Tag Archives: Nick Rossi

Nick Rossi’s Memorial Day Speech: Grandson Honors Grandfather

There is more than a parade to Westport’s Memorial Day celebration.

Every year after the last firefighter, float and Brownie has passed Town Hall, a simple ceremony takes place across the way at Veteran’s Green.

The first selectman honors Westport veterans who died the previous year. There’s a police honor guard and wreath-laying. “Taps” is played.

The grand marshal speaks too. This year, 98-year-old World War II veteran Nick Rossi asked his grandson — also named Nick Rossi — to deliver those remarks.

It was an inspired choice. Nick Jr. — who graduated from Staples High School in 2020, and just completed his freshman year at Boston College — awed the crowd with insightful, inspiring words. Speaking powerfully and from the heart, he said:

Good morning, Westport!

My name is Nick Rossi, and I am the grandson of the grand marshal. It is my honor and privilege to share the stage today with my grandfather, Nicholas Rossi, as we celebrate him and all the veterans we remember today, on this very special Memorial Day holiday.

As most of you know, traditionally the grand marshal is called upon to share some remarks at this ceremony. My grandfather asked me to help him do so this morning, as it is a challenge for him (at almost 99 years of age) to manage this kind of public speaking engagement. So, with Mr. Vornkahl’s blessing, I’d like to share with you a few things I know about Nick Rossi, Senior.

Nick Rossi delivers remarks as his grandfather — the grand marshal — looks on. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Nicholas Rossi was born in Oyster Bay, New York in September of 1922.
Soon after graduation from high school, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II and served from December, 1942 through March, 1945. When he enlisted, he was 19 years old ~ the same age that I am right now. It is unimaginable to me what it must have felt like to go off to war as a young man who had barely begun to live his life. It was a selfless sacrifice, not even a choice at that point in time, but an expectation that that generation of young men would enlist and serve our country.

While his parents, who were immigrants from Italy, were filled with anxiety and reluctance, they let him go. Initially drafted into the Infantry, he found his way to the Air Corps. Thinking this was a “safer,” perhaps more elite assignment, he soon learned that there was nothing safe about fighting the war from the skies.
His flight crew was part of the 305th Bombardment Group of the 364th Squadron, assigned to the 8th Air Force Bomber Command in England which flew the B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber in the European Theater. A technical sergeant, he flew multiple bombing missions over Nazi-occupied central Europe. He sat behind the pilot and co-pilot, handling fuel and mechanical issues, and trouble-shooting any technical problems. He became an expert on the B-17 aircraft.

Technical sergeant Nicholas Rossi.

As my grandfather has gotten older, his memory at times fails him. Yet he can still  recount for us in amazing detail what it was like to be part of those terrifying missions, to be shot at relentlessly by the Germans, to watch his comrades fall from the sky under firestorm attack, and then to return from a mission to find that the airman who slept in the bunk above him never returned.

He talks about the attitude that eventually overtook these men — they were resigned to believe that there was a good probability that they, too, would eventually not make it back from the next mission…but they still climbed into their planes for the next flight, ready to go to battle to defend our country.

These recollections are unfathomable to me, and to this day remain disturbing to him. He reminds us how awful war is, and what the price for peace really costs in terms of soldiers’ lives lost. It is on a day like today when we remember, with enormous gratitude, what these men (and women), and all the fallen veterans of war, did to guarantee our freedom, liberty, and democracy. 

How do we even begin to thank them for their sacrifices? 

Nicholas Rossi was discharged from the Army in March, 1945 but remained in Liege, Belgium after the war for several more years. As a civilian, he was employed by the government to work with the American Graves Registration Command for the purpose of locating and identifying unrecovered dead military personnel. “It was not a nice job,” but for my grandfather, it was important work to do, to stay behind and help account for the lost soldiers, as it provided closure for their families, many of whom eventually traveled to Europe to reclaim their sons, husbands, and brothers. Perhaps it provided some closure for him, too, after living through the horrors of World War II. 

When we think about why Memorial Day was established in the first place back in the late 1800s, for the purpose of decorating the graves of the soldiers who died in defense of our country, it seems there is some kind of connection when I think of my grandfather working over the graves of his comrades – it was an emotionally devastating job, but it was his way of honoring them, of giving them dignity and respect, as these servicemen were the true heroes. We remember and honor them today. 

Grand marshal Nick Rossi (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

Upon returning to the States in 1949, my grandfather attended Hofstra University on the GI Bill, earned a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering, and embarked on a career in the furniture industry which he pursued with great success for the next forty-plus years. He met his wife Elizabeth on Long Island during the early years of his professional career and married in 1956, raising five children in the house that he built in Mill Neck, New York. He remained very involved in his community on Long Island, as a member of the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, the Oyster Bay Italian-American Citizens Club, and the Brookville Country Club.

After my grandmother passed in 2018, my grandfather relocated to Westport to live with our family. While he still considers Oyster Bay his first home, he has truly enjoyed becoming a part of the Westport community. I have been lucky enough to spend more time with him, especially since the beginning of the pandemic, and I believe it’s nothing short of special that three generations of the Rossi lineage are under one roof. After many hours spent working out in the yard gardening or reading the newspapers together, I have picked up on some colorful Italian sayings — and insults — that I’ve brought back with me to campus, as my friends can attest. 

Now in his 99th year, he is delighted to be this year’s grand marshal of the Westport Memorial Day parade, and on his behalf — I would like to extend his genuine gratitude to everyone in this town who has welcomed him, embraced him, and now today — honors him.

The Rossi family stands proudly at today’s Memorial Day ceremony. (Photo/Dan Woog)

In closing, I will echo a prayer that we say in our church, something called the “Prayer of the Faithful”: “For all the men and women who served in the armed forces, for those who put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf, let us pray to the Lord.”

On behalf of this year’s grand marshal, my grandfather ~ Nicholas Rossi ~ Thank you for this honor! And thank you to all the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Grand marshal/grandfather Nick Rossi, and his grandson and namesake. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Roundup: Art Show, Beechwood, Private Benjamin …

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Here’s news to put a spring in your step:

Staples High School’s Jazz Combo earned 1st place at the 2021 National Jazz Festival this weekend. They competed in Small Ensemble Division 1 Live Performance.

Leading the quintet were seniors Lucas Lieberman (piano) and Abe Rubin (bass). The other members are sophomores: Noah Jahnel (tenor saxophone), Delaney McGee (trumpet), and Witt Lindau (drums).

Lucas was named the Superior Musician for the division, while Delaney and Witt were selected as 2 of the 3 Outstanding Musicians.

The Staples High School Jazz Ensemble participated in the Large Ensemble Division 1 Live Performance competition. Though they did not place, the adjudicators called the ensemble a “swingin’ band” and “one of the better bands that we’ve heard, in a tough division.” Congratulations to director Phil Giampietro, and all the musicians!

Click here to hear the Jazz Combo. Click here for the Jazz Ensemble.

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Westport’s back-to-normal journey continued yesterday, with a pair of just-like-old-times events.

The Westport Woman’s Club held its annual-except-for-last-year art show. Paintings, photos, ceramics — all by local artists — were admired (and bought) by a large, joyful bunch of happy-to-be-back art lovers.

Miggs Burroughs and Nina Bentley were among the artists exhibiting at yesterday’s Westport Woman’s Club show.

And  Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito opened Beechwood — their Weston Road home, where they host regular arts salons (and more) — to the public, for the first time in a year.

The grounds were spectacular. Especially the centerpiece: an ancient copper beech tree, which gives the property and the arts series its name.

The Beechwood copper birch tree. (Photo/June Rose Whittaker)

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COVID stopped many things this year — but not the National Charity League.

Yesterday, Staples High School’s chapter of the mother/daughter community service organization honored 5 pairs — each of whom did more than 30 hours annually — with a “car caravan.”

It ended with a ceremonial “tea” at Ned Dimes Marina, for all 16 seniors.

National Charity League seniors, at Ned Dimes Marina. Back row (from left): Lauren Spheeris, Milei Wyatt, Grace Maloney, Tatiana Bicalho, Daphne Baker, Hannah Murphy, Kaytlyn Carnahan, Callie Rourke, Kyla Race. Front row: Maya Sampath, Abby Ragland, Isabelle Gerard, Hayley Buckman, Elana Lundbye, Sarah Corneck, Chloe Chaple..

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Just added to the Remarkable Theater’s schedule: “Private Benjamin.” It’s this Thursday (May 27, 8 p.m.). The parking lot opens at 7 p.m., for tailgating.

Click here for tickets, and more shows.

“Private Benjamin”

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Boston College’s “Spoon River Revival” has won the Outstanding Creative Ensemble Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

Four cast members — including Staples High School Class of 2020 graduate Nick Rossi — were chosen to participate in the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition. The award provides recognition, honor and financial assistance to outstanding student performers for the further pursuit of education. Click here for the full story.

Emily (Sophie Rossman) and George (Nick Rossi) at the soda shop, in Staples Players’ production of “Our Town.” (Photo/Kerry Long)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from downtown, via Frank Rosen:

(Photo/Frank Rosen)

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And finally … on this day in 1624, Peter Minuit bought Manhattan for the Dutch, from the Lenape Native Americans.

It is commonly believed the price was $24 worth of trinkets. It was actually “60 guilders worth of trade” — approximately $1,143 in 2020 dollars.

So today’s featured artist and song are no-brainers:

 

 

 

Bill Vornkahl’s Memorial Day: The Sequel

This might have been a lonely Memorial Day for Bill Vornkahl.

As “06880” reported this morning, the 90-year-old Korean War veteran recently lost his wife of 65 years.

And this year — for the first time in the 50 years he has organized Westport’s annual parade and tribute to fallen service members — the entire event was canceled, due to COVID.

But his family arranged a socially distanced cookout in the driveway of his Cross Highway home.

And in mid-morning — just like every year at Town Hall — Vornkahl heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Taps.”

Nick Rossi sings the national anthem.

The national anthem was sung stirringly by Nick Rossi. The 2019 Staples High School graduate — now a student at Boston College — is a veteran of Veteran’s Green. He played and sang at last year’s ceremony.

The mournful brass notes were sounded by Sam Atlas. The 2018 Staples grad is a trumpet major at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where she plays in the orchestra, wind ensemble and chamber groups.

Sam Atlas plays “Taps.”

It was a fitting tribute for the man who is Westport’s “Mr. Memorial Day.” And he responded as any soldier would:

(Photos/Janine Scotti)

We Remember: Memorial Day 2019, Part 2

The sun is still shining. The grills are still smoking. The holiday spirit lingers in Westport — especially after months of rain and cool weather.

As always, Memorial Day was a time of mixed emotions: a celebration of the country our military has always protected so well, and honors for those who gave their lives so we could have this celebration.

Here’s one more look at Memorial Day in Westport.

The Bedford and Coleytown Middle School bands combined this year. Hundreds of young musicians sounded great — and very together! (Photo/Sarah Tamm)

Bill Vornkahl directed the parade — as he has for the past 48 years. It’s not a Westport Memorial Day without him. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)

The reviewing stand. Grand Marshal Nick Zeoli is at far right. (Photo/Dan Woog)

World War II veteran and Grand Marshal Nick Zeoli — 96 years young — delivers the Memorial Day address. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)

Today’s theme was “Thank a Veteran.” These vets posed proudly … (Photo/Dan Woog)

… as did these 2 Navy veterans: from France (left) and the US. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Memorial Day fashion. (Photo/Carmine Picarello)

Staples High School senior Nick Rossi sings “America the Beautiful.” At the end of the ceremony, he played a mournful “Taps” on his trumpet. (Photo/Dan Woog)