The Northeast Michigan way: Helping your neighbors

Helping neighbors is a way of life in Northeast Michigan, and finding a way to overcome obstacles is just part of that process some times. It becomes a little more difficult to accomplish when no one knows who that “neighbor” might be, just that he apparently was a military veteran.

Such was the case in Rogers City, as James Elmer Brenay finally has a white marble tombstone to mark is final resting place. Brenay served in the U.S. Army in World War I and died in 1928.

However, no one quite knew who was buried in the plot at Memorial Park, just that he was a veteran because there was a flag holder at the site and every year a flag was placed there.

That’s when Mike Peltz did what many in Northeast Michigan do – help his neighbor, and in this case fellow veteran. Peltz service during the Korean War. So he went about trying to find a way to finish the burial and honor Brenay.

“Every year we’ve been putting up a flag in this little flag holder, and that was the only thing in this whole lot there,” he told The News earlier this week. “I got to thinking a few years ago, ‘why are we putting a flag there?’ There had to be a veteran there.”

Peltz was able to find out who was buried in that plot, and, with the help of funeral director Ted Beck, find his military record and record of his honorable discharge. The two were able to get a gravestone for Brenay and Peltz praised the help of the Department of Veterans Affairs for its help.

“They have all kinds of paperwork and all kinds of things they had to have,” Peltz said. “Ted was very patient and managed to set aside all the government requirements for that. Eventually here about a month ago the veteran’s stone arrived, just about five days before Memorial Day.”

Brenay was honored by local VFW with a special tribute by placing a wreath at his grave and firing a salute on Memorial Day. It was all possible because Mike Peltz, and Ted Beck, did what people in Northeast Michigan always do – they helped a neighbor.

Today we offer a congratulations and thank you to the two men for continuing to show what it means to live in Northeast Michigan.