Tag Archives: Bruce Allen

Bruce Allen: A Reluctant Grand Marshal

The stereotype of World War II veterans is that they don’t like to talk about their service. They did what they had to. They came home. They got on with their lives.

Tomorrow’s Westport Memorial Day grand marshal fits that stereotype perfectly.

Bruce Allen  was a combat infantryman, serving as a gunner in the 78th Division. His decorations include a Purple Heart (for wounds at the Remagen River Bridge in 1945), Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre.

Bruce downplays it all. After the war, he says, “I wanted to be away from all that. I never look back. Always forward.” He’s been to just one high school reunion, and did not join any veterans group.

Bruce Allen (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com)

Bruce Allen (Photo/Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com)

After his service, he majored in theater and English at Wesleyan University. He worked in TV production at NBC and ABC (and freelanced at CBS), and became a producer/director at J. Walter Thompson and Grey Advertising. He was also a vice president and production supervisor at Grey.

Bruce and his wife Marjorie moved to Westport in 1957. His brother and sister-in-law (who was also Marjorie’s sister) already lived here. Bruce and his wife loved the water.

While scoutmaster of Troop 39, 13 boys became Eagle Scouts. He was director of community services for the Y’s Men, and has been active in Greens Farms Congregational Church as moderator, chairman of deacons and a church school teacher. Bruce also spent 46 years as an auxiliary and special police officer.

He says he is embarrassed to be named grand marshal. Speaking for many others of his generation, he says: “We did what we did. Then we went on with our lives.”

Tomorrow morning, Bruce Allen will lead Westport’s parade reluctantly. He’s been in it before — but only as an Indian Guide, police officer and Y’s Men member.

In recent years, he and Marjorie have brought chairs, and sat near Town Hall. He never imagined he’d be the one that so many paradegoers cheer on, and wave to.

“It’s a great day to honor all those who sacrificed for our country,” he says simply. “It’s a nice day for the town.”

(The Memorial Day parade begins Monday, May 25 at 9 a.m., at Saugatuck Elementary School. It travels up Riverside Avenue, across the Post Road bridge, then turns left on Myrtle Avenue before ending at Town Hall. Memorial services — definitely worth watching — follow immediately on Veterans Green, opposite Town Hall.)

Staples Honors Memorial Day

The Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce celebrated Memorial Day weekend with an ad from a lawyer soliciting business for DWI arrests.

Staples High School did it right.

“Good Morning Staples” — the student-produced TV show that airs in classrooms and hallways around the school — departed from its usual fare of artsy announcements and offbeat interviews on Thursday.  The entire 14 minutes was devoted to 2 combat veterans:  Rich Franzis and Bruce Allen.

Franzis — a popular assistant principal, and a reservist — returned last year from a tour of duty in Iraq.

Allen — a longtime Westport resident and special policemen — served decades ago, in World War II.

Prompted by English instructor Dan Geraghty — who served active duty with the 10th Mountain Division, then was an infantry officer with the National Guard — the 2 men talked quietly and honestly about many things:  going over, and coming home.  Honoring dead comrades and friends.  What Memorial Day means today.

Franzis’s and Allen’s experiences were vastly different — and compellingly similar.  They did not glamorize war — in fact, Allen called all wars futile.

They did something even more important:  They made every Staples student think about what this weekend signifies.

Let’s hope they’re not the only ones.

(Click here to see the “Good Morning Staples” Memorial Day tribute — it may take a while to load.  If that doesn’t work, click here first, then on the flag.)

A Different Memorial Day Message

As Westport prepares to honor its war heroes, the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce has something else on its mind:

Don’t drink and drive.

But if you do — and you get caught — here’s a number to call.

The Chamber sends out more emails than Nigerian oil ministers’ widows.  Most hype upcoming events.   Some spotlight members — the restaurants, small businesses and solo practitioners that make up Chambers of Commerce like ours.

This afternoon’s message was blunter.  Something about it — okay, almost everything — rubbed me the wrong way.

The big, bold headline read:

Please be smart and safe this holiday weekend while celebrating the unofficial start of summer.

Then it cut to the chase:

Should you find yourself in trouble, whether it be for suspicion of driving while under the influence, underage drinking parties, drug charges or any other offense, you have the absolute right to contact an attorney.  DO NOT waive this right!

Next came advice:

If you have been arrested for DWI and are asked to submit to a breath test, you should always take the tests, unless you have been in an accident or unless you have any previous DWI convictions.

That was followed by info about Attorney John P. Thygerson:  his phone number.  The helpful reminder “24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

And this seal-the-deal sweetener:

A courtesy discount will be given to Chamber members and their families.

Finally:

Attorney Thygerson has spent the last fifteen years representing thousands of juveniles and adults charged with the commission of criminal offenses.  You pay an attorney not only for what they know, but also for who they know, such as the judges and the prosecutors, and to navigate through the criminal justice system towards a successful resolution.

Maybe I’m in a contemplative mood because, this morning, every Staples student and staff member viewed an insightful, thought-provoking video about the wartime experiences of assistant principal Rich Franzis (Iraq) and long-time Westport Bruce Allen (World War II).

An hour later, “06880” reader Tom Allen emailed me his own Memorial Day reflections.  He mentioned Staples ’66 classmate Tim Barmer (killed in action at Khe Sanh), and his friend’s father, George Hopkins (a World War II POW).

Tom also included the 1990 obituary of Sigfried Schreiner, who survived the Battle of Bataan and the infamous Bataan Death March to become chairman of the industrial arts department at Staples (and later owned a group travel business for educators and students).

Thinking of all those men, then reading that crass Chamber email, I couldn’t help wonder why it couldn’t have said:

Attorney John P. Thygerson joins the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce in wishing everyone a safe Memorial Day weekend, as we honor the memories of the many Westporters and Westonites who for generations have so honorably served their country, and us.