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Cleaning the bronze plaques on the Kiwanis monument at Adams Street and Thomas Avenue with a wire brush was too much like old times for Navy veteran Neil Scarpelli. It reminded him of scraping the metalwork on the supply ship he served on during World War II. "Too laborious," the spry 85-year-old confessed.
So he switched to a method he'd learned from a body-and-fender man. He sprayed the tarnished green bronze with muriatic acid and other solvents. Removing the years of oxidation revealed the saintly figure of a woman in bronze consoling a man. It also made the words on the Kiwanis plaque legible. "In Memory of Those Who Have Sacrificed All in the World War."
The inscription no doubt refers to World War I, as Neil uncovered an insignia indicating that the plaques were cast in 1924. As a member of the VFW and American Legion, Neil is grateful to the World War I veterans. They were the ones who started the Forest Park post in 1921. They also paid off their headquarters at 500 Circle Avenue and left some money in the treasury.
Neil has been a member of the post for 39 years and serves as finance officer and secretary. When he heard that the Kiwanis Club wanted to restore the monument for a ceremony on Veterans Day, Neil did what he always does - he volunteered.
After all, he was only 17 when he enlisted in the Navy. "Join the Navy Ð See the World" was the slogan and Neil saw a lot of it at a young age. He also saw his share of combat. For six months, his ship helped keep GIs supplied on the beaches of Anzio, as they were mercilessly pounded by the Germans. He also took part in the invasion of southern France and saw action in the Pacific Theater.
Neil has no complaints about his service as a seaman. He slept and ate well and was only seasick once. Transitioning back to civilian life was tough, though, until he found a job as a flooring salesman. Joining the VFW was another lifesaver for the Forest Parker. He wishes more veterans, especially younger ones, would join the post.
The VFW is paying for Neil's cleaning supplies and Neil is donating his labor as part of his community service. Kiwanis President Jerry Lordan is grateful for Neil's help and thrilled with the results. Thanks to Neil's efforts, Kiwanis will save the $600 they had set aside for a contractor.
Lordan said Neil's example is what it takes to build a caring community. He plans to invite descendents of World War I veterans to the dedication ceremony. Neil and his buddies already hold a yearly Veterans Day ceremony at the Kiwanis monument.
Now they'll be able to read the words.