“This is our way of remembering and honoring our war veterans,” Laura Charnley Panicucci said Saturday morning.
For the 20th time in as many years, the Graniteville WWII Veterans Foundation held its annual VJ Day Celebration – while observing the state’s strict social distancing guidelines – under a canopy covering which was set up in the monument memorial park located at the corner of Putnam Pike and Mathewson Street and next to the Johnston Fire Station.
Relatives of those Graniteville natives, their families and Air Force veterans like John Serapiglia and Don Brown were among those people who gathered. The brief, yet highly important ceremony once again paid tribute to the 11 men who were killed in action and 174 deceased veterans whose names, as emcee Anthony “Tony” Carlino noted, “are carved in granite on these beautiful monuments.”
Saturday morning’s program was also dedicated to Sylvia Briggs Forrest, who Panicucci called “a very special lady who passed away in January” and worked at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station. She was married to World War II veteran Fred Forrest, raised three daughters, wrote and published a story about the immigration of her mother’s family from England, entitled “Yorkshire Moors to Narragansett Bay.”
As Panicucci read her moving tribute to the late Briggs-Forrest, she emphasized: “Sylvia’s love for her family, her hometown of Graniteville and the boys and girls she grew up with that led to the book, monuments and events like today’s ceremony.”
Panicucci, who serves as chairperson for the all-volunteer Graniteville WWII Veterans Foundation, went on: “I think it is safe to say that if it wasn’t for Sylvia, there wouldn’t be a book – Graniteville Went to War – these monuments or annual events like today’s special memorial ceremony.”
The 20th annual ceremony also paid tribute to Herbert Searle, who passed away last October and grew up on Pine Hill. He enlisted in the Navy in November of 1942 and was sent to the Great Lakes Training Center on Lake Michigan and after taking advanced classed in mechanics, he was assigned to the USS Gatling. He served in the Navy for 3½ years and received numerous medals for operations and battles in the Pacific.
Saturday’s ceremony was also highlighted by the placement of a wreath and flowers by Karen Casale and Jeffrey Casale, a memorial prayer by the Rev. David Butera, a reading of the names of those killed in action by Karen Castle and each and every name of the Graniteville veterans by Marie Carlino-Butera, Anthony Carlino and David Butera.
The Graniteville WWII Veterans Foundation, which is administered by a Board of Trustees that includes Panicucci, Karen Lee Casale, Marie Carlino and Donald Catley, issued a heartfelt “thank you” to those people who attended Saturday’s ceremony that read: “Forever grateful for remembering our war veterans from Graniteville.”
Tony Carlino closed the program with a passage that read: “There has been a lot of talk lately about monuments and what they mean to our country. I’d just like to say that when you put up a monument to someone, or to something, you are honoring that someone … you are honoring them for who they were, for what they did and what they stood for. Here, carved in granite, are the names of those who served and of those who perished, serving our country in World War II and Korea. Their names are here for us to remember their service and sacrifice for our country.”
Those who were killed in action were Ralph “June” Bridges, John K. Burrows, Walter Charbonneau, Alfred A. Chartier, Raymond Drager, George Harrington Jr., William Hickey, Raymond J. Herther Jr., James Paterson, Joseph Roy Searle and William Thorpe Jr.
Graniteville’s veterans list includes Louis Allien and those deceased Freddie Atkinson, Gordon Atkinson, Wilfred Atkinson, William Aurecchia, Harry Balme, William Barry, Frederick Bennett, Robert Bennett, Robert Bennett, Doris Berry, Russell Blanding, Russell Brown, Fred Brown, David Burrows, John Cafferty, William Cafferty, Angelo Carlino, James Carroll, Dorothy Cately, Gil Charnley, Raymond Charnley, Anthony Cini, John Cini, Alfred Clapham, Joseph Cobb, Rocco T. Colarusso, Edward Conaty, and James Countie, Francis Cox, Omar P. Cyr, Ernest Dahlin, Joseph Danty, Bertrand Demers, Frank DiBenedetto, Lawrence DiBenedetto, Michael DiBenedetto, William Elvin, Pasquale, Thomas Fetta, Thomas Fetta, Fred Finley, J. Walter Fortin, Leslie Foster, Walter Foster, Charles Fowler, Richard Fowler, Robert Fowler, Fred Forrest, Harold Gagnon, Fred Gaunt, Bertram Goff, Joseph Goff, Harry Graham, Philip Gravel, Jack Green, Luke Green, William Green, Henry Hampson, Ray Hampson, David Hargraves, George Harrington, Thomas Harring, Alex Harrington, Donald Hassett, Richard Hassett Jr., Clifford Healy, Arnold Hellewell, Sidney Hellewell and Samuel Hesketh, John G. Hickey, Joseph Hickey, Gordon Hill, Thomas Hopper, Herman Illingworth, Gilbert Isles, Theodore Ives, Robert E. Izzo, Kenneth Jackson, William EA. Jackson, Arland James, Joseph Johnston, James Kemp, Edward Keopka, Herman Kreusche, George Lacerte, Milton LeBlanc, William LeBlanc Jr., Leslie Leech, George Leigh, Herman Leonard, Henry Leoncavallo, Henry Libby, Russell Lizottte, George Lofgren, Donald MacLean, Douglas MacLean, Frank Mitchell, James Mitchell, Howard Moorehead, Joseph A. Morra, Nicholas Morra, Bertrum Mountford, Donald Mountford, Gordon Mountford, Martin Murphy, Graham Naylor, Arthur Nelson, Anthony Neri, Michael Neri, Peter Neri, Harold Nicholson, William Northup Jr., Andrew Oates, Charles Page, Frances, Page, Joe Page, Claude Paterson, Dan Paterson, John Paterson, Walter Pearson, Bamby Pezzullo, Roland Picard, William Pickett, Armand Pincins, Larry Priestly, Donald J. Proctor, Alexander Rankin, Bill Reynolds, John Rhodes, Tom Rhodes Jr., Anthony Ricci, Benny Ricci, Donald Robinson, Eric Robinson, George Robinson, Harry Robinson, Thomas Robinson, Alfred Rossi, Frank Rotondo, Harry Rotondo, Robert Scott, William Scungio, Herbert Searle, Norman Searle, Ray Searle, Ernest Shackleton, Charles Shaw, Larry Sheers, Enock Siva, John Silva, Edward Simpson, Mildred Snell, Otis Snell, William E. Snell, Harry Stockwell, George Sutcliffe, Albert Thornton, James Tracy, Louis Turgeon, Anthony Vacca, Charles M. Vacca, Joseph Villari, Shirley Waterhouse, Franklin Williams, George Williams, Robert Youhess and Auggie Zuccaro.