Bedford Groves, World War II veteran

Washington College administrator was wounded twice in World War II and met his future wife in Munich

  • Bedford Groves
Bedford Groves
March 25, 2011|By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Bedford Groves, a retired Washington College administrator who earned two Purple Hearts in the infantry during World War II, died of heart disease March 15 at Chester River Manor. He was 90 and lived in Chestertown.

He was born on a farm at Turners Creek near Kennedyville on the Eastern Shore. His father died when he was 14. To help support his six sisters and mother, he worked on a neighbor's farm in the early morning and hitchhiked to Chestertown High School, where he graduated in 1937.

He moved to Baltimore and became a machinist and later an inspector for the old Koppers Co. in Southwest Baltimore. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division.

He trained in North Africa and made an amphibious landing at Anzio, Italy. He was wounded by shrapnel in Italy. He recovered and was sent to France, where he was wounded a second time after a shell exploded near his foxhole. He fought in Alsace and the Rhineland, and while in the Vosges region was once briefly captured by Germans. He entered Munich in southern Germany at the time of the German surrender in May 1945.

"I was in my family's rose garden celebrating the end of the war," said his wife, the former Hildegard Ciller. "I was playing a big Horner accordion and he said to his buddies, 'Let's investigate where the music is coming from.' He stayed. I liked him and he liked me. He asked if he could return at the sieben uhr — 7 o'clock. My father didn't like it too much, but he came back every day."

Mr. Groves was awarded two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, a Bronze Arrowhead for his amphibious landing and other decorations.

After Mr. Groves was discharged from military service, he returned to his job at Koppers but decided to re-enlist. He joined a counterintelligence unit and hunted suspected war criminals. He was a special agent in the Stuttgart-Goppingen area.

He also was determined to find the young woman who played the accordion.

"He returned in a Jeep and on a moonlit night, he took me on a walk. He gave me a diamond engagement ring from S.&N. Katz in Baltimore. It fit to a T. I cried," his wife said.

Weeks later, he was chasing a spy when his Jeep hit a pothole, she said. He was thrown from the vehicle and spent 11 days unconscious in a hospital with a badly injured leg. He was sent to an Army hospital in Stuttgart and later airlifted to the United States. Surgeons at Walter Reed Medical Center amputated his leg. He received a medical discharge in late 1947.

Mr. Groves and his wife were married Feb. 2, 1948, in Chestertown after they received permission for her to leave Germany.

Mr. Groves enrolled at Washington College in 1948 and graduated magna cum laude in 1952 with a degree in English. He joined the school's administration and was appointed assistant to Joseph H. McClain, the college president, in 1973. Mr. Groves also was director of alumni affairs and public relations director.

In 2002, Mr. Groves was awarded the Washington College Presidential Citation.

"He knew everything there was to know about Washington College, and he performed all of his duties with meticulous care and a generous, patient, kind spirit, earning the respect and admiration of the entire college community," the award said. "In all of his varied posts, he worked selflessly behind the scenes to insure that the public perceived the college in the best possible light."

Mr. Groves was a charter member of the American Legion C. Henry Price Post and a life member of the Disabled American Veterans Centreville Chapter. He belonged to the Anzio Beachhead Veterans and was active in the Purple Heart Delmarva Chapter and the National Amputation Chapter.

He lived for many years in Betterton and enjoyed gardening.

Services were held March 19 in Chestertown.

In addition to his wife of 63 years, survivors include a son, James W. Groves of Chestertown; two daughters, Hildegard Brigitte Groves of Gaithersburg and Margarethe Crockett of New Carrollton; five sisters, Rebecca Smith of Easton, Ruth Elliot and Mary Roe Walkup, both of Still Pond Creek, Rusty Brandon of Earleville and Virginia Liddell of Federalsburg; five grandchildren; and two step-grandchildren.

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