Photos | Highlanders faithful turn out for Witter Field memorial ceremony

Julie Reichle

Members of the Witter and Bates families pose around the monument, from the left: PHS Boosters President Chris Hart; PHS alum/event organizer Steve Humphries; John Bates; Karen and Victor Rollandi; Jane Witter Delanoy; Deb and Tom Witter; Di and Charlie Witter Bates; Laura Hodgkinson and Steve Harden

The Piedmont High School Boosters club hosted a memorial monument dedication ceremony in memory of Witter Field’s namesake, Jean C. Witter, Jr., on Sunday, March 10 at the newly renovated field. Members of the extended Witter family, PHS alumni, and current school leaders attended the ceremony. Witter was a former captain of PHS’s football team who went on to play for UC Berkeley before joining the US Naval Reserve as an ensign in World War II. Witter, 20, was killed aboard the USS San Francisco in 1942 during the Battle of Guadalcanal. The PHS athletic field was dedicated to Witter in 1948.

The dedication was followed by a reception at Claremont Country Club.

The Witter Field plaque

Remembering Jean Witter’s patriotism during WWII

Piedmont parent Keri Elmquist sang the National Anthem, followed by PUSD Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hawn who read the plaque’s inscription. PHS alum (’85) Steve Humphries, one of the event’s organizers, reflected on Jean Witter’s time at PHS. “He was just like any other kid that came before and after. He played sports that he loved with his friends, making plays that became memories and helped create the legacy of our athletic program.” Witter and others like him “went on to do great things in college and after that headed out to make their mark on the world,” he said.

“Every ounce of strength and fight they had, they gave, reckless of where the glory should fall” was the phrase Humphries used repeatedly to describe the fierce competitors that came out of Piedmont High. Among those he referenced were Jean‘s brother, Billy Witter, who quarterbacked the 1940 and 1941 football teams which came close to being #1 in the country, and Billy’s teammate Robert Dewey Kurkjian who left Berkeley early to enlist with the Marines and was later killed on Okinawa.

Every ounce of strength and fight they had, they gave, reckless of where the glory should fall.

Steve Humphries emphasized the phrase that characterized Witter and all the Piedmont athletes since who have gone on to to pursue greatness on the field and off.

“We are so thankful for the efforts of Concord Ironworks,” said Humphries. “They are true artisans and masters of their craft, who have created a real work of art that’s a gift to our community.” Humphries designed the memorial and Concord Ironworks donated the material and work to make it a reality. He said the company supports veterans’ causes and generously contributed the memorial base. The plaque is fixed to a steel pedestal that pays homage to the USS San Francisco — powder coated in the same “haze grey” that US Navy ships were painted between 1941 and 1945. 

“If anyone from O’Dowd tries to steal the memorial on a rivalry weekend, there’s no chance this is budging!” joked Humphries.

Charlie Bates, a member of the extended Witter family, told Jean’s story and was followed by USS San Francisco historian Victor Rollandi who shared history about the famous WWII Battle of Guadalcanal, where most of the officers and half of the crew perished. Tom Witter shared remarks on behalf of the family and PHS Booster President Chris Hart gave closing remarks.

3 thoughts on “Photos | Highlanders faithful turn out for Witter Field memorial ceremony

  1. Class all the way as a result of determination, dedication, skill, relentlessness, creativity and passion by none more than Steve Humphries (1985).
    His love for and dedication to
    PHS and especially sports is unmatched.
    I was fortunate enough to be his
    coach way back when and was witness to and beneficiary of his remarkable passion. Bravo!
    No doubt Jean C. Witter, Jr. was of man of such passion and always a HIGHLANDER.

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