Below is a list of Veterans Day-related ceremonies taking place on the North Fork today:
Annual Veterans Day Ceremony presented by Combined Veterans of Riverhead, 11 a.m. at the World War I Monument on the Suffolk County Historical Society grounds, 300 West Main St., Riverhead. Refreshments follow at American Legion Post, Hubbard Avenue.
Calverton National Cemetery Veterans Day ceremony, A patriotic ceremony honoring military members and veterans is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the cemetery at 210 Princeton Boulevard in Calverton.
Ceremony to dedicate Southold Town Volunteer Firefighters’ Memorial, 1 p.m. at Jean Cochran Park, Peconic Lane, Peconic, hosted by Southold Town Fire Chiefs Council. Seven members who died in line of duty will be commemorated: Eugene Lessard (Mattituck), James Parker Wickham (Cutchogue), Keith Purcell (Southold), George Matthias, Richard Sycz, and Edward Bellefountaine (Greenport), and Frederick Gagen (East Marion).
Every weekend, if the weather’s good and the toll of his 89 years and the severe wounds he suffered permits it, the World War II veteran likes to sit outside with his wife.
Not an unusual experience for the quickly dwindling generation of servicemen who fought and sacrificed so long ago. But former Senator Robert Dole doesn’t sit in a garden or a leafy park. He places himself at an entrance to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., with his wife, former Senator Elizabeth Dole. One thing Senator Dole, now frail and handicapped, never lacks for is company.
Without announcement or ceremony, his fellow comrades-at-arms visiting the memorial always find him and he’s constantly surrounded by them. They’re immediately drawn to say a few words and get a few words back, to share smiles of recognition from strangers — yet brothers — who once made history together.
It’s Senator Dole’s memorial in many ways, not just for the wounds he suffered and still bears from a firefight on an Italian hilltop 67 years ago, but because he was the official who spearheaded the congressional effort to build the glittering marble rotunda, which opened in 2004.
On Saturday, October 20, nine Shelter Island veterans who went to war in the 1940s claimed their ownership of the memorial. They paid respects to Senator Dole and received his acknowledgement in return, as well as from countless uniformed others visiting the memorial. They were part of a tour organized by Honor Flight Long Island, the local chapter of a national nonprofit group dedicated to bringing World War II veterans to the memorial on the National Mall. That October Saturday there were, including Shelter Island’s, eight Honor Flights to Washington from around the country.
But equal credit for the successful day goes to Police Officer Tom Cronin, who came up with the idea to pay tribute to his own hometown vets. The tour’s guiding spirit every step of the way, he coordinated with Honor Flight and organized the raising of $13,000 that paid for all expenses for 24 veterans. Along with the nine Greatest Generation vets were men who served during the Korea and Vietnam eras, and those posted to Beirut, Lebanon and the first Gulf War, plus 18 people who accompanied them.
First-hand information about World War II is fading fast, considering that its U.S. veterans, once 16 million strong, are now dying at the rate of 740 a day, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration. That fact is one reason P.O. Cronin was inspired to provide the trip for the vets. His father, who died in 1998, was a Navy veteran who never talked about his service. “And I never asked,” P.O. Cronin said. Hooking up with Honor Flight Long Island, and organizing the trip to Washington, was a chance to be with and learn something from the veterans of his father’s generation, he said.
An exhilarating and sometimes exhausting one-day excursion, it kicked off at 5:30 a.m. at the American Legion Hall and wrapped up there around 11 p.m. In between were two plane trips, three bus rides and visits to four memorials in the nation’s capital. Also included were meals, honor salutes, a welcoming reception by Naval Academy midshipmen and some misty eyes mixed in with laughter along the way.
Meeting Senator Dole in the informal session at the World War II Memorial was the high point of the day for many who made the trip.
“I was shocked when I saw him because he didn’t look well,” said Robert Strugats, the same age as the senator, who flew 15 combat bombing missions in the South Pacific — each one consisting of 16 non-stop hours in the air — beginning when he was still a teenager. “I said to him, ‘Senator, thank you for this memorial.’”
Senator Dole told Mr. Strugats that he was the one who deserved thanks for his service.
Later, thinking about the long day that sparked memories to the surface, the Army Air Corps vet summed up the emotions of many of the heroes: “Words can’t begin to describe how I felt.”
A LOT OF STORIES
A chartered bus was escorted from the Island before dawn to MacArthur Airport by the Long Island chapter of the U.S. Veterans Motorcycle Club. “Shelter Island has a special place in our hearts,” said Frankie Bania, president of the club. “We’ve always been there for the Kestlers and Theinerts.”
As dawn was breaking, the convoy rumbled through rolling fog into Islip’s MacArthur Airport, where Dr. John Rodgers, 87, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge as a 19-year-old, said of the group of travelers and their memories, “There are a lot of stories here.”
Dr. Rodgers himself was remembering another morning in 1944 when he went to Christmas Eve Mass in Marseilles, France and then soon found himself airlifted to frontline trenches in the Ardennes Forest. Describing just part of one of the many actions he fought in, Dr. Rodgers recalled trying to cross a river in rubber rafts under a withering crossfire. “The Germans had us zeroed in,” Dr. Rodgers said. “It was hell.” And the veteran left it at that.
Emerging from the jetway into the terminal at Baltimore-Washington Airport, the vets were surprised to walk down a long corridor formed by 40 midshipmen, students at Annapolis in their dress uniforms, applauding and whooping. Honor Flight personnel had handed out flags to onlookers who joined in the raucous welcome.
George Strom, 85, had tears in his eyes. Later, walking through the terminal to the bus with his wife, Marie, the Navy veteran was “surprised and astounded” by the greeting. Some of the midshipmen were female, which brought on a story he told with a smile, of shipping home after the Japanese surrender and docking in California. “We hadn’t seen a girl in months so we all ran to one side of the ship to get a look at the Red Cross girls who were there to greet us,” Mr. Strom remembered. “Then we got an announcement from the captain telling us to get on the other side because we were sinking his ship.”
KOREA AND VIETNAM
After the tour of the World War II Memorial, and the visit with the Doles, the Island Honor Flight group moved on to one of the most haunting sights in Washington, the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Walking up a slight incline, spread out and watchful, are 19 stone statues of American servicemen on patrol in full combat gear and rain ponchos, weary, marching though a bleak landscape created to reflect a vision of battlefield conditions in Korea.
William Krapf, 81, remembered the terrain, the battles and the unforgiving climate. “There was three months of solid rain,” recalled Mr. Krapf, who was 20 when he went to Korea as a Marine in 1951. He suffered frostbite to his left hand from the cold, 12 degrees below zero. “And in the summer, we changed positions with the Canadians and it was 120 degrees in the shade,” he said.
The most visited memorial in Washington honors veterans of Vietnam, according to the National Park Service. A visit with the Island Honor Flight proved it, with large crowds descending down to the center of the V-shaped wall, where the names of more than 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam are etched in the polished stone.
It’s the most popular and also, at times, the setting for the most visible emotion. Joseph “Butch” Klenawicus, 62, James “Mac” McGayhey, 63, and Charles Wyatt, 67, looked for the name on the wall of a fallen comrade, James Wilson Jr., for whom the Route 114 traffic circle in the Center is named. All three men served in Vietnam, with Mr. Wyatt wounded in action and losing his right leg.
The name was found. The men paid their respects with silence. Then, with some catches in the throat, the stories began again. Mr. Klenawicus, originally reluctant to come on the trip, thanked Officer Cronin for encouraging him to join his fellow veterans.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mr. McGayhey said quietly. “All these names.”
“You know what bothers me?” asked Mr. Klenawicus. “You look down at this wall from up above and think, 58,000 men died, and for what?”
As the bright autumn day faded to long shadows, the tour went up a hill to the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima memorial, where another veteran confronted the sacrifices of war. Mr. Strom had been part of the naval fleet that supervised the Marine landings at Iwo Jima. “There was constant bombardment and constant battle,” Mr. Strom said. “It was just …” the Navy vet paused. “Just slaughter.”
A remarkable connection was made at the base of the memorial, when Mr. Strom discovered that Mr. Strugats, the Army Air Corps combat veteran, had crash-landed on Iwo Jima.
“We know each other, our wives know each other, and I never knew he was there,” Mr. Strom said later.
A FINAL SALUTE
Another warm greeting surprised the vets and their friends and family when their chartered bus with motorcycle escort returned to the Island after the long day. The fire department shot off water cannon salutes and draped an American flag from a crane high over the street at American Legion Hall.
As a four-piece brass band played, a crowd of about 50 residents turned out to welcome their veterans home.
Mollie Strugats, who accompanied her husband all day, was, like everyone on the tour, overwhelmed at her hometown’s reception. “Fantastic,” Mrs. Strugats said. “The motorcycles, all the people in Washington and everyone cheering when we got home. I could get used to this.”
The Times/Review Newsgroup staff wishes all of our readers a very safe and happy holiday season. We look forward to continuing to serve you all in 2012.
First row (left to right): Tim Kelly, Vera Chinese, Carol Simons, Janis Garramone, Tim Gannon and Charlie Tumino.
Second row: Lloyd Oliver, Gianna Volpe, Lori Miller, Jill Johnson and Eric Hod.
Third row: Tina Volinski, Meg Marcus,Joan Gustavson, Sarah Olsen, Janice Robinson, Lee Peters, Ray Fedynak, Joe Werkmeister, Bert Vogel and Don Kirby.
Back Row: Andrew Olsen, Karen Cullen, Patti Scanlan, Samantha Brix, Lauren Sisson, Laura Huber, Troy Gustavson, Bill Peters, Grant Parpan and Michael White.
Jim and Peggy Murphy have holiday spirit to spare — and the candy-caned columns of their home on Horton’s Lane in Southold are just the beginning.
Each year the Murphys invite their neighbors to get a gander of the extensive Department 56 holiday snow village they’ve built into a living room bay window.
“It gives me great pleasure to look at” Ms. Murphy said. “People were asking to see it, so [opening the display to the public] seemed the sensible thing to do.”
The snow village, set on a massive 13-by-five-foot stand, boasts over 50 buildings, 100 accessory pieces and nearly 30 Santas.
“The youngsters like to try to count them,” Ms. Murphy said of local school children who have visited the display this year. Two classes have visited so far with another two still to come.
Son and daughter-in-law Rob and Lynn Dow took over setting the village up several years ago. “Jim and I used to set it up,” Ms. Murphy said, “but it took a month.” But the younger generation can do it in just two days. Last year, however, the Dows’ work obligations kept the village packed away.
Two cats — the live, fur-bearing kind — lounge around the three-tiered Department 56 display. Misty, the gray cat, will often sleep on an ice pond inside the village.
“I’ve only ever seen the Good Humor ice cream man get knocked over when she sleeps up there,” Ms. Murphy said.
It all started in 1982, when a window display at a New York City Fortunoff’s caught her eye. Her collection began with the Church of the Open Door, a piece that’s since been retired.
“We started with one level,” Ms. Murphy said, “We used to have Home Sweet Home separate from the others.” The Home Sweet Home/House & Windmill piece, Ms. Murphy’s favorite, is a replica of the historic East Hampton homestead of composer John Howard Payne, built in the 1700s.
Asked if she owns the entire Department 56 snow village collection, Ms. Murphy responded, “Heavens, no.” She said she prefers buildings with an “older look.”
Anyone thinking of contributing a new building to the display needn’t bother. Ms. Murphy says she doesn’t have the room. Only the annual commemorative pieces she receives are welcome.
The Riverhead Business Improvement District is set to unveil its newest toy at the 12th Annual Old Fashioned Bonfire and Holiday Celebration Dec. 10.
It’s a gingerbread house, on wheels, with a giant Santa welded onto the front of it.
“It’s really cool,” said BID member Ed Densieski, who came up with the idea along with BID president Ray Pickersgill.
The Gingerbread House is about 12 feet tall, and 16 feet long, and weighs 1,200 pounds. It features a giant Santa on the front of it, a propane fireplace inside, snowflakes on the inside walls and hanging paper dovers that appear to fly. It also has a place for kids to greet Santa, and Santa’s workshop, in case he needs to make some last-minute adjustments to the toys.
“It’s basically a gingerbead house that was built on top of a trailer, so it’s mobile,” Mr. Denieski said. “Kids can come in and greet Santa Claus, and it looks like a real gingerbread house, inside and outside.”
The house was designed by Matt Targon of Miller Place. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, you probably recognize his shop on Route 25 in Calverton, where he’s built vehicles that look like everything from giant cupcake mobiles to rolling hero sandwiches. His business is called Wow Promotional Vehicles.
“We wanted an artist who had the imagination to create this,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “We wanted something that other towns don’t have.”
The BID has been working on the project since last winter, and they spend about $14,000 on the gingerbread house, Mr. Densieski said.
In the past, the BID used a shed that local builder Ray Dickhoff built for the BID at no charge to house Santa Claus at the bonfire, Mr. Densieski said.
He said the BID will next start developing a policy for allowing other groups to use the gingerbread house as well.
“We certainly would like for other people to enjoy this too,” Mr. Densieski said.
The bonfire this year is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10 in the Peconic River parking lot in downtown Riverhead.
The gingerbread house will be there.
“We think it gonna make the holiday bonfire that much better of an event,” Mr. Densieski said. “And its a fantastic way to get people to come to downtown Riverhead in the winter.”
Fifteen-year-old Danielle Allen, who has participated in theater and dance troupes since she was just a tot, has always dreamed of performing on a Broadway stage.
The Bishop McGann-Mercy High School sophomore will get pretty close to that dream Thursday as she dances and sings her way to Herald Square in the 85th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Danielle and about 1,000 other young people auditioned in August for a spot on the “Zhuniverse” float, which will feature characters from the upcoming animated movie staring the Zhu Zhu pets, “Quest for Zhu.” Only about 130 performers were chosen.
An estimated 45 million people will watch the parade this year.
“I’m really excited,” said Danielle, who lives in Aquebogue. “I’ve never ever performed for so many people before.”
She also pre-recorded backup vocals for Radio Disney star Savannah Outen, who will perform her single “No Place Like Here” from the movie’s soundtrack.
Danielle has been rehearsing in Manhattan since Saturday and will continue until Wednesday.
“It’s going to be pretty much a full time gig Saturday through Thanksgiving,” said Danielle’s father, Al. Al will stay with Danielle at a hotel in the city from Monday night through Thursday, while mom Mary and sister Jessica stay home. Mr. Allen and Danielle commuted to rehearsals over the weekend.
Danielle, who both takes and teaches classes at Dance Center of Mattituck, also appeared in North Fork Community Theatre’s production of Footloose this past summer. She learned of the parade audition during a summer camp at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
“I thought it would be a once in a lifetime thing,” she said.
Watch for Danielle during the parade, which airs Thursday from 9 a.m. until noon on NBC.
Get into costume and head out to a local Halloween parade today.
The Oysterponds Halloween parade starts at 2 p.m. and will begin at the Oysterponds School District located at 23405 Main Road. in Orient. The parade will then move down through Village Lane, Orchard and Tabor before returning back to the school.
The Jamesport Fire Department’s annual Halloween Parade event starts at 5 p.m. at the firehouse located at 25 Manor Lane in Jamesport. Refreshments will be served. Then at 6 p.m., the parade will march out to the Jamesport Community Center where children will get to meet “The Good Witch of Jamesport.” Prizes awarded for best costume. For more information, call (631) 722-8048.
The Cutchogue Halloween Parade will assemble at 6 p.m. at the Village Green located on Main Road. It will then march to the Cutchogue Firehouse on New Suffolk Road.
There’s also a benefit dinner, called “All Howls’ Eve” sponsored by the North Fork Animal Welfare League, scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. to help raise funds for the Southold Animal Shelter. The dinner will be held at A Lure Restaurant located 62300 Main Road in Southold. Tickets cost $95 and includes a three-course dinner and an open bar featuring local wines. Costumes are optional. To reserve your seat, call (631) 765-1811.