Published Sunday, May 13, 2012
By ALEX MCRAE
The Coweta County Commission passed a resolution honoring a Netherlands resident who for five years has tended the grave of a Coweta man killed in World War II and buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.
Marco Weijers grew up in the Netherlands, and as a child often made the short trip to Maastricht to celebrate special occasions. The journey took the family past a place that intrigued young Marco, the green, lush, carefully-tended cemetery in Margraten, the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands.
“It was a beautiful place,” Weijers says. “I was fascinated by the symmetrical rows of crosses and the beautiful setting. And I appreciated that so much effort had been put into it.”
One day, Weijers’ father decided to stop and tour the cemetery. Weijers has been going back ever since.
Weijers, now 35, is an architect. He lives in Heerlen and works in Maastricht. The Margraten cemetery is only a few kilometers away and Weijers visits so often that, five years ago, when the graves became available for adoption by local citizens, Weijers’ girlfriend, Cindy, signed him up at the foundation created for the adoption of American graves at Margraten. Weijers was chosen to “adopt” the grave of Newnan’s Albert Partridge.
Five years ago, Weijers became one of 8,301 local residents to adopt the grave of a fallen American. Those who adopt graves promise to visit frequently, keep fresh flowers at the grave marker and, most of all, as Weijers says, “To remember.”
Partridge was paired with Weijers by the cemetery foundation. Individuals are not allowed to choose which grave they adopt.
“I think that is the best way to do it,” Weijers says, “because everybody has the same importance, and everybody is equal in death.”
Those who adopt a grave are asked to visit regularly, place fresh flowers at the grave and attend as many commemorative events as possible. Adopting a grave requires dedication and commitment, but Weijers says he never hesitated.
“If you visit a war cemetery and you see the great amount of crosses for the first time it is almost impossible to believe that those crosses are all fallen soldiers, people — soldiers who had names and lives back in America,” Weijers says.
“As relatives were not always able to visit the graves of their sons, husbands, and fathers, I always thought it was a beautiful idea for people overseas to take care of the graves and give some peace of rest and reassurance to the relatives. I often asked myself the question: If I died in America and was buried there, would I have appreciated it that someone remembered me? Yes, I would.”
Weijers soon began to wonder about the man whose grave he tended. “By adopting one grave it was a starting point to find out for myself the story behind that one single cross,” Weijers says. “A small thing to do to keep the memory of that one single person alive.”
Two years ago, Weijers read a story about another soldier buried at Margraten and the impact of his life and death on so many people. He decided to get serious about learning all he could about the stranger from Newnan, Georgia, USA.
“I wanted to know who had been affected by the life and death of Albert Partridge,” he says. “I knew his family must have been affected, too. I wanted to learn all I could about him.”
For the past two years, Weijers has been trying to learn more about Partridge. When his search of U.S. military records revealed very little, Weijers contacted the Mayor of Partridge’s hometown, Newnan, and asked Mayor Keith Brady for help.
Brady contacted local veteran Dick Stender and asked him to look into the matter. Stender contacted The Newnan Times-Herald and asked for the paper’s help in finding more information about Albert Partridge.
So far, the newspaper has been able to find very little.
According to Army records, Partridge was born on Dec. 6, 1919, and entered the U.S. Army on June 22, 1942. He died on May 17, 1945, at an unnamed place in Germany near the spot where the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany intersect.
According to Army records, Partridge’s mother was Rosa Partridge, whose last known mailing address was RFD (Rural Free Delivery) Route 2, Newnan, Ga. His sister is listed as Ann Partridge.
At the time of his death, Partridge was married to Fannie Mae Partridge, according to Army records.
Coweta County marriage records show that a Fannie Mae Partridge married Quintard Billingslea on Sept. 10, 1947, two years after Albert Partridge died in Germany. It is not known if this is the same woman who was married to Albert Partridge. Funeral records show that a Quintard Billingslea, believed to be the same man who married Fannie Mae Partridge, died on March 30, 2011, in Detroit.
Both Marco Weijers and the Times-Herald would like to know more about Albert Partridge in order to tell his story to readers in the county he once called home.
If you have any information about Albert Partridge or know someone who does, please contact the Times-Herald news staff. We are seeking memories, photographs or any information that will shed light on Partridge’s life and death.
You may send information by mail to The Newnan Times-Herald, Attn. Alex McRae, at P.O. Box 1052, Newnan, GA 30264, or drop materials at the paper office, located at 16 Jefferson St. in downtown Newnan.
The resolution honoring Weijers reads:
“Whereas, Coweta County has had many sons and daughters go off to war, some never to return; Albert Partridge left Newnan to fight in Europe and was one of those who did not come back; and
“Whereas, on May 17, 1945, near the end of World War II in Europe, Partridge died near the border between Germany and The Netherlands and was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands; and
“Whereas, little is known about Partridge from before or during the war; His military record has little detail and family members have been difficult to find; and
“Whereas, one thing that is certain is that he is buried in a beautiful, sacred place a long way from home. Even with that distance, Partridge’s grave is carefully tended by one of 8,301 local residents who have adopted the graves of our fallen Americans;
“Whereas, Marco Weijers grew up a short distance from the cemetery in Margraten and was intrigued and inspired by the green, carefully tended resting place and fascinated as a child by the ‘symmetrical rows of crosses and the beautiful settingâ ¦ I appreciated that so much effort had been put into it’;
“Whereas, Weijers, an architect living in Heerlen and working in Maastricht, visited the cemetery so often, that when the graves became available for adoption by local citizens, his girlfriend signed him up and he was selected by the cemetery foundation to adopt Partridge’s grave;
“Whereas, for the last five years, he has regularly visited the grave, placed flowers there and remembered; He says ‘Those crosses are all fallen soldiers – who had names and lives back in Americaâ ¦ I always thought it was a beautiful idea for people overseas to take care of the graves’; and
“Whereas, Weijers began to wonder about the story behind Partridge’s single cross and he began to search for any information on Partridge, but with little success; and
“Whereas, our community may not be able to provide much information on Albert Partridge or know if he has family or where they might be, we can say ‘Thank You’ to Marco Weijers for remembering – Remembering the unbelievable price paid by Newnan’s Partridge and thousands more; Remembering the cost of freedom with the hopes that future generations will not have to pay such a price.
“Now Therefore Be It Proclaimed, that the Coweta County Board of Commissioners does hereby extend our deepest gratitude, our sincerest appreciation and our admiration for the efforts of Marco Weijers. We are touched and inspired at the actions and thankfulness shown by those like Marco Weijers, who act with love and appreciation for what our American soldiers have done and have sacrificed.
“So Resolved by the Coweta County Commission on this 3rd day of May 2012.”