Home NS Sentinel N/S Sentinel News South Brunswick American Legion members honored for 50 years of service

South Brunswick American Legion members honored for 50 years of service

By JENNIFER AMATO
STAFF WRITER

SOUTH BRUNSWICK – After serving for years in the United States military, two longtime South Brunswick residents decided to serve with the American Legion.

Fred Henry “Hank” S. DeGroff and Joseph A. Duca were honored during a special ceremony on Memorial Day, May 29, with awards for their 50 years of continuous membership with the Lt. John Farnkopf American Legion Post 401 in the Monmouth Junction section of South Brunswick.

“This means everything. It’s a good thing for veterans as we do a lot of good things for the community,” said DeGroff, 86, who served in the U.S. Navy from 1949-53.

Over the years, DeGroff has served as a post commander, treasurer and chaplain; he had been the finance officer for more than 40 years; he helped with grounds maintenance; and he even acted as bartender. He was also very involved in American Legion baseball.

“There are a lot of good years in there,” he said.

Duca served in the U.S. Army from 1964-67. He said a few weeks after returning home, he joined the Legion as a member and service officer.

He said he and DeGroff helped build the post, which was moved to the current property on Major Road after it was donated by Farnkopf’s mother.

“It’s nice to be recognized. I didn’t realize it was that long that I belonged to the post,” Duca said of also receiving an award from the South Brunswick School District for his military service, community policing, environmental activities and educational guidance.

The former police sergeant said the post is all about camaraderie, and helping others through bingo nights, sponsoring Boys State and Girls State and holding paper recycling drives.

“We work for the community,” he said.

During the ceremony, post Commander Gary Cooper made special mention of the late Mayor Frank Gambatese, a 10-year member of the post who passed away earlier this year.

“The feeling of being up here without Frank is kind of unusual,” he said. “I went to his funeral and thought how Memorial Day was going to be different for me this year.”

In honor of Gambatese and his wife, the late Ellen Gambatese, Cooper made note of their two passions: veterans and the library.

“As veterans, the library preserves our legacy … and is a repository of our knowledge, keeping in tact our nation’s best and worst moments,” he said.

He showed the dozens of residents in attendance items he found in a trunk as a teenager, such as a souvenir from Germany, military patches and a small book in which his father chronicled his experiences during the Holocaust.

He rhetorically asked if future generations will remember events such as the Holocaust, the death march and Normandy.

He said it is important to not let budget cuts affect libraries.

“This is not about anything other than those people who made the ultimate sacrifice,” Mayor Chris Killmurray said. “We can’t do it without you.”

Emil Philibosian, a lifetime member of the post, spoke of leaving Romania when the Russians came in around 1948 and sailing into New York Harbor. Now a United States citizen, he gave credit to the promises of the American dream. Returning home safely from the Vietnam War, he asked all to remember the 1 million people who have died for their country.

“Remember their sacrifice and keep them in your hearts,” he said.

During the ceremony, the Rev. John Maltby and Rabbi Mendy Carlebach offered prayers, Virginia Kraft sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America” and Boy Scouts from Troop 10 helped with refreshments.

The ceremony was dedicated in memoriam to George Barringer, David Breen, Frank Gambatese, Charles Lombardi, Henry Maher, Theodore McClure, Irving Verosloff and Commander Richard Charzewski.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com.

 

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