoning in the Argonne. He was in a hospital on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1918. He was awarded a Purple Heart.

He was discharged from the Army on Feb. 15, 1919, and returned to work at Revere, eventually rising to the position of head of the physical testing lab. He took classes in advanced chemistry at Cornell University. He worked at Revere for 34 years.

On Jan. 26, 1921,he married Marion Neiss. The couple had five children: Alfred Jr., Bernard, Lawrence, Joanita and Gertrude.  

Despite a busy work schedule and a big family, Hoehn found time for civic activities. He was a member of the VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, Knights of Columbus, Moose and Rome Historical Society, among others.

He also served on the city’s Common Council for ten years, before running for mayor. His victory put the first Democratic administration in City Hall in a dozen years.

The Sentinel reported, “Many feel that Al Hoehn became mayor because he is a working man seeking office in a city of working men.”

A crowd of 2,500 people celebrated his upset victory, Nov. 9, 1949, at the Polish Home.

Sentinel reporter Bill Ringle wrote: “From a short distance behind a seven-ply bologna sandwich, we witnessed what was probably the largest and loudest mayoral victory demonstration in recent Rome history.”

Hoehn died in 1955, and is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, directly across from the graves of parish priests.

His grandson Kevin, of Floyd, is transcribing his World War I diary, and hopes to trace his route through France some day. It was 100 years ago, on Nov. 30, that his grandfather enlisted, he said, so remembering him now is “very timely.

Anyone else with an ancestor from Rome who participated in World War I, is invited to share their photos and stories with the Rome Historical Society, so that their history can be preserved for future generations. Society volunteer Kevin Piatt noted that families who had a member in World War I can request their records from this website:

https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records

This column was compiled for the Rome Historical Society by Chip Twellman Haley, retired Daily Sentinel news editor, with photos provided by Kevin Hoehn. Comments, old photos, suggestions for future columns or guest columns may be emailed to: chiphaley@yahoo.com. Copies of the book “Rome Through Our History,” a collection of some of Haley’s columns, may be purchased at the Rome Historical Society.

The Rome Historical Society, 200 Church St., is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Go online at www.romehistoricalsociety.org, visit their Facebook page, or call 336-5870 for more information.