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“All Belgian Saints Will Honor Our Brothers’ Graves”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - November 30, 2011

We’ve had brief mention of Charles Devignez (sometimes d’Evegnee), one of three Aaronic Priesthood holders who kept the Saints in Liège, Belgium, together during World War I. Charles Devignez welcomed the missionaries back to Europe and served as a leader of the Church in Belgium until his death in 1931.

Charles Devignez’s oldest son was Paul Joseph Devignez. Born in 1910, his earliest memories must have been of those dark days during the war. Like his father, he became a leader in the Belgian Church; his English skills were an asset in communicating with the missionaries and American Church leaders. Also like his father, Paul had his own adult experiences of war.

Writing to the absent European Mission President Thomas E. McKay late in 1945, he reported:


Up to the present, I have dedicated two military graves of American Saints in Belgium (Military Cemetery of Henri Chapelle): Brother Norman A. Funk [1920-1945] of Benson [Utah] Stake (I sent a picture to the family for I had the privilege to be acquainted with Rex Funk [1918-2005], his brother, who was a missionary in the Belgian District) and Brother Don L. Shumway [1920-1944] of [Mesa,] Arizona. I am unable to trace the city where he was living in Arizona, but I hope you may find a way to locate the family.

I know there are several Mormon boys resting in Henri Chapelle and I am pleased to say that all Belgian Saints will honor our brothers’ graves. Relatives may ask for any service in that way.

The country over there is pretty, and, as far as you can see, valleys and hills are covered with orchards. At some distance, the top of the highest hill seems snow crowned; unfortunately it is not snow, but a little more than 18,000 white crosses flowering a huge field where are resting so many American soldiers who fought to death so that we may live in liberty.

In November last, our young folks of the M.I.A. took flowers to our American brothers in Henri Chapelle and in St. Neuville.

With pleasure at your service, I beg to remain, dear president, with my sincere wishes, respectfully your brother,

Paul J. Devignez,
10 Medes Semailles,
Grivegnee, Belgium

Paul J. Devignez emigrated to the United States within a few years of the end of World War II, going to the Salt Lake Temple in 1949. He died in Florida in 1993.

The picture is of Henri Chapelle cemetery, sent with the 1945 letter to President McKay.



5 Comments »

  1. There are indeed other Mormon “boys” buried at Henry-Chapelle–the website of the American Battle Monuments Commission has databases that can be searched by name or by state of origin and cemetery. There are 23 Utah boys buried at Henri-Chapelle, 37 from Arizona and 17 from Idaho. Those three were the most likely home states of Mormon men in the service during World War II, and some of those 77 were Mormons–a quick check at New Family Search confirms that.

    It appears, though, that Norman Funk is no longer one of them. This, from the cemetery’s website, gives the likely reason:

    It was from the temporary cemetery at Henri-Chapelle that the first shipments of remains of American war dead were returned to the U.S. for permanent burial. The repatriation program began on July 27, 1947 at a special ceremony at the cemetery when the disinterment began. The first shipment of 5,600 American war dead from Henri-Chapelle left Antwerp, Belgium the first week of October 1947.

    Families of deceased servicemen and -women had the option of having their bodies returned to the U.S., and the Funk family chose to do that. Norman Funk, a native of Benson, Utah, was buried in the Logan City Cemetery. (A photograph and a story from the local newspaper reporting his death is at Find A Grave.)

    Comment by Mark B. — November 30, 2011 @ 9:16 am

  2. What a wonderful saint. I find myself so shallow compared to saints like this. I’m grateful for these stories.

    Comment by Carol — November 30, 2011 @ 9:20 am

  3. Thanks for that additional material, Mark. My cousin “came home” quite a while after the war from a similar cemetery. I wasn’t there to know, of course, but I think that during that time when she couldn’t do anything herself, my aunt would have been comforted by having a picture and knowing that somebody, like Bro. Devignez, had visited.

    Me, too, Carol. The Belgian Saints certainly had enough to do to look after themselves in those days — that they cared about these boys, and wanted their families to know, really says something about their compassion.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 30, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  4. It was nice to learn more about Charles Devignez and see his devotion to the Mormon Boys in Henri Chapelle. I am humbled by the Belgian Saints who took the time to honor the fallen Americans in the cemetery.

    Mark,thank you for enumerating the LDS soldiers from Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. It brings this story closer to home instead of just reading about American burials across the ocean.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — November 30, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

  5. Oh, the seemingly-lost art of writing letters…

    A wonderful example of a saint in these latter-days…

    Comment by ji — December 1, 2011 @ 9:26 am

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