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Street park in Little Neck named for hero of WWII hero

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Little Neck native Lt. Michael Szap died a hero in World War II and was buried in Luxembourg, but his northeast Queens community never forgot him.

There are several memorial plaques to Szap in northeast Queens, his nephew, Dr. Michael Szap said, because Szap was not only an active community member but the first postal carrier killed in World War II. The family has lived on 247th Street in Little Neck for more than 75 years. He was 26 when he died.

With memorial plaques at both the Bayside and Flushing post offices and one in St. Anastasia’s Church in Douglaston, it’s hard to imagine why Szap’s namesake would be pushing for just one more memorial.

But when it comes to the tiny, unnamed park at the intersection of Glenwood Street and 39th Road in Little Neck, that is exactly what the younger Szap would like to see.

“It’s not named, it’s right in the Little Neck area and it would be an honor to him,” said Szap, who was named for his uncle. “He was a type of home born hero.”

The proposal to name the Glenwood Street park in honor of Lt. Michael Szap was brought before Community Board 11 in Bayside last week by Little Neck civic leader Jonathan Ridgeway.

If the plan is approved by the CB 11 Parks Committee as well as the full board, the idea then goes before the city Parks Department for a final OK.

Lt. Szap fought in Normandy, northern France and Germany and served in the military from 1941 to 1945. He was promoted to lieutenant about six weeks before he was killed in battle in Germany.

In 1944, Szap was awarded the Bronze Star medal for his military service and was posthumously given the Silver Star and Purple Heart.

A citation given to the Szap family after his death described his last moments on Feb. 27, 1945.

“In the midst of savage fighting, he observed that one of his tanks had been hit by bazooka fire and did not respond to radio commands,” the citation said. “With utter disregard for his own safety, he dismounted from his tank in the face of heavy small arms fire and attempted to reach the stricken tank. During this final gallant gesture, he was mortally wounded.”

As his nephew begins the process of naming the Glenwood Street park for his relative, the younger Szap said he had enjoyed exploring his family’s history.

“I’m very honored to have an uncle like that,” he said this week.

Lt. Michael Szap was not the only member of the family to get involved with community activities, his nephew said. Szap said his father and his uncle were early members of the Douglaston Hose Company, a precursor to the city Fire Department, and another uncle was postmaster at the Little Neck Post Office.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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