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VanBreeman's Expression's December

Stop me if you’ve heard this one; “A guy walks into the AMA Museum…………..”. This story starts out sounding like the opening of an old joke, and yet, it is anything but funny. We get asked many things about the old school, one of the most popular being “Is the place haunted?” Much to our disappointment, it is not. We are also often asked if anyone ever died here (probably based on the horrible MTV show) and we always say “No; although there were cadets who died at home or elsewhere over break.”

The guy who walked into the museum was William Lewis “OZZIE” Osborne, class of 1965. Ozzie now lives in New Bern, NC and came to visit the museum last week for the first time in many years. His visit was over the weekend, so Chris was not able to share Ozzie’s story with me until the following week.

Ozzie was an AMA cadet from 1961 to 1965 starting in 8th grade (F Company). Ozzie was about to change our perceived knowledge of the school. After taking a tour of the museum with Chris, he asked to see the 1962 RECALL. He was looking for something specific. Now remember, Chris and I both have been through these RECALLS numerous times and routinely research information there. Somehow, we never picked up on what Ozzie shared with us.

On page 125 of that RECALL is a tribute to Peter Warren (Timmy) Schoechle who died, November 9, 1961, at the tender young age of 14. He and Ozzie were both 1st year cadets in F Company

We of course, assumed that this was another incident at home – Ozzie informed us that no, Timmy died here, at AMA during a school function! Woooooooo, this was news to us. How come we weren’t aware of this? I immediately logged into Past Perfect to check his records and there was nothing there – not even a photo (I know – big surprise). Next, we turned to the BAYONET collection but unfortunately, we do not have any copies covering the 61-62 school year. So, what the heck happened to Timmy? Ozzie remembered that he fell off a hay wagon, hit his head on the ground and died but that sounded rather sketchy.

As it happens, the day Chris shared this story was the first day of work for our new intern, Keeley Potter.

Keeley is a home-schooled high schooler with a love of history, an interest in all things military and a passion for geeky things. She has experience in digital photography as well as computer programming. We are lucky to have found such an enterprising young person to help us with the museum’s new focus on digitization. She helps us out at the museum 4 hours a day, 3 days a week. I tell you this, because she walked right into, what was for Chris and I, a real shocker of a story on day 1!

Getting back to Timmy; what the heck happened? My first stop was FIND-A-GRAVE which was both helpful and curious. Again, no photos of Timmy (which I have corrected), but they did have a copy of the newspaper obituary which contained some details:” Peter, a cadet at the Augusta Military Academy in Ft. Defiance, reportedly was returning from a hayride with other young cadets when an automobile sideswiped the wagon. He was killed instantly. Burial was in Arlington National Cemetery.”

That would support Ozzie’s recollection of the incident, but how is it that a 14-year-old boy gets buried in Arlington National Cemetery? More digging was required. Keeley was the first to suggest we should search genealogy sites such as Family Search. Looking here we found his death certificate which lists the cause of death as” Laceration of Brain, fractured skull, Hit by automobile, Rt. #11.” This pretty much sums up what happened although I would like to find the original police report in the county records. Nothing we have discovered thus far tells us how such an accident occurred or who was held responsible.

One thing remained for us to answer – how/why Arlington. gave up that answer with a copy of the interment record.

Peter’s father, George L. Schoechle, was a WW2 AAF veteran and as such was entitled to be buried in a National Cemetery and in 1961, the requirements for interment in Arlington were not as stringent as they are today. Back then, family members could be buried with an entitled veteran, which was the case here.

This story is certainly a sad one, but what is so surprising to me is that we were unaware of it. We could, and we have, speculated on the reasons why it was not well known. For now, Peter Warren Schoechle is no longer a footnote in a yearbook or forgotten. Rest in Peace cadet.


Augusta Military

Academy Museum

Voice: 540-248-3007
Fax: 540-248-4533

Museum Hours

& Location

1640 Lee Highway

Fort Defiance, VA 24437


10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Closed Mother's day and Major Holidays.

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