George Mergenthaler, the grandson of the inventor of the Linotpye, was an only child and at the time of his birth in 1920, became the sole male heir the family fortune. Tall, handsome, Ivy League educated, speaking fluent German and French, "MERG" as he was know to his friends, did what many in his generation did following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor: he enlisted in the Army.
Insisting on serving as a buck-private, George was assigned to a Recon Troop that would see action after the D-Day invasion in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Following the horrific fighting in the Huertgen forest, the 28th Cavalry Recon Troop was sent west for R&R, to a small farming village in Luxembourg called Eschweiler.
For the next month the Recon Troop soldiers lived amonst the townspeople, sharing their homes, meals, hopes and dreams. A devout Catholic, George spent much of his free time in the town's small church, St. Mauritius, chatting and getting to know the local priest. Quickly the two bonded, sharing a friendship not unlike long-lost brothers.
In mid December however, their bucolic stay in Eschweiler was shattered by the Battle of the Bulge. Nearly surrounded by the enemy, the Recon Troop soldiers were forced to retreat from the town. Dodging enemy fire, their convoy drove down a winding road, towards the cover of nearby woods. Rounding a corner they were ambushed by the spearhead of the German advance in that sector. Pinned down with caprture or death seeming their only options, George jumped into the command jeep and manned a .50-cal machine gun, laying down enough covering fire for the rest of the soldiers to make their escape.
Standing monument tall in the jeep, bullets sizzled the air while George bought time for the others to flee. Suddenly the machine gun jammed. He desperately tried to clear the breach before a volley of German bullets cut him down.
The worst winter snow in forty years meant George's body wouldn't be found until the following spring. Devated by the loss of the boy the townspeople considered "one of their own", the people of Eschweiler buried George in the cemetery opposite the church where he'd spent so much of his time the last few weeks of his life.
Although overcome with grief at the loss of their only child, the Mergenthalers understood the love the people of Eschweiler showed to their son. To show their appreciation they offered to fund the rebuilding of the town's church, heavily damaged during the war. The repairs included the hand painted mural behind the altar, the one that depicts Jesus feeding the poor with the help of an apostle; an apostle dress in an army drab uniform and bearing the likeness of George Mergenthaler.
Today in Eschweiler and nearby towns, the church of St. Mauritius is more commonly know, as the church of Mergenthaler.