The Times
  • Veterans’ display to highlight South Side reunion

  • The South Side of Little Falls used to be “one big neighborhood,” according to David Talaba, and it will be once again when residents and former residents gather at noon on Sept. 7 at Rotary Park for a reunion.

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  • The South Side of Little Falls used to be “one big neighborhood,” according to David Talaba, and it will be once again when residents and former residents gather at noon on Sept. 7 at Rotary Park for a reunion.
    In addition to offering an opportunity for old friends and neighbors to reminisce with and catch up on each other, this year’s event will honor those from the South Side who served their country in the armed forces.
    Mary Ann George and Josie Smith have been visiting homes, making telephone calls and putting out the word that they are looking for the names and photographs of veterans from the city’s South Side for what they have titled the South Side Veterans Honor and Recognition Project for Sept. 7.
    “It is our privilege to honor and preserve history through stories and photos of these veterans who help preserve our freedom,” said George. “Through the eyes of remembrances of family, friends, classmates and others, we may come to know something about these individuals an the special traits they possessed that made our city a better place.”
    They have collected more than 200 names so far, according to George, along with many photographs and other memorabilia.
    “We asked for a photo and the name, branch of the service, rank and if they had anything else to offer,” she said.
    They received names and information on veterans from World War I to the present time.
    “People were great,” said Smith.
    George and Smith plan to display the names of the veterans on posters and the photos and other items on collages on the wall of a room in the building at Rotary Park. More names and information on South Side veterans would be welcomed. Contact George at 823-3388 or Smith at 823-0255 with additional information.
    George noted the veterans’ display was Smith’s idea.
    “We were childhood friends,” said Smith. “We grew up together and we’re still together.”
    The two women have particularly enjoyed seeing the photographs of the young men in uniform.
    “Joe Vespasiano looked like Clark Gable,” said George. “And we said Peter Deangelis resembled Gene Kelly and Matthew Foley had a resemblance to Alan Ladd. They were all so handsome.”
    Two of the veterans from the South Side received certificates of recognition. Vernon Nightingale received a certificate from President Lyndon Baines Johnson, they said, while Anthony Verri received one from President Barrack Obama.
    Not all of those who served returned home. One is buried in Holland and some people there take care of his gravesite. Another is buried in Saipan.
    Smith recalled the day a neighbor received word that her son had been killed and remembered how the other women in the neighborhood rushed over to be with her. Varied ethnic backgrounds made no difference.
    Page 2 of 2 - “People helped each other,” she said.
    There will be plenty of stories to share about veterans and life on the South Side at the Sept. 7 reunion.
    This isn’t the first time this group has organized a reunion.
    “The first party was two years ago,” said Talaba. “It was a large version of a block party.” He estimated that more than 350 people attended sometime during the gathering, which lasted from noon to 9 p.m. People were asked to bring a dish to share along with photographs of scenes from the South Side.
    This year’s event will offer a similar format. Committee members will offer a main entrée, soda and water. There will be a $5 entry fee to cover the food and other expenses and will be asked to bring a dish to share and beverages.
    There will be a drawing at 4 p.m. for a cash prize, according to committee member Sheila Sanzo, who added, “You must be present to win.”
    She said there will be no official entertainment, such as a band, but if anyone attending wants to bring along instruments and perform, they won’t be turned away. At the last reunion, someone brought along an accordion and played it, recalling how one of the local merchants used to play an accordion.
    “There used to be four grocery stores here and the Jefferson Street School,” she said. “We were a close-knit bunch of people and we never got over that.”
    The committee is planning a float for the Canal Celebration Parade and will offer T-shirts for sale during the Canal Celebration featuring a picture of the old bridge over the canal between Mohawk and East Jefferson streets. The bridge could be elevated to permit canal boats to pass underneath and was a landmark for local residents and a popular attraction for local schoolchildren.
    “We always rode up on the bridge,” said George.