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LTC Dirk Lay
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Birth: Jan. 21, 1886
Death: Dec. 1, 1944

Lieutenant Colonel (Active Duty)

Unit: Chaplain Corps, U.S. Army

Wars: World War II
Marker: 5966
Date of Birth: January 21, 1886
Date of Death: December 1, 1944
Section: C
Row: 9
Grave: 18
Remarks: A 59 year old American man serving on active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel with the Chaplain Corps during World War II. He died on December 1, 1944 and was buried at the Corozal American Cemetery.
***I wish to thank Oklahoma Grave Walkers for sending me the following information on Chaplain Dirk Lay***:

"The story of Rev. Dirk Lay: The water bearer
In early 1900s, Sacaton missionary takes on the fight for Pima Indian irrigation rights

Staff Writer
Published: Monday, January 24, 2011 10:45 AM MST

A Lay family portrait taken in Sacaton shows Rev. Lay, front row at left, Elizabeth, at right, with their youngest daughter, Esther, between them. In the back are their other children, from left, Calvin (known as Albert), August and Ruth.

The Rev. Dirk Lay did not plan to stay in Arizona.

But he learned to know the Akimel O'odham, "River People," stayed for 24 years and helped convince Congress to give part of the river back.
Lay had been a skinny farm kid in Nebraska who fought anybody who made fun of his German-speaking mother.

When he finished grade school, he wanted to continue his education, and his father agreed, but told him he would have to find his own way.

Lay moved to Hastings, Neb., alone at age 14, stacked grain and worked odd jobs to finish preparatory school. He moved to Dubuque, Iowa, and worked his way through four years of Presbyterian seminary school in three years.

He was offered a mission in Sacaton after the University of Dubuque president saw the 6-foot, 4-inch football player sprinting to catch a train, still in his football uniform, to preach the next morning in Cascade, Iowa.

"When he saw me running to the train, he thought of the plea of the Board of Home Missions for a husky young fellow to go to preach to the Pima Indians of Arizona," Lay said in a 1937 interview in "Forward" magazine.

"‘I'm not going to any Indians,' I told him."

But Lay attended the Layman's Missionary Convention in Davenport, Iowa, where one of the speakers talked about his mission to Indians in South America. Every time the speaker said the word "Indians," Lay said, he heard his name.

"That night I promised the Lord I'd go out for a year," Lay said.

After serving in Sacaton, he planned to move to "some big, influential church where I would be able to get large gifts from rich men for the mission work of the denomination."

He married Elizabeth Hilkeman on May 4, 1910, and they arrived at the train station in Casa Grande on Sept. 3, 1910.

"The only living creatures to be seen were an Indian sitting in a spring wagon and his team of pinto ponies," Lay said.

"I'm Edward Jackson," the man told them. "You must be the new preacher. I am a member of your church."

"These simple words won our hearts," Lay said, "but our spirits sank as [we] drove over the fifteen miles of dusty yellow road that wound its way through the desert to a little mud-walled village. We looked at each other in dismay as our guide drew up before a gray adobe house with its brush-thatched roof. This was to be our home for a whole year."

They tried to sleep inside that night, but it was too hot. The next night Lay moved his cot outside. Elizabeth refused. The third night she moved outside, too, and was awakened by a steer standing over her.

Wrestlin' up converts

Moving to Sacaton was a huge change for Elizabeth, said her granddaughter, the Rev. Jean Rogers of Tubac — but she liked it.

"She had such a wonderful romance with my grandfather ... and she loved her life there on the reservation."

Lay had been sent to Sacaton to assist the Rev. Charles Cook, who had been there since 1871. Lay gave his first sermon in Blackwater. It was on the First Psalm, and he had to have an interpreter, because he could not speak Pima yet.

"It was full of Hebrew," Lay said, "all the Hebrew that I knew."

Later, when Lay asked how he had managed to translate the Hebrew, his interpreter said, "Well, I just told them what I thought."

Lay liked the Pima people right away, Rogers said. "They were a very peaceful, loving people, and the men seemed to relate very well to my grandfather, as the women related to my grandmother.

"My memory of him was this wonderful, tall, big man that had a wonderful laugh. When he came to our house it was all laughter and fun. He was a happy, wonderful, caring man."

Lay visited homes to invite families to church, she said. When the men would say, "No, I don't think so," Lay would say: "Well, if I wrestle you and I win, will you come to church?"

They laughed and agreed, Rogers said.

"And then they came to church, because they'd promised they would."

While serving in Sacaton, Lay became a charter member of the Casa Grande Rotary Club in 1926 and was its president in 1931-32.

Lay, who had been captain of the Dubuque football team, organized a football league at Gila River. He started a Sunday school. He began raising funds for a bigger church in Sacaton to hold the hundreds of people who came to the annual camp meetings.

People walked or rode in wagons from 150 and 200 miles away, camping along the way to reach the annual meetings. When they arrived, they camped near the church, cooking over open fires. The camp-meeting committee provided food, and the meetings lasted for 31⁄2 days each October, with choirs, quartets and 10 sermons from an out-of-state minister. Before the Cook Memorial Church was built, they met under a ramada big enough for 500 to 700 people.

Lay and his wife donated their savings, $326, to start the building fund for a bigger church. Pima church leaders visited congregations in the East, who responded with donations, especially in Chicago and Pittsburgh. Gila River community members donated money and labor.

The resulting two-story, mission-style adobe church had concrete pilasters, a large sanctuary and a basement. It was finished in time for the 1918 camp meeting and is still standing today.

Then Lay turned to water issues.

Taking on Pimas' plight

"At once I saw the terrible need of the Indians because of lack of water for the fields," he said. "This was in a region where, in 1696, when Kino came from Mexico to this country, there was a surprising irrigation system built by the Indians, of miles of ditch, with all necessary laterals. But when I went there I found that the white people had gone to lands to the east, and had tapped the supplies of water. They took all; none was left for the Indians, who were barely existing."

George Webb wrote in "A Pima Remembers": "Where everything used to be green, there were acres of desert, miles of dust, and the Pima Indians were suddenly desperately poor.

"The Pimas didn't say much about their trouble. But finally some white missionaries and other friends of the Indians spoke to someone in the Government."

Lay said, "I looked about at the Pima people. Their trouble became my trouble; their sorrow and despair lay heavy on my heart. I felt that fighting in their cause was worth a lifetime of effort."

He and Elizabeth visited "reluctant Congressmen and Senators" in Washington. They visited churches in the East and urged their members to write and wire their senators and representatives in Congress.

Testifying before a House subcommittee in 1923, Lay said: "The first Arizonan killed in action in France in the World War was a full-blood Pima Indian, a volunteer. When the telegram came on the reservation that he had been killed, 6 acres of wheat, the only means of support of his widowed mother, were drying up because this Government had permitted others of our race to take her water."

‘Bill of justice'

This was more than an irrigation project, he told the subcommittee. It was a "bill of justice to give back to these people that which belongs to them."

Construction of the Coolidge Dam started in 1924. It was finished in 1928 and dedicated in 1930.

Webb wrote that the Pimas were happy and confident while the dam was being built, because "When the dam was completed there would be plenty of water."

"And there was," Webb wrote. "For about five years. Then the water began to run short again. Another five years it stopped altogether.

"What happened?

"Some speculators had bought up desert land under this dam and sold it with water rights. They sold the land fast and they sold a lot of it. The irrigation water didn't go far, so the farmers began to drill wells. They drilled so many wells and ran so many hundreds of pumps day and night that the water table sank almost out of reach and they began to fight each other for the underground water."

The Gila River people would not have a dependable supply of water until after the Central Arizona Project canal was built and Congress passed the Arizona Water Settlements Act in 2004.

Lay did not see what happened to his friends. He was transferred to South Dakota in 1934 to minister to the Lakota Sioux. Still a member of the Arizona National Guard, he was called to active duty in 1940. A month after Pearl Harbor, his regiment was ordered to Panama, where he died of a heart attack in 1944.

After his death, a photograph of Elizabeth was found in his wallet, Rogers said. She was quite portly by that time, and while waiting for him, had herself photographed posing like a glamour girl in a black bathing suit. On the back, Lay had written: "My beautiful Elizabeth."

Corozal American Cemetery and Memorial
Panama City
Panamá, Panama
Created by: Michael Harrington
Record added: Jun 17, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 38443470
LTC Dirk Lay
Added by: Oklahoma Grave Walkers
LTC Dirk Lay
Added by: Oklahoma Grave Walkers
LTC Dirk Lay
Added by: Oklahoma Grave Walkers
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NARA records list this chaplains Home of Record as Orange County, California...Died Non-Battle...Your service and sacrifice must never be forgotten.
- Eric Ackerman
 Added: Feb. 5, 2015
I didnt get to know u i was not born yet but u are my great grandpa and thank u for ur service
- Diresa Sue Lay
 Added: May. 26, 2014

- Michael Harrington
 Added: Jan. 25, 2011
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