Charles Serra, Consultant; Made Plea for Soldier
Harry Levins; Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Charles H. Serra, who rescued a fellow veteran from the obscurity of death, died himself Saturday (May 24, 1997) of cancer at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield. He was 79 and lived in Brentwood.
Last week, Mr. Serra was interviewed for the Post-Dispatch about his last project - trying to ensure that somebody put a Memorial Day flag on the grave of a World War I veteran buried at St. Peter and Paul Cemetery, on the city's southern edge.
Mr. Serra visited that cemetery each Memorial Day and noticed that the soldier's grave was always bare. He dug into Army records to research the life of the soldier, Cpl. Walter M. Blakely. He said he hoped that this Memorial Day, somebody would at least plant a small flag at the gravesite.
The article appeared Monday morning. On Monday afternoon, beside Mr. Serra's coffin at the Bopp Funeral Home in Kirkwood, somebody put up a picture taken that morning at Cpl. Blakely's grave.
The grave had flowers, and five flags.
Mr. Serra was born in St. Louis of immigrant Sicilian parents and grew up on The Hill. He was fascinated by airplanes and in 1938 joined what would later become the Missouri Air National Guard.
After Pearl Harbor, Mr. Serra wanted to go active in the Army Air Forces. But he had a war-related job at Emerson Electric and couldn't break away until 1943.
The Army Air Forces trained him as a radioman-gunner and sent him to the China-Burma-India Theater, where he flew 25 combat missions in a B-24 Liberator out of India with the 7th Bomb Group. …