by Rick Winterson
Sometimes, an event is so enjoyable, and what’s more important, so meaningful, that it’s difficult to know where to begin writing it up. That was certainly with case for the recent tribute paid to the military veterans, who are now residing in Compass on the Bay at 1380 Columbia Road. But, as some famous author must have once said, just “begin at the beginning”. So here goes.
Dianne Paull and Joanne Miller are the two Receptionists at Compass on the Bay. During a conversation they had late last year, they came up with the idea of somehow recognizing and honoring the twelve veterans living at Compass on the Bay. Well, Receptionists (as everyone knows) are on the front lines of communications. When they speak up, all the rest of us had better listen. And so it went.
The Thomas Fitzgerald VFW Post #561 was contacted and played a major part. After several weeks of planning, Compass on the Bay held a combined ceremony, celebration, and collation last Saturday afternoon, January 19, in honor of the 12 veterans, who live at Compass on the Bay. In this group of a dozen people – a dozen heroes, actually – four branches of the military are represented – Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. Two of these veterans are women; the 12 had served at various times, extending from World War II up to the War in Vietnam. These veterans are elderly. Unexpectedly, three of them passed away while this event was being arranged. It is fitting and with a tinge of sadness that we list their names first: Thomas Callahan, Thomas Gaffney, and Harry Hayes. All three were Army veterans. Callahan died in December; Gaffney, in January. Hayes passed on as recently as last Saturday morning.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, the 19th, a festive crowd gathered in the living room at Compass on the Bay. Fellow residents, families, friends, government officials, members of the Fitzgerald VFW Post #561 and the Allied War Veterans Council (the AWVC that is arranging the Parade on March 17), and the Press were all on hand. The ceremony was capably emceed by Mary-Dith Tuitt, who is a member of American Legion #16 in Dorchester and the Memory Support Dining Manager at Compass, and Tom McCarthy, the Commander of South Boston’s Fitzgerald VFW Post #561 on Fourth Street.
The National Anthem was rendered, The Pledge of Allegiance was recited, and the five songs of the military branches were sung. Congressman Stephen Lynch then began the presentations – written citations and flags flown over Washington’s Capitol Building gold dome. City Councilors Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty, both of whom are from South Boston, went next, stressing that the memories of the veterans who “gave” will never be forgotten. David Biele, recently sworn in as our State Representative stated how honored he was to be at the Compass ceremony. Robert Santiago represented the City of Boston and Mayor Walsh with his presentations.
The veterans were overwhelmed with gratitude and joy for the marvelous ceremony and celebration. After the presentations were complete, everyone stayed to talk with them. There was an atmosphere of great good cheer all around. We mentioned the three recently deceased veterans above. Those present included Joseph D’Ambrosia, Gerald Healey, Noel Coletti, and Ottavio Cerullo (all Army veterans); Frank Atchison, Robert Molloy (Navy veterans); Gerald Cohen, Marilyn McGrath (Air Force); and Yolanda Cerullo (Coast Guard). We don’t have the space to profile all the nine veterans – perhaps we’ll do this in future issues – but please note there are two women veterans. Yolanda Cerullo served in the Boston Coast Guard in World War II; Marilyn McGrath was a Nurse in Vietnam. Ottavio Cerullo is Yolanda’s brother. He was in the Invasion of France, and is a two-time Purple Heart recipient. At 95, Frank Atchison is oldest veteran at Compass. He served three years in a submarine off the coast of Japan during World War II. Yes, veterans and heroes all.
The veterans’ celebration closed with an excellent buffet, ranging from gourmet pizza to pigs-in-a-blanket, presented by the Compass on the Bay dining staff.
A veteran-related vignette that we should all read carefully, and think about as well, took place at Saturday’s veteran’s event. Fitzgerald Post Commander Tom McCarthy presented a $2,500 check from the Post members to Colin Smith, who is on active duty with Boston’s Coast Guard detachment. The $2,500 is to be split up within Colin’s detachment, because the Coast Guard is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security has now been shut down for a month. Therefore, those serving in Boston’s Coast Guard have not been paid since December. When South Boston Online asked how he and his mates would use the $2,500, Colin replied, “Baby formula, diapers, baby supplies”. Makes you think, doesn’t it? To repeat ourselves, last Saturday’s event at Compass on the Bay was marvelous.