"Commando's" Red Hat  
Thursday, February 7, 2002
So I've Heard Column

This is about a man's red felt hat, and how its facsimile ended up in a Benedictine Art Gallery in New York City. Alfred L. Nowicki of Webster bought the hat decades ago, when he was into hunting and fishing. "They had red and green hats at the time, but red was the popular color around Maine," he said.
Mr. Nowicki and others spent their vacations at some of North America's premiere hunting and fishing lodges, going so far north that rivers flowed to the North Pole, and into western areas accessible only by horse and mule trains.
Wild life artist Peter Strzelewicz was one of the participants. Like others in the group, Mr. Strzelewicz, now of Dudley, enjoyed the great outdoors but a lot of his hunting and fishing was with a camera.
Mr. Nowicki's red felt hat took on a character of its own over the years. License forms, fly hooks, pins, and similar items filled its wide band, and it gained a patina of time. "We were coming back from a trip in Canada," Mr. Nowicki said. "Pete borrowed the hat and used it in one of his paintings."
"Oh, yea, that was 'Commandos' hat," Mr. Strzelewicz said when I inquired. Like others of his generation, he refers to Mr. Nowicki by his World War II era nickname. Mr. Strzelewicz, known for his outdoors wildlife art, subsequently produced a computerized copy of the red hat painting. It's the centerpiece to a drawing that represents an avid fisherman's storage nook.
"That's how my hat became famous," says Mr. Nowicki. "Somebody bought Pete's painting and it wound up with the Benedictine's," Mr. Nowicki said Saturday . "I've still got that hat. Its somewhere in the shed."
Parks and Cemeteries Director Dennis Westgate, a solid cog in Webster's DPW lineup, deserves kudos for sensitivity. Charged with the care of Mount Zion Cemetery, with sections nearly as old as the town, Mr. Westgate has developed a formula to locate old graves.
Out of region inquiries have multiplied since the advent of e-mail. People are into geneology. While the town has a rather rudimentary to comprehensive set of cemetery records, depending upon time frames, Mr. Westgate can match early requests if given time and enough information.
A Florida resident turned to a local website--oldewebster.com--recently in an attempt to secure the background information required by the town. This is how I learned of search procedures. Mr. Westgate located the burial plot the person was looking for by cross checking cemetery records.
This sounds easy but, as anyone who has tried to ferret historical information can attest, it requires a lot of painstaking effort.
William P. Davern, of North Main Street, the retired Webster postal carrier, describes the start to a typical day. "You wake up, read the obituaries, turn to the divorces and if your name isn't in either one, you get dressed up and go out."
Gerard "Jerry" Bernier, a friend from Saint Amme School days, says I stretch the truth but he likes it. I called him a "young person" when our paths crossed last Thursday in a town supermarket. This is what I call all of my counterparts.
Weather forecasters were calling for snow and ice that day but Mr. Bernier, a retired boats dealer, said "it won't be too long" before he gets his boats back into the water.
Last week's segment about Florence (Morse) Shaw amd Clapp Instruments Co., a World War II defense contractor, brought a service memory to Webster's Frank E. Markiewicz.
Mr. Markiewicz was in the U.S. Navy through the war. He was at sea, examining the business end to a flow instrument, when the gauge marking caught his attention,
"It read Clapp Instruments Co., Webster, Mass.," Mr. Markiewicz recalled.
The "X" marks painted in intersections to Myrtle Avenue and other Webster streets have a purpose, according to Tow
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