Volume 78 - Number 24 / NOVEMBER 12 - 18, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photos by Caroline Debevec

Right, Frank Crapanzano emceed the plaque ceremony, as his niece assisted by holding the electric megaphone. Left, John van Rems played Taps.

Memories of The Big One at war memorial ceremony

By Albert Amateau

Patriotism, local and national, came front and center at McCarthy Square in the Village on the morning of Veterans Day.

Veterans and neighbors gathered at the square — really a triangle — and paid tribute to the “Brave men and woman worthy patriots dear to God and famous to all ages,” who served the nation in the armed forces.

It was a rededication of the monument — a granite base and a tall flagpole — at the intersection of Charles St. and Waverly Place on the east side of Seventh Ave. South. The monument was erected in 1943 during World War II in memory of Bernard James McCarthy, a 22-year-old Marine Corps private, born and raised in the Village, who died on Guadalcanal in August 1942. He was the first Villager to fall in battle in the war.

Frank Crapanzano, a Charles St. resident for the past 34 years and a Villager for the past 44 years, was master of ceremonies at the Tuesday gathering. Crapanzano was the moving force behind the community effort to spruce up the often-overlooked monument.

Father Daniel Morey, a Franciscan priest, gave the invocation, and Rabbi Dan Ain delivered the benediction. Tommi Marx sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and led everyone in a chorus of “God Bless America.” John van Rems played Taps.

Ralph Musalino, Department of Parks district manager, and parks workers Joe Reyes and Mitch Cynamon, were also on hand, representing the department, which maintains McCarthy Square.

There is a new bronze plaque, paid for by the American Legion Post 1212 and installed several weeks ago, on the granite base. The “Brave men and women” dedication, carved on the granite base and now hard to read because of age and the surrounding plants, is sharp and clear on the new plaque.

Crapanzano paid tribute to the neighbors whose efforts contributed to the monument’s restoration. He cited Tony Miro, leader of Legion Post 1212. Miro missed the McCarthy Square celebration because he had to be at the rededication of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, along with the commander in chief, President Bush, and other military leaders.

Arleen Knauer, a resident who raised funds for the restoration, was also on hand.

“This means a lot to me,” she told another visitor. “My husband, bless his memory, was in Pearl Harbor at Schofield Barracks when it was attacked on Dec. 7 — and he lived to fight in many battles.”

The ceremony brought back memories for Dean Ostrum, 86, a Village resident for 30 years.

“I landed at Omaha Beach in August 1944 — not in the first waves — but we broke out at Saint-Lô and spearheaded General Patton’s Seventh Armored Division,” Ostrum said.

“I was captured in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, but I escaped the same night,” he recalled. “There were no lines — it was chaos. There were about 400 Germans and 20 of us. It was dark and I just let go of the German soldier I was supposed to hold on to and hid behind a tree. They all passed me.”

Raised in Kansas, Ostrum went to Yale Law School and was called back into the service during the Korean War.

“I was lucky and got called out to war crimes trials in Pusan, as far away from the front lines as it was possible,” he said.

After he later came out as a gay man, Ostrum moved to the Village.

McCarthy Square is just across Waverly Place from Morandi, Keith McNally’s restaurant, and Crapanzano acknowledged McNally’s participation in the monument’s restoration. Gabrielle Boone, owner of Pennyfeathers, which closed several months ago, was also a generous contributor to the McCarthy Square restoration.

The American Legion Post that sponsored the monument back in 1943, the Dr. George A. Hayunga Maritime Post 1069, became inactive around 1979 and no one seems to remember exactly who Dr. Hayunga was. Nevertheless, the name is still on the granite base, quarried from Deer Island, Me. The pole itself came from the grounds of the 1939-’40 World’s Fair in Flushing, according to Crapanzano.

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