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Remembering Ginny Kirsch

Brookfield native slain 50 years ago in Vietnam

Staff file photo / Bob Coupland Martha Kirsch, left, and Mary Kirsch Garvey speak about their sister, Virginia “Ginny’’ Kirsch, during a dedication of a section of state Route 7 in Brookfield. A community event was held July 30, 2017, to honor Ginny Kirsch, who was murdered Aug. 16, 1970, while serving with the Red Cross “Donut Dollie” program in Saigon, South Vietnam, during the war. A sign marking the Virginia E. “Ginny” Kirsch Memorial Highway is located at the intersection of Routes 7 and 82 in Brookfield.

BROOKFIELD — It was 50 years ago today that Brookfield lost one of its own in Vietnam.

But Virginia “Ginny” Kirsch was not in the Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. Ginny was stabbed to death while volunteering as a “Donut Dollie” for the American Red Cross.

Ginny, a 1966 graduate of Brookfield High School, was 21 and had just graduated from Miami of Ohio University that spring.

For a brief period, she taught English and religion at Badin Senior High School in Hamilton, Ohio. In July 1970, Ginny attended Red Cross training classes in Washington, D.C., and arrived in Vietnam about two weeks later. After a brief period of orientation in Saigon, she was ordered to report to the Red Cross at Cu Chi, according to her biography on the Find A Grave website.

Cu Chi, not far from Saigon (now Ho Chi Mihn City) is famous for the intricate underground tunnels built by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong that permeated the area, bringing troops and supplies clandestinely all over Vietnam, according to the website.

The Red Cross “Dollie” program sent teams of young women to Vietnam to operate Red Cross Recreation Centers and to conduct audience-participation programs for men stationed in various sections of the country. They also provided donuts and other snacks to the soldiers.

THE CRIME

An Army soldier, Gregory Kozlowski, was arrested in Ginny’s death after a tape recorder and camera from the Red Cross were found in his possession around the time of her murder. Several witnesses, however, could not identify him as the man they saw running from her tent that night.

Kozlowski was sent back to the United States for treatment of an undisclosed mental illness and he shot himself on Oct. 21, 1970 — about two months after Ginny’s death. He survived, but a court found him incompetent to stand trial, according to the Find A Grave site.

He was arrested in June 1972 , however, for the murder of a 21-year-old man in Milwaukee and while being questioned for that crime, he admitted to the sheriff that he had stabbed a Red Cross girl in Vietnam on Aug. 16, 1970. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the crime in Milwaukee, but he was never tried for Ginny’s murder, the website states.

Just this past April, Kozlowski, now 69, was denied conditional release from the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, according to the Daily Dodge newspaper in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He last had been denied release in 2011, the newspaper reported.

FAMILY REMEMBERS

Her sister, Laurie Kirsch, who lives south of Pittsburgh, described Ginny as “outgoing and vivacious.

“She had a big personality and people who met her remembered her,” Laurie said.

Ginny was a cheerleader in high school and college and was a member of the Future Teachers of America. She also was a candy striper at Sharon General Hospital while in high school, Laurie recalled.

“She was always someone who loved to serve, and she had a love of country and wanted to help other people,” Laurie said of her older sister. Laurie was 15 at the time Ginny was murdered.

She said Ginny read an article in Parade magazine about the Donut Dollie program and it piqued her interest, but it was the May 4, 1970, shootings at Kent State University that convinced her to join the program. Four students were killed on the campus by National Guardsmen during protests over the Vietnam War.

“Ginny was very moved by the KSU shootings and wrote my parents about how sad it made her. She abhorred violence and wrote about how important it was to find peace in the world,” Laurie said.

Ginny was the second-oldest of eight children of Max and Norma Jean Kirsch. The oldest was Ann, and right behind Ginny was Joe, who was struck and killed by a car at the age of 8 in 1959, Laurie said. Next was Mary, Laurie, Jim, Martha (known as “Marti”) and Richard. Their mother died in 2006 and their father died in 2014.

BRIDGE DEDICATED

All six siblings were in attendance when a bridge named for Ginny was dedicated July 30, 2017. The Kirsch Memorial Highway travels along state Route 7 in Brookfield from U.S. Route 62 to state Route 82. Two signs on Route 7 bear the name of the bridge.

State Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, introduced an amendment to House Bill 26 to name the highway for Ginny, and then-Gov. John Kasich signed the bill in March 2017.

Brookfield Township trustees and Brookfield Historical Society members presented a painting of Ginny commissioned by William Mottice, former executive director of the local American Red Cross, to the family. American flags were presented to each of her siblings.

Also at the dedication was Karen Sankey, who graduated from Brookfield High School with Martha “Marti” Kirsch. She said she didn’t know Ginny, but she has an interest in military history and came across a website via social media about the Donut Dollies. When Sankey learned about the bridge dedication, she contacted the webmaster and asked if he would like her to take pictures and write a story for the site.

“It was a very moving ceremony with lots of nice tributes to Ginny. There was a flag raising ceremony, and the president of Miami of Ohio was there because she was an alumnus,” Sankey recalled. “A couple Donut Dollies that served with her also were there.”

Sankey estimates at least 100 people were at the ceremony, which took place on the township green.

Brookfield Trustee Gary Lees said he was a year behind Ginny in school, but they had some classes together and were in the choir.

“Her mother was my English teacher,” Lees said.

He said when he went to Washington, D.C., some years ago, he noticed Ginny was recognized in the women’s section of Arlington National Cemetery, but her name is not on The Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Two other Donut Dollies who died during the war also are not memorialized on the wall, but all three are listed on the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, according to the Donut Dollies website.

Laurie said the family, who live all over the country, was not planning to mark today’s anniversary.

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