April 8 – Happy Birthday Donald Setchell


The Setchell’s were a bedrock family in the lower East Main St/Cranesville section of the pre WWII Amsterdam community. The father Ed was an accomplished mason and he and his wife Dora were active members of the Cranesville Reformed Church that still stands proudly in its highly visible location just east of our city. They had two children, a daughter Margaret and a son Donald and whenever they could, the family would leave their home at 577 East Main Street and escape to the cottage camp Ed had built on Caroga Lake. Between the four of them, the Setchell name appeared week after week in the “Cranesville Notes” column that was a regular feature of the Amsterdam Recorder back then.

Young Donald had been born on this date in 1924. He graduated from Lynch High School in 1942 and like hundreds of Amsterdam teenagers back then, it must have been difficult for him to plan or even think about a future with this country and pretty much the entire world engulfed in such a horrific war. Still, he tried. He enrolled in the Dawson School of Technology in Newark, New Jersey but sure enough, his education was put on hold when he was drafted and inducted into the Army on February 10, 1943, eventually getting assigned to the Combat Engineers.

By then the push was on to assemble the invasion force for Western Europe and Setchell was on his way to England the following May and then Normandy on or around D-Day. He found himself in heavy action from the very start and on July 15, 1944 he was wounded in battle and awarded the Purple Heart. He must have recovered quickly because during the first week of October, his parents received a telegram from the War Department informing them that their son had been involved in combat with the Germans somewhere near Normandy on September 23rd and was missing in action. Just a few hours later, a second telegram arrived bearing the horrific news that their beloved son and brother, Corporal Donald E. Setchell had been killed.

The entire lower East Main/Cranesville neighborhood mourned his loss. Special services were held at the Reformed Church and the Cranesville Elementary School in his honor. Donald Setchell was just 20 years old when he gave his life for our Country.

This Amsterdam hero shares his birthday with one of Amsterdam’s longest serving spiritual leaders.


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