Fancher war memorial rededicated in honor of 10 men who died in WWII

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 August 2021 at 1:38 pm

200 attend event at restored monument on Route 31

Photos by Tom Rivers

FANCHER – The memorial at the “Fancher Curve” on Route 31 was rededicated on Saturday, 72 years after it was originally dedicated on Aug. 14, 1949 as a monument to 10 young men from the Fancher community who were killed in World War II.

Those men include John Christopher, Joseph Christopher, Cosmo Coccitti, John Kettle, Jr., Leonard Licursi, Martin Licursi, Richard Merritt, Camille Nenni, Floyd Valentine and Richard Vendetta.

The top photo shows Richard Christopher of Albion placing a commemorative wreath by the monument. Richard is the son John Christopher, who was killed on November 26, 1943 when the transport ship carrying his unit was struck by a German glider bomb and sunk off the coast of Algeria. He was laid to rest at the North Africa American Cemetery in Tunis, Tunisia.

John’s brother Joseph also was killed during the war. Another pair of brothers from the Fancher community – Leonard and Martin Licursi – also died in the war.

The monument was in disrepair with mortar crumbling, the clock often not working and the landscaping unattractive. Fred Fiorito, a Fancher native now living near New York City, gave the largest donation to cover the expense of the improvement project.

The donations paid to have new mortar put in, new movements and electric wiring for the clocks (which will now automatically fall back an hour and spring an hour ahead during the time changes), a new replica bronze plaque on the north side of the property, and a repainted flag pole which now also includes a World War II flag below the American flag. There also are sandstone steps on the north side with the stone donated by Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio and set in place by the Town Highway Department.

Town Supervisor Joe Sidonio speaks at the rededication. He said the Fancher community created the memorial 72 years ago to honor the young men, and the community again rallied to preserve the monument made of locally quarried Medina sandstone.

Sidonio noted that Fiorito was just a boy when he saw the monument originally dedicated and memory of seeing the grieving Gold Star mothers has forever impacted him.

Sidonio also announced on Monday will ask the Town Board to approve a resolution to recognize Aug. 14 as “Fancher Monument Memorial Day” and order that the flags at the monument and at the town munipcal buildings be lowered to half-mast for 10 days “to remind us that we owe these 10 boys the dignity of being better citizens and Americans so thay they shall not have died in vain.”

These four M1 Garand or M1 Rifle are stacked on top of the monument in the same way they were for the original dedication in 1949. Scott Galliford used a 10-foot ladder to climb up and stack the four rifles on Saturday.

Louis Horschel of Dunkirk flies “Mad Max,” a 1945 P-51 Mustang during a flyover at the start of the rededication program. The original dedication service in 1949 also had a flyover.

These veterans in the Honor Guard watch Horschel in the airplane fly upside down and do other aerial stunts.

Father Richard Csizmar, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Albion, offered the blessing during the service. He shared that his uncle John Csizmar was killed during World War II and Father Csizmar still has a strong memory of going to the train station in North Tonawanda when his uncle’s body was brought home. His photo was displayed over the family piano for the next 45 years, along with a Gold Star plaque.

Csizmar said the 10 young men from Fancher lived out John 15:13: “Greater love than this no one has, than one lay down one’s life for one’s friend.”

“Today we come to this Fancher memorial to remember those 10 men from Fancher, who gave their lives for freedom during World War II,” Csizmar said in his prayer. “Their valiant efforts and heroic service for all of us, and our nation, are remembered to this day. They said yes to God, their country, and to freedom, by serving our nation far away.”

Congressman Chris Jacobs meets veterans in the Honor Guard at the rededication service. Jacobs presented a Congressional Commendation for the community for its efforts to restore the monument.

Mary Wojciechowski sings “America the Beautiful” while accompanied by the Brockport Symphony Orchestra which is directed by Jonathan Allentoff, left. Wojciechowski, a Canadaigua resident, also sang the national anthem. The BSO also performed “To Reap The Blessings of Freedom” and “Brother James’ Air.”

“We are so honored to be have been asked to do this,” Allentoff said about performing during the rededication. “We love this community and being a part of events that bring people together, and we wanted to help pay tribute to the boys.”

Assemblyman Steve Hawley thanked those that worked to restore and upgrade the memorial site.

“Monuments are testaments to our greatest sacrifices and our greatest triumphs,” he said.

Christian Coccitti is the great-nephew of Cosmo Coccitti who was declared missing in action during the fighting in Holland on November 10, 1944. To date his remains have not been recovered. His great-nephew is the U.S. Navy and travelled from Annapolis, Md. To attend Saturday’s rededication. He is sitting between Congressman Chris Jacobs and Aubrey Christopher.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley comforts Richard Vendetta, who was named after his uncle who was killed during World War II, one of 10 from the Fancher community who died in the war. The younger Vendetta was among many family members in attendance of the 10 men honored with the monument.

The late Richard Vendetta, a second lieutenant, earned his flight wings and was flying a bomber and was killed when another plane collided with his over Stanford, England on July 8, 1944.

Matthew Passarell, commander of the VFW Post in Albion, shared biographies of each of the 10 men memorialized at the monument. Daniel Mawn, next to Passarell, rang the bell after each description was shared by Passarell.

The Honor Guard, including Scott Galliford at left (commander of the Jewell Buckman Post in Holley), fired three volleys during the rededication ceremony of the World War 11memorial at the Fancher Curve. Jim Freas, lower right, leads the Honor Guard.

Ron Ayrault, the chaplain at the American Legion post in Holley, offers the benediction. Ayrault, 89, attended the first dedication 72 years earlier when he was 17. He remembered there was a parade, the Legion band and a procession that included Gold Star mothers who lost their sons to war.