Donor for Fancher memorial repairs wants it to be long-lasting tribute for 10 who died in World War II

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2021 at 10:01 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: The four-sided clock at the Fancher Curve is a memorial to 10 young men from the community who died in World War II. The memorial was dedicated on Aug. 14, 1949. This photo is from November 2016.

FANCHER – Fred Fiorito remembers the big crowd of people when the Fancher Memorial was dedicated on Aug. 14, 1949.

He was only 10, and he has never forgotten seeing the Gold Star mothers in mourning. The memorial on the “Fancher Curve” on Route 31 is a four-faced clock in a stone monument made of local sandstone.

Fiorito moved away from Fancher when he was 20. He enjoyed a career as a chiropractor in New York City. He would come home a few times each year to see family, including his brother Ted Fiorito. Fred noticed the memorial gradually deteriorate.

Sometimes the clocks didn’t work. The mortar was crumbling. The site wasn’t a great showcase or memorial for the 10 who in World War II. Those 10 include John Christopher, Joseph Christopher, Cosmo Coccitti, John Kettle, Jr., Leonard Licursi, Martin Licursi, Richard Merritt, Camille Nenni, Floyd Valentine and Richard Vendetta.

“I knew some of those families,” Fiorito said. “The monument’s condition was distasteful.”

Last May near Memorial Day, Fiorito was home recovering from an injury. He thought back to his childhood and the memorial.

“That memorial was built out of love for the guys in the area who left and didn’t come back,” Fiorito said by phone. “Those 10 guys who gave their lives gave them for you, me and everybody.”

Fiorito decided to call the Murray Town Hall. He left a message on Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio’s answering machine, offering to make a donation to get the memorial looking better.

This photo from the Holley Standard shows the memorial in August 1949.

“I just want to see it brought back to where it was many years ago when it was first done,” Fiorito said. “I feel a connection to my home and it will always be my home, and that monument is very important to me.”

Fiorito has offered $10,000 to upgrade the memorial. He is pleased Sidonio has “enthusiastically” embraced the project and wants to have the improvements in place by Aug. 14, which would be the 72nd anniversary of the memorial’s dedication.

Dan Mawn, president of the Murray-Holley Historical Society, has been a key coordinator in the project. He connected with Neal Muscarella, an Albion mason, to replace the green mortar on the monument.

Mawn, who is retired from the Holley Electric and Water Department, will put in new movements for the clocks, and new electrical service.

“It is a project that is very worthwhile,” Mawn said.

Sidonio and Mawn also want to upgrade the landscaping at the site, and make the flagpoles look better.

“We want to create a better sense of place for the monument,” Sidonio said.

A photo from the memorial’s dedication showed several rifles stacked on top of the monument. Sidonio and Mawn wondered if those rifles were part of an original display on the monument, and if the rifles had been removed or taken.

They looked at the top of the monument and there aren’t any brackets or other evidence that the rifles were being held in place on the memorial. They must have been temporarily put there.

The former Holley Standard reported on the monument on Aug. 11, 1949, previewing the dedication ceremony three days later. The newspaper declared the project “an example of community enterprise and cooperation.”

A bronze plaque lists the names of the local soldiers who perished in the war: John Christopher, Joseph Christopher, Cosmo Coccitti, John Kettle, Jr., Leonard Licursi, Martin Licursi, Richard Merritt, Camille Nenni, Floyd Valentine and Richard Vendetta.

The monument designed by local resident Pat DiLaura with stone donated from quarry owned by Art Nenni

Local quarrymen worked to get out the stone including Gene Nenni, Oresto Nenni, Americo Belli, Richard DePalma of Holley, and Richard Raneri, Tony Passarell and Angelo Manella of Albion. Gene DePalma graded the site of the monument

Lee Colavito and Dan Fiorita did the mason work, Thomas Friedo of Fancher did the electrical work, hooking up the four electric clocks and the lighting at the base of the monument.

Fred Fiorito said the monument is a one-of-kind memorial that was created by the local residents in honor of the 10 local soldiers. The project utilizes the talents and resources of the local community.

“Even though I moved 400 miles away and I’ve been away a long time, my heart is still there,” Fred Fiorito said. “I just couldn’t stand to see the monument left the way it is. It honors 10 boys who stood up and never came back.”