My dad and my uncle were members of Amsterdam’s Frank Sirchia AmVet Post. Every spring before Memorial Day, their post used to put the flags on the graves of all the departed veterans buried in Amsterdam’s cemeteries. What made this task extremely time consuming was the mediocre and inconsistent records each cemetery maintained at the time. It was known pretty much which veterans were buried in each cemetery but a map showing where each of their graves were located within that cemetery did not exist. As a result, someone needed to walk each row of each cemetery looking for each veteran’s grave. Since all the members of the Post had full time jobs during the day, the search at each cemetery didn’t begin until after dinner, usually about 6PM which meant you had about three hours before darkness fell. That’s why they always brought me and other kids along to help.
I have to tell you, those spring evenings, walking through our local cemeteries with that group of middle-aged men, putting flags on the graves of people who served this country was one of the nicest memories of my childhood. First of all it impressed upon me just how many folks from this community fought for our country. Keep in mind that this was the mid 1960’s when a large portion of Amsterdam’s WWII vets were just reaching 40-years of age and most were still very much alive. Amsterdam’s cemeteries have many many more flags flying today than they did back then.
I remember when we’d come across the grave of someone the guys knew or perhaps grew up with, they’d say things like “Boy could this guy hit a baseball” or “Remember his sister? She was a doll. Whatever happened to her?” Once and a while, when we’d come across a grave of a fellow WWII Vet killed in action who the Post members had known especially well, there’d be a stony silence and three or four of them would stand together around the grave and say a prayer and you’d see at least one wipe a tear from his eye. “But for the grace of God that could be my name on that stone!” and “We are the lucky ones!” were two oft-repeated phrases.
The Amsterdam Birthday Celebrant for this Memorial Day was definitely not one of the lucky ones, either before or during his service to his country. Ted Demanski was born in Amsterdam on May 30, 1921. His mom died when he was just five years old, leaving him and his two sisters to be raised by their father. Demanski would graduate from this city’s Technical High School in 1939 and a year later get a job with the local office of Western Union. He was living in an apartment at 145 Division Street. The selective service board notified him in May of 1942 that he was being called upon to serve in the US Army. He completed his basic training at Aberdeen, Maryland and was assigned to the infantry. His regiment was shipped overseas during the 1942 Holiday season and he spent the next year and a half in England training for the D-Day invasion.
He took part in that historic invasion on June 6, 1944. He made it off the beaches but just one week later he was killed in action in France.
On this sacred and solemn day it is most fitting that we remember Ted Demanski and the hundreds of Amsterdam boys like him, who have made the supreme sacrifice for their country. We also honor the thousands of Rug City men and women who left this Mohawk Valley community and their loving families to take up battle all over this globe so that we may live in freedom. May God bless each and every one of these gallant human beings.
This relative of a famous television personality was also born on May 30.