Charlevoix County Veteran of the Month

Veteran Woody Austin plays taps at Dyer Cemetery at the WAA ceremony in 2014
Veteran Woody Austin plays taps at Dyer Cemetery at the WAA ceremony in 2014.

The Veteran of the Month of April, 2018, is Elwood “Woody” Austin.


Born 10 July, 1926 in Merrill, Wisconsin.

He attended schools there, and graduated High School in the class of 1944.

Prior to his graduation, Austin enlisted in the United States Navy.

The day after graduating he was assigned to Great Lakes Naval Training Station, near Chicago, Illinois, receiving basic and additional training.

In 1945, he then was reassigned to the Aircraft Carrier USS Bon Homme Richard as an open gun mount Captain on the flight deck, serving in the Pacific Theater of operations.

On 4 June, 1946, at the rank of Yeoman 3rd class, at the Separation Center United States Naval Base in Bremerton, Washington, Austin received an Honorable Discharge, and received the following decorations: The Asiatic Pacific Area Campaign Medal with 1 Battle Star; The American Area Campaign Medal; The World War II Victory Medal with 2 Bronze Stars.

Returning home Austin started his career as a pharmaceutical representative, and worked for Benson Optical Company for many years, in Wisconsin and Northern Michigan.

While working in Petoskey, Michigan he met Vernie Schneider McDonald, and they were married on 4 February, 1967.

In the early 1970’s, he became manager of the then Burns Clinic Optical Department, retiring in 1991.

He was very active in the Petoskey Lions Club, becoming King Lion.

In 2005, he moved to Boyne City, Michigan, and became active in the Boyne Valley Lions Club.

He was instrumental in establishing the Eye Bank of Northern Michigan.

Shortly after the death of his wife Vernie in 2001, Austin met a lovely lady, Wilma Socia.

He and Wilma spent 16 fun filled years together, traveling, socializing and enjoying each other’s company.

He referred to Wilma as his “Angel.” He and Wilma could be found every year ringing the bell for the Salvation Army’s “Red Kettle.”

Austin was a member of the Inland Lake Snowmobile Club for many years.

He was also a member of American Legion Post #228 in Boyne City, Michigan, proudly serving on the Color Guard, playing TAPS at veteran funerals and other ceremonies, until just before he passed away.

He greatly enjoyed the camradery of his fellow vets, and was proud of his service to his country.

You would always see him wearing his WWII cap wherever he went.

On December 10, 2017, Elwood “Woody” Austin, answered the final call and is being honored by his special companion Wilma, his extended family, his comrades, and many friends.