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New Utrecht High School Resurrects Names of Heroes

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Their names were buried in time, but never forgotten by friends and relatives. Their names include Melvin Birenbache, Adrion Cassera, Edmund D’Inzillo, Peter J. Formoso, Eugene Garone, John Healey, Arnold Krause, Philip Lerner, Arthur Lupo, Allen E. Ottenstein, Rocco Parente, John Perla, Sidney Schwartz, Gilbert Semp, Alvin Tarant and Leonard Wichlkenski—all neighborhood guys, who have made the ultimate sacrifice in a foreign land, fighting to wrest power from a brutal dictator and his associates who threatened to take over the world. Now, more than 50 years after the victory these soldiers helped ensure, administrators at New Utrecht High School, 1601 80th Street, are planning to resurrect these names during a rededication ceremony on a during a Day of Remembrance, slated for Friday, May 13. Assistant Principal of Foreign Languages Joseph Rizzi and librarian Norman Ringle hope that descendants and relatives of the above-mentioned World War II veterans come to the ceremony outside the school at 10 a.m., where brass plaques honoring the soldiers would be re-mounted on the school grounds. Back in 1945, the school honored a number of New Utrecht High School graduates, who served in the armed forces during a tree planting ceremony. The brass plaques—each with two soldiers’ names on it—were posted next to a number of new trees planted for the occasion. The trees grew and flourished over the decades, administrators said. Only two didn’t survive. One died of old age and the other to vandalism, Ringle said. While preparing for the Day of Remembrance, Rizzi and Ringle decided to replace the two trees, this time dedicating them to New Utrecht graduates, who have served, or continue to serve in the Middle East. Vietnam veterans who went to New Utrecht High School will also be honored, administrators said. That’s when it was decided to re-dedicate the World War II plaques, Ringle said. A total of nine plaques were recovered from the earth, some half buried in the soil, others that were used as a base for planters built to square off the trees in the 60s and 70s. “We think that there had been many more,” said Ringle. “During the 70s and 80s, they were lost. Back then junkies would pry them out of the ground and melt them down for the money.” “The custodial staff took them out of the ground and polished them,” Ringle said. “After nearly 60 years, they still look great.” The plaques will reportedly be housed in the school while modern replicas go back to the spots where they once proudly stood, giving the current generation a “living connection with history.” “That’s the most important thing,” said Ringle. “If the current generation doesn’t make a connection with what these soldiers did, then everything they achieved is meaningless.” New Utrecht High School’s re-dedication ceremony will begin with a color guard presentation and a wreath laying ceremony at the school’s flagpole. They will then rededicate the plaques and plant their first tree. Four other trees will be planted at later dates. Anyone wishing to learn more, or join the festivities, can contact New Utrecht High School at 718-232-2500.

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