Edward I. Eiland honored with bridge dedication

Debbie Rolen

August 25, 2013

A true hero and son of Logan County was honored Thursday by having the bridge into his neighborhood named for and dedicated to him.

Local officials, court employees, attorneys, veterans, Kiwanians, Rotarians, Lions club members, friends and family gathered together to surprise Edward I. Eiland. Mr. Eiland was told he was going to the Kiwanis Club meeting and had no idea about the bridge dedication.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Mr. Eiland when he found out what was going on and the crowd pressed in to congratulate him.

Mr. Eiland is a well-respected attorney in Logan, working for the people of Logan County for more than 60 years. He is an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Logan, a volunteer for the Salvation Army, a volunteer musician for The Aracoma Story Inc. musical productions and a supporter of the Logan Wildcats athletics, as well as a member of the WVU Alumni Marching Band. On November 19, 2011, Eiland was named a hometown hero, with the celebration aired on WSAZ TV3.

During the Hometown Hero celebration, Judge Eric O’Briant had the following exchange with Mr. Eiland: “It was November 18, 1948 when his legal career began and he is still going strong,” said Judge O’Briant. “If you all think I am retiring, you had best disabuse yourself of that notion because (longtime assistant) Nancy (Kirkendoll) won’t let me quit,” the normally low-key Mr. Eiland quipped. “Lord, I am here because you let me be here. I have no complaints.”

The City of Logan had declared Nov. 19, 2011, as Ed Eiland Day in his honor.

Members of Mr. Eiland’s family were on hand, including his neice Stephanie Goldberg, his nephew Stuart Eiland and his son Pete Eiland. Pete sproke with pride about his father’s service in the U.S. Marines. Eiland served in World War II and was at Iwo Jima , along with Roger Bryant’s father, when the flag was raised.

Mr. Eiland was awarded the Silver Star for his service. The citation reads as follows: “The citation for The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to First Lieutenant Edward I. Eiland (MCSN: 0-17239), United States Marine Corps Reserve, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Communications Officer of the Second Battalion, Twenty-fifth Marines, FOURTH Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Saipan, Marianas Islands, 15 June 1944. Although painfully wounded shortly after landing, First Lieutenant Eiland refused evacuation and, in the face of intense enemy fire, carried a heavy radio set over 300 yards to the battalion command post. Upon arriving at the post, he began coordination of the means of signal communication within the battalion and, when a radio operator was wounded, operated the set himself until a relief could be obtained. His courage and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon First Lieutenant Eiland and the United States Naval Service.”

W.Va. Senator Art Kirkendoll read House Concurrent Resolution No. 5 (By Delegates Rupert “Rupie” Phillips and Ted Tomblin) requesting the Division of Highways to rename the Middleburg Bridge over the Guyandotte River, near the Middleburg settlement, Logan County, bridge number 23-10/73-0.01, the “Edward I. Eiland Bridge”.

The resolution reads: “Whereas, Edward I. Eiland was born on February 3, 1920; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland graduated from Logan High School in 1937 and from West Virginia University, where he was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society, in 1940; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland matriculated at the West Virginia University College of Law, but chose to interrupt his legal education to enter the Marine Corps after the Second World War began; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland served in the Pacific with the Fourth Marine Division, and took part in landings on Kwajalein Atoll, Saipan, Tinian and Iwo Jima; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland was awarded both the Purple Heart for wounds incurred in action during the invasion of Saipan and the Silver Star for bravery in the same campaign; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland returned to the West Virginia College of Law, where he served as a member of the Board of Editors of the West Virginia Law Quarterly, and graduated in 1946; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland returned to Logan County, where he served as Assistant Prosecutor, attorney for the City of Logan, Mental Hygiene Commissioner, and where he continues to work in private practice; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland is a longtime member of the Logan County, West Virginia and American Bar Associations, and received the West Virginia Bar Association’s inaugural Award of Merit in 1997 for his outstanding lifetime of distinguished service to the profession; and

Whereas, Edward I. Eiland has served the public as a Boy Scouts leader, a member of the Kiwanis Club (since March 19, 1953), a 58-year member and two-time Post Commander of the Gunther-McNeely-Nowlin Post of the American Legion, and President of the B’Nai El of Logan; and

Whereas, It is fitting and proper, that Edward I. Eiland be honored for his courageous Marine Corps service, his many contributions to the legal profession and his countless hours of public service to the community of Logan and the state of West Virginia; therefore, be it

Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That the Division of Highways is hereby requested to rename the Middleburg Bridge over the Guyandotte River, near the Middleburg settlement, Logan County, bridge number 23-10/73-0.01, the “Edward I. Eiland Bridge”; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Division of Highways is hereby requested to have made and be placed signs identifying the bridge as the “Edward I. Eiland Bridge”; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates forward a certified copy of this resolution to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and to Mr. Edward I. Eiland.”

Kirkendoll congratulated Mr. Eiland and told him, “I want to let you know that we, in the last two sessions, have taken the opportunity to show honor and gratitude to people like you in our region and around the state, but it’s common knowledge that when we were working on this, we feel like you may have been the most deserving people that we ever decided to do this for.”

Mr. Eiland said, “Well, I’m overwhelmed, but not speechless. Thank you. I was thinking around this time, of the end of WWII, which ended in August of 1945. I will never forget the feeling I felt when I learned that the war was over. It was such a terrible time. I was thinking the next landing would be Japan. I dreaded the thought of it. I thank you all. I was born in Logan in 1920. I’ll die here.”

Prosecutor John Bennett stepped up to speak. “I came about two weeks out of law school and Mr. Eiland, Mrs. Eiland and Pete had my future wife and myself over to their home here at Midleberg for dinner. He wanted to be sure my future wife had a chance to see Logan, she’s from Sutton, and so she would have a chance to realize where this was where she wanted to settle down also. There was never a better spokesman for Logan and Logan County than Mr. Eiland. He truly is a Wildcat at heart. You know by the ball games he has attended, the support he has given the school, town, county and lawyers. He doesn’t like bad lawyer jokes. He has always been hard working. Many times in the office we would discuss strategy in various cases and would explain what could be done legally, oftentimes he would say that may be legal, but that’s not right, so we’re not going to do that. He’s always tried to do what was right. He accepted me, Mr. Eiland and his wife and Pete accepted me and my wife like we were family and treated me as such. That’s why I stayed here and why when people ask me where I’m from, it’s Logan County.”

Judge O’Briant commented that Mr. Eiland was the most senior member of the Bar present, then called on Doug Witten to comment.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Mr. Eiland for 44 years. I know I don’t look it, but I am that old. Mr. Eiland had been an example for all of us to follow for honesty, hard work, and my office used to be located in the National Bank Building and I would go and push the elevator button and Mr. Eiland, who was a few years older than me would take the stairs. He always took the stairs until recently,” said Witten, then he spoke to Mr. Eiland, “If all lawyers would be as honest and hard working as you’ve been, then I think we would have a lot better Bar. Thank you very much.”

Judge O’Briant noted that there were three mayors present and called on them to comment.

“I want to say two things: this is a day I will probably never forget. I love you, Mr. Eiland and when I grow up, I want to be like Mr. Eiland,” said former Logan Mayor Gary Hylton.

Next to speak was former Logan Mayor Tom Esposito. “I had the honor of being mayor for 16 years. Mr. Eiland was the best attorney, no disrespect to any of the other attorneys, and the best City Attorney I ever worked with. His famous quote to me was, “Tom, you can’t do that.” We would be in meetings or I would go to his office and the first thing he would say was “Tom, you can’t do that.” He really served the city. I could call him morning, noon or night and he was always there. He is my neighbor right down the street,” then to Eiland, “We love you. I know my parents really thought a lot of you. I know if anybody deserved this, it’s you.”

Current Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti, “I’m honored to have known you all my life. You have never steered me in the wrong direction. You would tell me ‘you can’t do this, but this is how you can make it happen.’ It’s a great honor to be here with you at this great event.”

Jim Frye thanked Mr. Eiland for his years of involvment in The Aracoma Story, “I have told people I have had people in the orchestra ages 17 to 93.”

Several others commented and thanked Mr. Eiland for his service before the crowd scattered and Mr. Eiland went across the street to see the sign bearing his name unveiled.