|Mistake Prompts Fond Recall of Colleague|
Thursday, March 10, 2011
I found myself in some pretty select company upon joining the Worcester Evening Gazette Regional staff decades ago.
There was a hook to my hire. Take over the Webster column established by John Dignam, now retired, but then just promoted to the city staff. The unscripted challenge was to come within a shadow of the weekly contributions established by Mr. Dignam and of others in the same publications zone.
This required something comparable to the then-ongoing columns by the late Joseph Capillo of Southbridge and Bernard DuPont of Putnam. I needn’t have feared. Cap and Bernie provided constructive criticism from Day One: To join their domain was to perform. Bernie was a real stickler for accuracy. He retired years ago but was never forgotten.
So, what happened? I created a Webster-Dudley Boys & Girls Club crisis of sorts on March 3. Immediate past president John Lefebvre of the Webster-Dudley Club sent me an e-mail: John Meciak, the club’s assistant treasurer, is not a retired educator but a CPA with Commerce Insurance Co. It turns out they’re father and son. Then, John P. Hickey, the funeral director, telephoned. John Meciak, the senior in this case, is his wife Jean’s uncle. The difference is Jean’s uncle goes by “Jack.”
The significance, besides regret, was that Bernie would’ve been all over “that bonehead” had it happened in our staff years together. Worse, funeral services were held in Northboro that day for Bernard A. “Bernie” DuPont, reporter, columnist, features specialist, photographer, author, and critic! I considered a silent apology at his wake, but a sincere prayer seemed more appropriate.
Uncovering long-lost veterans charters has become an ongoing search for John Wojcik, who found a United War Mothers charter some time ago in a storage closet in the Webster Veterans Home.
Formed after World War II, the UWM included several women associated with the Sons of Italy Auxiliary, all mothers of men who served in the military during the war. Mr. Wojcik had the charter restored. It is now on a wall within the Veterans Lane building.
Now, the long-serving Webster-Dudley Veterans Council officer has reached back to the Spanish-American War for another military charter. He got a heads-up this time from Webster Veterans Services Director Donald A. Baker Sr. “Don told me about it,” says Mr. Wojcik. “It was discarded in the veterans building attic.”
The United Spanish War Veterans, 16 strong, received their National Encampment Charter on Dec. 5, 1919, more than 20 years after the end of Spanish-American hostilities. Other war-related groups organized earlier, and three of them, apparently including some elements in the Spanish American War Veterans, merged into the United Spanish War Veterans around 1906.
Though merged nationally, the Spanish-American War Veterans of Webster-Dudley remained an entity unto itself for decades, finally dissolved in the 1960s by the late Leo Dumouchel, a World War II veteran, after the death of his father, Louis Dumouchel Sr., the last local survivor of the war with Spain.
The roster identifies Frank Billig, Arthur J. Conlon, John J. Conelly, Frank Cozzens, John Ennis, Michael Fitzpatrick, Everett T. Gray, James Maloney, William McGriff, John McCormack, James Meagher, Timothy Meagher, Arthur Paranto, Paul W. Pelletier, Hugh W. Sheary, and Fred W. Taft as charter members of United Spanish War Veterans, No. 59, of Webster.
Mr. Wojcik identifies somewhat with the Everett T. Gray entry. “His son, Lyman, lived on East Main Street with his wife, Marjorie, and there were kids my age that I used to visit.” says John, remembering, “Margie always had something to serve her young guests.”
While he plans to restore the National Encampment charter, Mr. Wojik has apparently bought into a research project because the Spanish American War Veterans of Webster-Dudley remained a town veterans organization so long as its last members lived, and the United Spanish War Veterans gained little traction here after receiving the charter.
Webster native Cliff Kos, now of Palmdale, Calif., has come up with a private tribute to World War II veterans still living. It’s a memories thing — three pennies and a print of the 48-star American flag that U.S. forces carried on the world’s battlefields in the 1940s.
The counter to distribution indicates that to date, Mr. Kos has mailed his message to 638 people who served in the military during World War II. Older residents and coin collectors are probably familiar with the zinc-treated steel pennies introduced in 1943, when the copper used in the production of copper pennies was diverted to the war effort. The Kos tribute includes a war-time steel penny and two traditional types, one dated 1941, before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and another with an early post-war date.
“Luckily, my girlfriend and wife of 52 years had the foresight to save these pennies,” writes Mr. Kos. “They are difficult to acquire.” Sealed in plastic, the little packets are dedicated to “The United States’ Greatest Generation Ever. We Salute You.”
Cliff, a 1955 graduate of Bartlett High School, worked as a union linotype operator for many years, starting with the Worcester Telegram or Gazette and at other major newspapers in the western part of the country.
Honoring living World War II veterans has become an avocation for Mr. Kos and his wife in recent times. He remembers service as an air raid warden when he was only 8 years old. Webster had junior wardens to help senior wardens patrol town neighborhoods during “lights out” exercises, particularly in three-decker blocks.
Telegram & Gazette
Copyright© OldeWebster 2001
send comments/suggestions to: