FLASHBACK...A HISTORIC DAY IN STAMFORD, CT

Wednesday, September 21, 2016


STAMFORD, CT -- In the darkness and pouring rain, city workers lowered a bronze statue of Homer Lee Wise -- the city's only Medal of Honor recipient -- onto its base at Veterans Park on Tuesday night.
James Vlasto, Wise's longtime friend who had been waiting for the moment for years, quickly took off his tweed newsboy cap and put on his garrison cap.
"When they put the statue up, I want to salute it, and I can't salute it without my hat on," Vlasto said.
And so, in a touching moment between friends, that's what he did. Vlasto jumped onto the platform mound, stood near the statue and gave him a salute.
Though placing the statue was a battle, Wise faced much tougher ones during his time in World War II, particularly in the Battle of Magliano in Italy in June 1944. His actions there are what gained him the nation's highest military award.
The U.S. Army's report for what he did that day says, "The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where any escape seemed miraculous demonstrated a courage unfathomable."
Now Wise will stand looking out on Atlantic Street, a short distance from St. John's Church, where he married his wife, Madolyn DiSesa, and across from Old Town Hall, where he worked for 12 years as an Army recruiter.
"They should have done this a long time ago for him," said his niece, Jean Rinaldi. "He was a great guy, down to earth, quiet, a very unassuming man."
Wise left his home in Louisiana and went to Texas at age 14 to find work during the Great Depression. In 1941, he joined the Army and was stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, where he met DiSesa while vacationing on Cape Cod.
Rinaldi said DiSesa, her mother's sister, became engaged to Wise before he went to war. Rinaldi was a baby at the time, and Wise carried her picture in his wallet. When he returned, Rinaldi said their families were close and his son, Jeffrey, was like a brother.
Rinaldi said watching the 6 1/2-foot statue being placed was a great moment -- one that has taken about five years to happen.
"I knew Jim from years ago," she said. "He asked if I wanted to be part of this project and I said `Of course.' If anybody deserved it, my uncle did. And it's taken us this long to get to this day."
Vlasto raised $65,000 for the statue, and the city paid for a concrete base and plaque. The base reads: "Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise, Medal of Honor, June 14, 1944, United States Army."
As his regiment, the 142nd in the 36th Infantry Division, was being pummeled by German troops in June 1944, Wise ran through gunfire to carry a wounded soldier to safety. In an effort to protect his men, Wise single-handedly held off German gunners with a grenade launcher. When the gunners fled, Wise followed, firing at them with a submachine gun.
Other enemy troops began to fire from a distant range, so Wise walked through flying bullets, picking them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged to help and Wise leapt on top and unjammed a machine gun mounted on the turret. He then fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to proceed up a hill.
For acts of bravery in other battles, Wise also received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other medals.
Janice Mauro, the sculptor, said she was asked to make a facsimile of Wise, so she came up with three 10-inch wax figures. The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee chose one of him standing. From there, she went to a 30-inch clay model and then the final version. The statue was cast at the New York Foundry in Brooklyn through the lost wax process.
"So I really didn't work with a model," she said. "What we had were pictures of him from being a young man to an older man."
Vlasto wanted him at a virile age, when he fought in the war, Mauro said. She then found a World War II uniform and had her husband pose with it on. "I felt this was in honor of the action he took, but I found that he was just a guy doing these things," she said.
Mauro turned his head like Michelangelo's David. She said just like David fought Goliath, Wise had to fight and save his platoon. She said Wise -- who was 6 feet tall with dark hair and blue eyes -- was a very good-looking man.
"That's why I loved working on the project. He was so handsome," she said. "He was Hollywood handsome."
Since this is the end of the project, Mauro said she wanted to be there Tuesday to make sure the statue was facing the way she wanted it. "It's exciting that it will be here forever," she said. "It's a big city, and people will see this every day."
When workers arrived in the park with the statue, Vlasto watched them take it off the truck, face-down on a handcart. He said Wise received the Medal of Honor at 27 years old. "And that's exactly how he looked, too," he said.
Vlasto said receiving the Medal of Honor is a distinction because of the 16 million who served during World War II, only 2 million saw combat and just 464 received the medal. Nearly half received it posthumously.
After winning the medal, Vlasto said they wanted to promote Wise to captain, but he said he would rather be a live sergeant than a dead captain. Wise told a military newspaper, "I'm going to Stamford."
Wise returned to Stamford and got married in February 1945.
Vlasto said he met Wise in 1956 at Jackson's, his uncle's bar in the Ridgeway Shopping Center. His aunt introduced them and they became friends.
"The statue captures him perfectly," Vlasto said. "I saw a picture of him and I liked the pose."
Wise didn't like the attention he received and had a hard time adjusting to life after the war, Vlasto said. After two years of civilian life, he went back into the Army and was stationed at the recruiting office in Stamford.
"He worked for 12 years in that building over there -- Old Town Hall," he said.
Wise, who lived in Springdale, took some assignments in Europe and then left the military in 1966. Seven years later, he collapsed and died on a Stamford street.


BY EVE SULLIVAN, December 16, 2012
Printed with permission Stamford CT Advocate

A flash back ... A memorable day in the history of Stamford,Connecticut

Sunday, August 28, 2016


STAMFORD ADVOCATE SEPTEMBER 30, 2012

Angela Carella: City should herald 'a courage unfathomable'

By Angela Carella

One of the most decorated American heroes of World War II was a Stamford man. Homer Lee Wise received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military award, for what he did during the Battle of Magliano in Italy in June 1944. The Army's report of the action that day, now in the National Archives, reads, "The unhesitancy with which Sergeant Wise repeatedly put himself into positions where any escape seemed miraculous demonstrated a courage unfathomable."

The report concluded that the memory of Wise's bravery "will perpetually inspire fighting men."

There's no doubt that Wise's deeds are inspiring, but nearly 70 years later, who remembers?

Stamford, where Wise lived for much of his life, should. But residents so far have barely responded to calls to honor him.

For four years, James Vlasto has worked to raise $65,000 for a statue of Wise for Stamford, but nearly all the money has come from places other than Stamford.

Now there is a 6-foot, 7-inch bronze statue of tall, handsome, blue-eyed Wise in a warehouse in Stamford, but Vlasto's nonprofit group needs $12,000 more for a base, plaque and maybe some installation costs.

"Fundraising has been difficult in Stamford," Vlasto said. "About 85 percent of the money we raised came from elsewhere -- 19 different states, at last count. Most of the contributions have been very small, with a couple of major ones, including one from Las Vegas."

Vlasto said he began with Texas. Wise left his home in Louisiana and went there when he was 14 to find a job during the Great Depression. In 1941 Wise joined the Army. His regiment, the 142nd in the 36th Infantry Division, was formed in Texas.

"People there helped me contact people in other states whose family members served in the regiment," Vlasto said. "There's a great fondness for the regiment in Texas."

Part of the reason is what happened in Italy in the spring of 1944, when the regiment was up against some of Germany's best-trained troops in especially vicious fighting. It would end with the Americans and their allies pushing the Germans out of Italy.

As the 142nd Regiment was being pummeled by German troops in the Battle of Magliano on June 14, 1944, Sgt. Homer Lee Wise ran through gunfire to carry a wounded soldier to safety. In an effort to protect the rest of his men, Wise single-handedly held off German gunners with a grenade launcher. When the gunners fled, Wise followed, firing at them with a submachine gun.

Other German troops began to fire from a more distant range, so Wise, a good shot, walked through flying bullets, picking them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged from the trees to help, but German fire was so intense that the tank had to button up. A machine gun mounted on the turret was known to be jammed, but Wise leapt up on the tank, unjammed it and fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to take their objective, Hill 163.

For acts of bravery in other battles Wise also was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and other medals.

His deeds were so brave that in 1958, when President Eisenhower presided over a ceremony to bury unidentified soldiers in the Tomb of the Unknowns in Washington, D.C., Wise was one of six Medal of Honor recipients chosen as pallbearers.

Three years ago, the World War II Museum in Wise's home state of Louisiana inducted him into its Hall of Fame.

But in Stamford, there is only a patch of grass and a small plaque at Bedford and Chester streets. Wise adopted the city as his hometown after marrying Madolyn DiSesa, of Stamford, whom he met while he was stationed at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts and she was vacationing with her family on Cape Cod. They had one child, Jeff.

"After Homer died, I would go there and sit on the benches," said Vlasto, whose family knew the DiSesa family. "Within a few years the benches were rotting and I would think, `This is not significant enough. We have to do something that recognizes what Homer Wise did for his country. He never looked for recognition when he was alive.' "

Wise was a quiet, unassuming man who held humble jobs and carefully tended the yard of his home on Tree Lane in Springdale. Jeff Wise did not know about his father's Medal of Honor until a teacher told him when he was 12.

Later, to earn money for Jeff's college tuition, Wise worked as a waiter. People sometimes recognized him and refused to be served by him, inviting him to sit with them instead. Wise was embarrassed by it, Vlasto said.

In 1974, when Wise was 57, he collapsed at his job as a mail supervisor at a bank. An artificial artery implanted years earlier to repair a war wound had collapsed. Wise died the next day at Stamford Hospital. His son died in 1990 at age 40, and his wife died in 2002. Wise's niece, Jean Rinaldi, still lives in Stamford.

No one knows what happened to Wise's war medals, Vlasto said.

"We had to replicate everything," Vlasto said.

Some 16 million Americans served in World War II, but only 2 million saw combat, Vlasto said. Of the 2 million, just 464 were awarded the Medal of Honor, and nearly half of them received it posthumously.

Most, like Homer Lee Wise, returned home to live quiet lives as good neighbors and citizens, Vlasto said. To help students and others learn more about the nation's military heroes, he started a website, medalofhonornews.com.

"One thing I hope the Homer Wise project will do is bring more attention to all those who served," Vlasto said.

To make a donation, visit www.sgthomerlwisememorial.org or send a check to the Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, c/o Jean Rinaldi, 21 Fairmont Ave., Stamford CT 06906.

*************************

The statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L.Wise was dedicated in Veterans Park, Stamford CT before a huge crowd on May 26, 2013.  The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc. raised $100,000  during a five year fundraising drive.  

The ceremony included the keynote speech by Paul W. Bucha, of Ridgefield, CT recipient of the Medal of Honor Vietnam 1968 and Morton Dean, a long time resident of Stamford and  former CBS and ABC News anchor and correspondent, who served as master of ceremonies. Attending  were former Mayor Michael Pavia who spoke,  and current Mayor David Martin of Stamford.

Alabama Medal of Honor recipient and patriots remembered fondly

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ola Lee Mize Patriots Park in Gadsden (Bernard Troncale/Alabama NewsCenter)


View More Pictures of Gadsden's Patriots Park Memorial

Editor's note: The City of Birmingham Alabama has recently designed and erected one of the finest memorials to a recipient of the Medal of Honor. We are still hopeful that the City of Stamford, CT will place the statue of  Medal of Honor recipient  Homer L. Wise in a place of honor in the renovated Veterans Park.


Medal of Honor Citation, Ola Lee Mize

Ola Lee Mize
Medal of Honor​
June 10-11,1953
M/Sgt. Mize, a member of Company K, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and outstanding courage above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. Company K was committed to the defense of "Outpost Harry", a strategically valuable position, when the enemy launched a heavy attack. Learning that a comrade on a friendly listening post had been wounded he moved through the intense barrage, accompanied by a medical aid man, and rescued the wounded soldier. On returning to the main position he established an effective defense system and inflicted heavy casualties against attacks from determined enemy assault forces which had penetrated into trenches within the outpost area. During his fearless actions he was blown down by artillery and grenade blasts 3 times but each time he dauntlessly returned to his position, tenaciously fighting and successfully repelling hostile attacks. When enemy onslaughts ceased he took his few men and moved from bunker to bunker, firing through apertures and throwing grenades at the foe, neutralizing their positions. When an enemy soldier stepped out behind a comrade, prepared to fire, M/Sgt. Mize killed him, saving the life of his fellow soldier. After rejoining the platoon, moving from man to man, distributing ammunition, and shouting words of encouragement he observed a friendly machine gun position overrun. He immediately fought his way to the position, killing 10 of the enemy and dispersing the remainder. Fighting back to the command post, and finding several friendly wounded there, he took a position to protect them. Later, securing a radio, he directed friendly artillery fire upon the attacking enemy's routes of approach. At dawn he helped regroup for a counterattack which successfully drove the enemy from the outpost. M/Sgt. Mize's valorous conduct and unflinching courage reflect lasting glory upon himself and uphold the noble traditions of the military service.

Ola Lee Mize Photo Courtesy of Home of Heroes.com 

May is a special month for Medal of Honor News.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


A time to remember those who served to defend our freedom.  Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen.

Too many of our military died on the battlefields.  We should never forget their service.  

Memorial Day 2016 is approaching.  It is the day we honor our great heroes, those who served on Omaha Beach, those who at  fought and died in the freezing cold of Korea  and those who perish in the jungles of Vietnam, in the cities and towns of Iraq and Afghanistan.  

We also take a moment to remember recipients of the Medal of Honor who died in 2015 and 2016.

Hector A. Cafferata, World War II;  Santiago J.Erevia, Vietnam; Tibor Rubin, Korea, George T. Sakato, World War II and Einar H. Ingman, Jr. Korea


The article below originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal​ on May 22, 2015 ​ and Medal of Honor News on May 30, 2015. 


Touch the Names of Those Who Never Came Home


By Jerry Cianciolo

World War II memorials-who notices them anymore They blend into the background like telephone poles.

Chances are your community has a tribute to local men and women who served but it’s
likely you’ve never stopped to visit. Those who fought the Axis powers are out of mind now. “ In three words I can sum up everything  I have learned about life,” said Robert Frost. “It goes on.”
Still, it’s unbefitting that as we pass their chiseled names we fail to acknowledge these patriots for even an instant-especially on Memorial Day 2015, the 70th year after the end of World War II. From high- school history, were all familiar with the vast number. More than 400,000 Americans were killed during the war. Another were maimed or wounded.

They came from nearly every city and town.  And they fell by the tens of thousands at Luzon, Normandy, Anzio, Guadalcanal and Okinawa.“Deeply regret to inform you that your son Sgt.John S-lost his life on March 5th 1943, as a result of aircraft accident. Letter follows. Please accept my profound sympathy.”

Mothers and fathers receiving a telegram like that felt they couldn’t go on-but they did.
The remains of many loved ones were never returned home. Instead they were laid to rest at cemeteries in Manila, Normandy, Luxembourg and elsewhere.

It wasn’t long after V-E and V-J Days in 1945 that thousands of tributes sprang –up in bronze plaques, streaming fountains and granite obelisks. But seven decades have passed since commemorations of these memorials and to most of us now their simply the flag-festooned backdrop for long parades and political speeches in late May and early July.

When the occasion calls for it, we solemnly remove our hats and pay homage to the “ultimate sacrifice” these country-men.  That is a hollow abstraction until put in everyday terms.
Many young combatants who, as the English poet Laurance Binyon wrote, “fell with their faces to the foes” never set foot on campus.  They never straighten a tie and headed to a first real job. They never slipped a ring on a sweetheart’s finger.They never swelled with hope turning the key to a starter home. They never nestled an infant against a bare chest.  They never roughhoused in living room with an exasperated wife looking on. They never tiptoed to layout Santa’s toys.  They  never dabbed a tear while walking their princess down the aisle. They never toasted their son’s promotion. They never rekindled their love as empty nesters.They never heard a new generation cry out, “I love you grand pa.” A lifetime of big and little moments never happened because of a bullet to the body one day in far-off land. For those who crumpled to the ground, the tapestry of life was left unknit. Early on after the war we bowed our heads on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Their loss was raw then. But as years have passed all that’s left are memorials know one notices-rolling credit we ignore as we go about our lives.

But on Memorial Day, we can make a different choice. A moment’s reflection is all it takes to realize that every name on your town’s monument was a real person. One who bicycled the same streets as you, who sleepily delivered the morning Gazette, who was kept after school for cutting up, who sneaked a smoke out back, in the dog days of summer.With just a little imagination, it’s easy to picture yourself as one of those fresh faced-youngsters only you’ve been blessed with a additional 15,000 or 20,000 mornings, afternoons and evenings of life, and a warehouse  of experiences they were denied.

It’s some consolation that a majestic memorial to those who fought the good fight now stands in Washington. But most of us don’t visit the capital often. There’s simpler, more personal way we can show our gratitude to those whose lives were cut short. On Memorial Day with your smart phone turned off-pay a visit to your local monument. Quietly stand before the honor roll of the dead, whisper a word of thanks, and gently rub your finger across their name. The touch would be comforting.

Jerry Cianciolo chief editor at Emerson & Church, Publishers in Medfield, Mass.
Reach him at jerrycianciolo@gmail.com. 
This article originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal on May 22, 2015.

Michael B. Anderson of Billings, Montana, writes in support of a true American Hero Medal of Honor Recipient Homer L. Wise

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Letter to Mayor David Martin of Stamford, CT from Colonel (ret) Pat Simpson of Austin, Texas in support of including the statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise in the renovated Veterans Park Master Plan

Saturday, January 23, 2016

To the Honorable David Martin

Dear Sir,

We, Colonel (Retired) Pat Simpson and Mrs. Woodene Simpson, Austin, Texas, appeal to you concerning the uncertain future of the magnificent statue of Medal of Honor recipient, Master Sergeant Homer L. Wise. We notice on Page 23 of the Veterans Memorial Park, Stamford, Connecticut, Master Plan that the Plan does not include “relocate and reset” for Homer’s statue as it does for the other statues and monuments. To the contrary, the “remove and stockpile HW statue” clearly indicates intent to exclude the bronze statue of Homer Wise from replacement in a newly renovated Veterans Memorial Park. This statue was dedicated in Veterans Park less than three years ago, on May 26, 2013.

The word “stockpile” conjures an impression of “stash” or “trash” and creates great concern for those of us knowledgeable of the deeds, courage, and gallantry under fire of the soldiers who served and sacrificed much for freedom’s sake. Additionally, it brings to question the Visual Artists Rights Act included in Section 106A of Title 17 of the United States Code, Copyright Law of the United States. We do notice mention of the Homer Wise statue in the Parks and Recreation Commission Meeting Minutes of November 18, 2015, and December 16, 2015; but as of now, there is no formal statement in any Master Plan that Homer’s statue will remain in Veterans Park.  

Perhaps you and members of the Veterans Memorial Park Ad-Hoc Committee are not familiar with the Texas 36th Infantry Division and its glorious history, especially during WWII. The Division was the first United States Division to land on the European continent at Italy’s Salerno beach on September 9, 1943—Homer Wise was there! The Division battled through Italy, over treacherous and rocky mountains, in the icy cold of Winter, deep mud, and numerous other tribulations—Homer Wise was there! Troops of the 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, were the first Americans to enter Rome—Homer Wise was there!  Major General Fred L. Walker wrote the following in his book, From Texas to Rome:

While subject to hardships that have never before been exceeded by any troops anywhere, you drove the enemy from well-organized and stoutly-defended positions in the hill masses of Camino and Sammucro, from Maggiore, Mount Rotundo, and San Pietro. You punished him severely. [MG Fred L. Walker to his 36th Division, June 1944]
Further, in his address to his 36th Division soldiers prior to his return to the U.S., General Walker mentioned:

knee-deep and wheel-deep mud, foxhole-engulfing mud; insufficient winter equipment; rain and snow, cold and sleet; howitzer trails that couldn’t be dug in; one round fired and the guns buried themselves; trucks that bogged down in soupy ground; machine gun barrels that froze; shoes that wore out in one day on sharp rocks jutting up through the snow.
After Italy, as part of the Seventh U.S. Army, the Texas 36th Infantry Division then participated in France’s other D-Day—Operation Dragoon, August 15, 1944—Homer Wise was there! Serious battles and skirmishes took place for about two weeks as our forces reduced enemy strength and caused the German Army Group G to retreat. Allied forces chased the enemy north and east to the foothills of the Vosges Mountains by mid-September, where movement slowed dramatically, where troops endured another cold winter through heavily wooded, show-covered mountains—Homer Wise was there!  You know the outcome that most Americans now take for granted—VE Day, May 8, 1945.

Your Honor, I do have to mention that Homer Wise served under my father, at the time Lieutenant Colonel Everett Selden Simpson, Commander of 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division.  On many occasions, my father relied on Homer and trusted his exceptional ability to lead patrols and gather intelligence about the enemy.

Today, most Americans are ignorant of that history—the sacrifices, trials, and tribulations suffered by our U. S. GIs, their families, and the U.S. citizens on the “home-front.”  After seventy years, France and Italy celebrate annually their liberation by American soldiers. We witnessed such ceremony when we visited Remiremont, France, in September 2011.

As a Board member of the 36th Infantry Division National Museum Foundation and as the son of a WWII T-Patcher, my wife, Woodene, and I ask, please make certain that the statue of Homer L. Wise remains in Veterans Memorial Park to remind future generations of the PRICE of FREEDOM! Please do not diminish the significant history of the great wars, particularly WWII—the war that liberated Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany, the war that saved Asian countries from the imperialism of Japan, and the war that kept the United States of America FREE.

We would appreciate knowing that the statue of WWII Hero, Homer L. Wise, is an official part of the Master Plan for renovation of Veterans Memorial Park. And please do not consider this letter a lesson on WWII. The intent is to emphasize the amazing actions and successes of our great American soldiers and heroes.

Pat W. Simpson
Colonel, U.S. Army
Retired

Statue of adopted war hero to keep its home

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media

(As Published in the Stamford Advocate, Jan. 1, 2016)
by Angela Carella

HERE’S THE THING ...

Among the many hundreds of thousands of Americans who have fought in the nation’s wars, only 3,513 have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest U.S. military decoration.

Congress gives it to members of the armed forces for gallantry and bravery in combat, at the risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty.

Cities typically recognize their native Medal of Honor winners with monuments, and name important structures for them. Chicago, for example, named its busy airport after Butch O’Hare, the Navy’s first World War II flying ace.
Michael Cummo / Hearst Connecticut Media


Stamford's record of honoring its war heroes is spotty. A small downtown park is named for John Latham, awarded the Medal of Honor in 1918 for bravery during World War I.

For Homer Lee Wise, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Stamford dedicated a patch of grass behind the Ridgeway Shopping Center. You’d be hard-pressed to call it a park. Motorists speeding along the multilane thoroughfare that is Bedford Street likely never see it, and it’s not a spot where pedestrians linger.

Wise’s deeds during World War II are the stuff of movies. In June 1944 in Italy, his 142nd Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, was getting pummeled by highly trained German troops during the Battle of Magliano. It would end with Americans and the Allies driving the Germans from Italy.

The fighting was vicious. Wise, squad leader of Company L, was under cover when he spotted a wounded man in the line of fire. He ran out and carried the man to safety. When German gunners advanced on his men, Wise singlehandedly held them off with a grenade launcher. The Germans retreated, and Wise followed, firing at them with a submachine gun.

Fire then came from German soldiers a distance away. Wise, a good shot, walked through flying bullets and picked them off with an automatic rifle. An American tank emerged from the trees to help, but the fire was so heavy that the tank had to button up. The machine gun mounted on the tank was damaged, but Wise jumped on the turret, unjammed it and fired 750 rounds, clearing the way for his regiment to take Hill 163, their objective.

For bravery in other battles, Wise also was awarded the Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, the Purple Heart with two Oak Leaf Clusters and 10 additional medals.

But, in Stamford, most people never heard of him.

Jason Rearick / Hearst Connecticut Media
In 2008, a man who knew Wise set out to raise $95,000 to create a statue for him. Most of the money came from outside of Stamford. When it was time to install the statue in Veterans Memorial Park on Atlantic Street, some in the downtown opposed it.

Three years ago, a life-size bronze statue of Wise was installed in Veterans Park. It’s near St. John’s Church, where Wise married Madolyn DiSesa, and across from Old Town Hall, where he worked as an Army recruiter after the war.

However, Veterans Memorial Park is set for a renovation, and a line in the master plan for a new park is causing consternation about the future of the statue.

On pages 23 and 29, the master plan states, “Remove and stockpile HW statue.” Cost: $5,000.

“After everything it took to get the statue installed in Veterans Park, I am not sure what to make of ‘remove and stockpile,’ ” said James Vlasto, who organized the fundraising effort. “I have tried to educate people in Stamford about the Medal of Honor, but it’s been very difficult. The recipients are extraordinary human beings. When I talk to kids, I tell them how President Harry Truman, who was a captain in World War I, said he’d rather have a Medal of Honor than be president of the United States.”

But Rick Redniss, a member of the Veterans Memorial Park Ad Hoc Committee, a group of volunteers working on the redesign, said Wise’s statue will be included. It will not be “removed and stockpiled,” Redniss said.

“That is an unfortunate choice of words that appeared in the report,” said Redniss, a land-use consultant. It happened when Beta Group, the engineering firm hired to design the $8 million renovation, was asked to itemize costs, Redniss said.

“One item was to remove and stockpile the Wise statue, but that has to do with storing it during construction, not moth-balling it,” Redniss said. “I have never heard
— and I have chaired this committee for years — that the statue will not be in Veterans Park.”

Chris Munger, a member of the Stamford Veterans Council who also sits on the park committee, said the Wise statue will stay.

“Homer Wise, having the highest decoration, represents all medal winners from Stamford,” Munger said. “The mayor has said that what’s in the park now stays in the park. That includes the ‘doughboy’ statue representing World War I veterans, and the Lincoln statue. Lincoln was a veteran of the Indian wars and, as leader during the Civil War, is the epitome of a wartime president. When he was assassinated, he became a victim of that war.”

Two city employees on the park committee, Associate Planner Erin McKenna of the Land Use Bureau, and Parks and Facilities Manager Kevin Murray, also said the Wise statue will stay.

Redniss, who was part of the group that worked to create the Wise statue, acknowledged the effort has been challenged.

“I became concerned with how that process played out. There seemed to be not-universal positive feelings about that endeavor,” Redniss said.

When he was asked to help with the park renovation committee, he said, “I said I would be glad to, but it will have to be a broad-based group of people, so we don’t have a situation where people are at odds with each other. We have spent years building a coalition with many veterans represented.”

Vlasto said one reason for the opposition to honoring Wise was that he was not a Stamford native. Wise grew up in Louisiana, left home at 14 during the Great Depression to look for work, joined the Army and met a Stamford girl while at boot camp. Wise spent the rest of his days living with DiSesa and their son in Spring-dale. He died in 1974 of a complication from an old war wound. He was 57.

“He was not born a Stamford guy, but he certainly became one,” Vlasto said. “He returned to Louisiana only twice — once for a big parade they threw for him after he got the Medal of Honor.”

Stamford did not laud Wise, but “he loved Stamford,” Vlasto said. “He always said it was home.”

angela.carella@scni.com; 203-964-2296; stamford advocate.com/angelacarella


“He was not born a Stamford guy, but he certainly became one.”
James Vlasto


Editor's Note

The Homer L Wise Memorial Committee is waiting for the sponsors to include in the revised Master Plan language affirming that the Statue of Medal of Honor recipient Homer L. Wise will be in the renovated Veterans Park in Stamford CT where it now stands tall.

 
Copyright 2011 The Homer L. Wise Memorial Committee, Inc.