“Private Benjamin”: Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal

In January, “06880” profiled Ben Pepper.

The longtime (since 1958!) Westporter had kept a low profile. Hardly anyone here knew that he was a World War II paratrooper — let alone that he earned a Purple Heart at the Battle of the Bulge.

He’d never even participated in a Memorial Day parade.

This year, he will.

And he’ll have a special seat of honor. “Private Benjamin” is Westport’s 2023 Memorial Day parade grand marshal.

Ben Pepper: in the Army.

Pepper was born in the Bronx in 1923. He was drafted into the Army on New Year’s Day 1943, and trained as a paratrooper. He would have participated in D-Day, but a broken back suffered in an earlier jump put him in a near-full body cast.

He participated in the Battle of the Bulge though, in that frigid winter of 1945.

Ben Pepper’s Purple Heart, dog tag and other mementoes. (Photo/Dan Woog)

After discharge, he answered an ad to be a photographer. In 1953 he opened his own studio in Stamford. In 1958 he bought property in Westport. Nearly 70 years later, he  lives in the same house off Cross Highway.

In 1960 Pepper and his wife Frances helped build Temple Israel on Coleytown Road. They spent the rest of their married life raising David (a Staples Class of 1966 graduate), traveling (including China before it opened to the West, the USSR, Africa and Asia), and working.

He still has his medals, his dog tag, his photos — and his Army jacket — but he has always been low-key about them.

Ben Pepper (Photo/Dan Woog)

This Memorial Day, Westport honors one of our last living World War II heroes.

The parade — with Ben Pepper as special honoree — begins at 9 a.m. on Monday, May 29. A special ceremony follows immediately, at Veterans Green across from Town Hall.

8 responses to ““Private Benjamin”: Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal


    Bonjour et honneur à Ben PEPPER,

    Sans sa blessure, il aurait été sans aucun doute l’un des artisans de la libération de la Normandie et, peut-être de Marigny en 1944 !
    Nous conservons son adresse et nous espérons pouvoir créer un lien avec lui et sa famille dans le cadre des commémorations de la Libération de la Normandie, de la France et de l’Europe.
    Bien cordialement,

    • If google translation is accurate this is what the French message means, but I would love to know more.

      Hello and honor to Ben PEPPER,

      Without his injury, he would undoubtedly have been one of the architects of the liberation of Normandy and, perhaps of Marigny in 1944!
      We keep his address and we hope to be able to create a link with him and his family as part of the commemorations of the Liberation of Normandy, France and Europe.
      Best regards

  2. This is great news! Looking forward to it.

  3. I suppose if he had stayed in the Army a while longer Private Benjamin certainly would have soon become Sargent Pepper!! In any event, kudos and best wishes to our hometown hero!!

  4. Thank you for your service to our country Private Pepper. We appreciate you.

  5. Beautiful story. Beautiful man.

  6. So happy to see that Ben will be Grand Marshal! he deserves the honor and all of Westport will be able to show their appreciation for his dedication, patriotism and service.

  7. Priscilla A Long

    So excited that Westporters will honor Ben Pepper on Memorial Day this year! What a lovely man – quiet, reserved, kind and quite obviously brave. I can’t think of a better Grand Marshall!!! He certainly deserves this honor – and then some!

Leave a Reply