Senior Center honors veterans at annual luncheon
● By J. Chambless
World War II veterans Al DiNorscia, 92, and Tilly D'Andrea, 93, give a thumbs-up during lunch at the Kennett Area Senior Center. (Photo by Chris Barber)
By Chris Barber
The mood was patriotic and respectful at the annual Kennett Area Senior Center Veterans Luncheon on Nov. 2.
Friends and senior center members paid tribute to several dozen veterans who had served and continue to serve their country during this tradition that has continued for more than a decade. The center celebrates it on a date that is on, or near, the anniversary of the end of World War I, which occurred on Nov. 11, 1918.
Program director Andrea Durynski is charged with running the event every year. She said she's always energized by the project, and she begins decorating and setting the agenda weeks ahead of time. This includes making trips up to the attic to bring down adornments to create the mood for the luncheon, setting out military displays, urging musician Hal DeHaven play the piano, inviting local veterans and obtaining speakers.
This year, the keynote speaker was U.S. Army E-4/Specialist William Todd, who is currently a student at West Chester University majoring in criminal justice. He served in the Desert Storm conflict, is active in the Student Veterans Center at the university, and has become widely known as a public speaker on veterans’ affairs.
In his talk, Todd stressed that the U.S. military does more than fight enemies abroad. The major thrust of their work, he said, is to make sure all Americans receive the promises and freedoms of the U.S. Constitution. He said defending “all” meant every race, religion and political position.
“The U.S. Constitution is what we are holding in place. We think of justice, and we have to enact those things,” he said. “In our country we fly one flag for all. That’s what this country is about. We have to be careful about giving up our freedoms. We take freedom of the press seriously.”
He referenced the role of the military in assuring that the black “Little Rock Nine” students gained admission to Central High School in 1957, as well as the military’s presence in admitting James Meredith to Ole Miss in 1962.
Todd is a native Philadelphian who grew up in poverty. He said that experience, and serving in the military, toughened him up to handle challenges in life.
Senior Center executive director Anita O’Connor greeted the more than 100 guests and said when she began at the center 14 years ago, the veterans honored were largely from World War II. Now, she said, she is pleased to have those from Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Desert Storm.
“Our armed forces are always here to protect us. …We’ll keep having this event,” she said.
Two prominent World War II veterans, Al DiNorscia (92) and Tilly D’Andrea (93) were sitting together, eating and chatting with cohorts at the military table, following the ceremonial presentation of the Colors at the beginning.
State Rep. Stephen Barrar, of Upper Chichester, who chairs the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Military Affairs Committee, talked about the remains of 77 soldiers from Korea that were returned to the United States this past summer. “Think of the families who lost their brothers. Finally, they will have the answers,” he said.
Also visiting the luncheon were State Rep. Eric Roe, and State Sen. Tom Killion. The Avon Grove Charter School Jazz Band was on hand to play some popular numbers. They ended their program with a piece that includes songs for all the military branches. They asked that veterans of those branches rise when they heard their song.
Volunteers from the Chemours Company served the food and bussed the tables. They were given the time to provide community service by the company.
The master of ceremonies was funeral director Matt Grieco. A native of Kennett and graduate of Kennett High School and Pennsylvania State University, he was also a member of the university’s Blue Band. He played both the “Assembly” and “Taps” for the flag ceremonies of the day.