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Stark County road dedicated to Sgt. Vernon Judd, who died in a N. Korean prison camp in 1951

BREWSTER ‒ More than 71 years after Army Sgt. Vernon Judd died in a North Korean prison camp, family members and government officials have dedicated a mile stretch of road near his former Sugar Creek Township home in his memory.

About two dozen people gathered Friday afternoon around a brown highway road sign installed at the edge of the front yard of Judd’s great niece, Candi Leeman, whose maternal grandmother was Judd’s sister. The sign, which is just within the limits on Elton Street SW west of state Route 93 reads, “Army Sgt. Vernon R. Judd Memorial Highway.”

Below the sign on a wooden stand is a battlefield cross, which depicts a gun with a soldier’s helmet placed in soldier’s boots. One side of the stand says, “All gave some. Some gave all.” The other side says, “Freedom is not free.”

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“It’s awesome. It’s great for his sacrifice,” said Judd’s niece, Jennifer Judd, of Perry Township, whose father was Vernon Judd’s brother. “People need to know what he went through.”

Judd’s nephew Ken Judd Jr., said, “This sign will be here long after we’re gone.”

Jennifer Judd added, “There’s a lot of Judds that grew up in this area. There’s still Judds in this area. The family will pass this (sign) every day and know. And all the neighbors that know the story. … It’s a great tribute to him.”

Lobbying effort to honor Sgt. Vernon Judd

Jennifer Judd said in March 2021 she began to lobby the office of State Rep. Bill Roemer, R-Richfield, to sponsor legislation declaring a mile of Elton Street SW a memorial highway to honor her uncle. Roemer under the district map that ends this year represents Sugar Creek Township.

Her effort began about two years ago after her uncle’s remains were returned in 2019 with that of 54 other lost service members from the Korean War as part of an agreement with North Korea. Roemer’s memorial highway language was incorporated into a larger bill, House Bill 291, designating several memorial highways. The Ohio General Assembly approved the bill into law in April. It took effect in late July.

Under the language of the bill, the half-mile stretch of Elton west of Muffly Avenue and the half-mile stretch of Elton Street SW east of Muffly Avenue is now Army Sgt. Vernon R. Judd Memorial Highway. Workers for the Stark County Engineer’s office also installed a second memorial highway sign in Sugar Creek Township honoring Vernon Judd on Elton Street about a half mile west of Muffly facing west by the eastbound lane.

Family members say that sign is on the other side of Elton from the home of a great-nephew of Sgt. Judd. The other sign in Candi Leeman’s yard is by the westbound lane of Elton about half a mile east of Muffly.

Judd grew up in a home on Muffly south of Elton Street in the unincorporated community of Elton in Sugar Creek Township. The area is in Amish Country and several Amish buggies passed Judd’s highway sign during Friday’s dedication.

Roemer; State Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, who also represents Sugar Creek Township until the end of this year; Brewster Council Member David Godwin; Sugar Creek Township Trustee William Burtt and Brewster Clerk-Treasurer Kris King were among the officials who attended.

Roemer distributed 16-inch-by-6-inch replicas of the Judd memorial highway signs to family members who had bought them from the Ohio Department of Transportation.

According to a Ohio Legislative Service Commission fiscal note, each set of two memorial highway signs costs the state $500 and don’t typically need to be replaced for 12 to 15 years. Because Elton Street SW is a Stark County road, the Stark County engineer’s office erected the signs.

Reach Robert at On Twitter: @rwangREP.

This article originally appeared on The Repository: Army Sgt. Vernon Judd honored with road dedication in Brewster

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