Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi Tuesday, 02 June 2009 09:21Members of the “Oyster Bay Goes to War” Canteen-Dance Committee were spreading the news about the gala at the Monday, May 25 Memorial Day Parade. A poster for the event was in the front window of Wild Honey and a table display was set up in their front courtyard area. Dance Committee members Stefanie Leone, Yvonne Ciferelli, and Frank Leone were there, as was Hal Johnson.
Fran Leone, Canteen-Dance chair, returned from visiting the Atlantic Steamer Firehouse to give out information about the canteen dance. They are hoping for a big turnout for the event which is a part of the new exhibit at the Oyster Bay Historical Society dedicated to Oyster Bay war veterans. “I think it’s a good cause – to celebrate our veterans. They gave a lot for us. They put their necks out for us,” said Ms. Leone. “The East Woods School has donated the use of their gymnasium for the cause.”
“It was very nice of East Woods Headmaster Nathanial Peirce and their board,” said Mr. Kuehhas. “It really helped us out.”
He added, “During the parade, Fran Leone was out there passing out fliers about the event. She was talking to one of the actual servicemen who was marching in the parade and telling him about what we were doing for our veterans. He saw the poster and said, ‘Wow. That sounds like a really nice thing.’ Then he pulled out $40 and told Fran he wanted to make a donation to the cause. We are also collecting things to send to our current service people in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was very nice and very touching of him to donate to the effort,” said Mr. Kuehhas. People are being asked to bring items to send to the troops, an act reminiscent of what went on during WWII.
Mr. Kuehhas said, “There is quite a lineup of performers for the dance.” Bob Merrill and his “GI Jive Swing Cats” – live - will bring back the music of the ’40s – the music the G.I.s heard in the USA canteens. Live entertainment will include Joel Fairman, Deborah Held, Bob Lindsay, Rosemary Miller, Shekinah MacMillan, Bill Sheeline, John Schwartzberg and a special performance by the Chorus of the Long Island Harmonizers.
The East Woods gymnasium will be decorated with WWII posters and pictures of the local veterans, as they were then – people who participated in the OBHS oral history project. Over the past year Mr. Kuehhas has interviewed about two dozen local veterans about their war experiences.
An East Norwich resident called Mr. Kuehhas suggesting he interview a Locust Valley veteran whom she spoke to at the Glen Cove Center for Rehabilitation. She said, “One Sunday afternoon the senior citizen was telling me a wonderful story about his experiences with the Flying Tigers in China. He went on many flights but was miraculously uninjured. His life story, as he told it, was filled with great luck and he appreciated his life which included a successful career and a lovely family. He was a perfect person for Tom to include in his series.”
Mr. Kuehhas said, “Unfortunately, when I tried to contact the gentleman, the Center informed me that the window of opportunity to speak to him had closed, he had taken a downturn. It was as if that one afternoon his memories were sharp and clear but that it was a fleeting moment. That is why it is so critical for us to document the memories of the veterans we still have with us,” he said. “Help us come out to honor our WWII veterans. This may be the last opportunity to do so.”
As American Legion Past Nassau County Commander Reginald Butt said at the close of the Memorial Day parade on May 25, “Our ranks continue to decrease. This year we lost Walter Marksohn, John Adomsky, Dan Bernstein, Jo Bozzello, Tom McGee, Americo Lizza, Anthony Visslailli, William Lucas, Tullio Donisi, and John Hutchinson.”
Mr. Butt will not be able to attend the Canteen Dance since the June 6, 7 weekend is the date of the Nassau County American Legion convention. “We are electing all the officers for the coming year and will be having the Installation Dinner of which I am co-chair,” said Mr. Butt. “But the American Legion Post No. 4 is participating in the Canteen Dance. We are sending a three-man color guard to the dance. Al Plumb is leading the color guard with Harold Havecotte and Nick DeSantis.”
Mr. DeSantis is a member of the Canteen Dance committee along with Millicent Pittis, Stefanie Leone, Fran Leone, Maureen Monck, Yvonne Noonan-Cifarelli, Barrie Curtis Spies, Philip Blocklyn, Tom Kuehhas, Frank Leone, Bea Cook and John LoRusso.
The Oyster Bay Historical Society WWII Canteen Dance takes place from 6 to 11 p.m. at the East Woods School. Tickets are $75 each and include dinner, dancing and first rate entertainment. The dance is timed to honor the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
On Sunday, June 28, at 2 p.m. there will be a Roundtable Discussion at the Oyster Bay Community Center followed by a reception at the opening for the Oyster Bay at War exhibit. Both events will include interviews with Oyster Bay veterans who served during those incredible years. The exhibit will be filled with dramatic and nostalgic photographs of those challenging times.
For more information please call the OBHS at 922-5032.