Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 27 July 2012 00:00
As part of his tenure, Marchese said that he is looking to expand the membership, including bringing women into No. 349, a first since the chapter was founded in 1922.
“We hope to break that this year,” Marchese said of gaining female membership. “We’re always looking for new members. By attrition our rolls have gone down over the years. We meet the first Monday of every month. We’d love to see them and if they qualify for membership, we’d love to swear them in and swell our ranks.”
Marchese,73, couldn’t pinpoint when the idea of including women in the legion’s membership was born, but as he combed the history of the legion in his memory, the dwindling ranks and the natural course of life is what prompted it…as well as two very fine women who molded his life.
“By natural attrition, veterans are going to that great commander in the sky,” Marchese said in an interview with the Mineola American. “Sometimes when you have time on your hands, you have time to think. I’ve been widowed twice. I thought about my two wives, who I miss and love very much. In the course of my business career, I had occasions to work with strong women and they deserve a place in the American Legion.”
During ROTC training at the City College of New York, where he earned an accounting degree, Marchese had an interesting cadet commander, one who would go on to be Secretary of State…Colin Powell.
“When I was in my sophomore year, he was our commander,” Marchese said. “His career has certainly been a wonderful thing. That’s my claim to fame, and 50 cents will get me a local phone call of course,” he said jokingly.
Marchese served at Fort Bragg, N.C. for airborne training. He trained with the U.S. Rangers at Fort Benning, GA in 1961. From there, he received his posting to Fort Dix, N.J. as a company officer for advanced infantry training. What was supposed to be a short stay, ended with an 18-month commission because of the escalation of the Berlin Wall crisis.
“As an army cadet, I had to go through cadet officer training at [Fort] Bragg,” he said. “The Berlin [Crisis] came up and President [John] Kennedy kept us all on for an additional year.”
Marchese, who has lived in Mineola since 1970 and joined the legion 15 years ago, also served as grand knight of Knights of Columbus Post 2502 in Mineola. He served as commander once before in 1999 and 2000. He said he planned on swearing in a woman by the next meeting.
Marchese replaced Sal Cataldo as current commander. Cataldo could not be reached for comment.
“[The legion] used to fill the room,” Marchese exclaimed, indicating a noticeable drop in new members.
His youngest son, Christopher, passed away in an auto accident when he was attending Sienna College in Albany in 1988. Marchese lost his wife Joanne to cancer in 1989. His eldest son died several years ago and he lost his second wife, Carole Minuski, in 2010, 20 years after they took their wedding vows.
Carole was the sister of Pat Hinck, wife of former Mineola Mayor Robert Hinck.
“Bob and I go way back in commuting on the train together,” he said. “Everyone was and is still very supportive. The legion helps.”
The new slate of officers for the post includes First Vice-Commander Tom Scardino, Second Vice-Commander Walter Hobbs, Third Vice-Commander Colin Cathcart-Jones, Jerry Olsen as adjutant, Mark Eliassof as finance officer and Bill Urianek as sergeant-at-arms.
“Our mission is to be a support for all veterans,” Marchese said speaking in front of the Mineola Village Board on July 11. “We see the young men and women coming back maimed and disfigured and otherwise hurt from the fields of combat and we want to be there for them.” The legion attended a “Stand Down” on July 16.
“We greatly appreciate everything the American Legion and the VFW does for the veterans as well as the community,” Mayor Scott Strauss said. “Any veterans out there please, join these organizations. They certainly benefit you in the long run.”
Eligibility for the American Legion includes the requirement of being in uniform when armed hostilities took place as determined by the Congress. The legion’s next meeting is Aug. 6 at the Village Hall Community Center on Washington Avenue.
“He will be a very good commander,” VFW Adolph Block Post #1305 Commander Manny Grilo said. “Sal Cataldo was a very good commander. Carl stepped up and said he’d run again. He can carry it on. Carl is a personable person.”
“Carl is a great guy,” Trustee Paul Cusato said. “I wish him well. I know he’ll do what’s best for the post. He’ll do a great job.”