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.
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.
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.
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.