PORT CHESTER, N.Y. – Plaques bearing the names of Port Chester residents who died in battle from World War II to Vietnam once hung on trees in Lyons Park, in memoriam of their service and sacrifice. After years of decay and theft of the plaques, one resident is raising money to restore them.
“If it’s not my generation, what generation is going to do it? I’m still close to the World War II era,” said Richard Cuddy, a lifelong Port Chester resident who is spearheading the fundraising effort to refurbish existing plaques and replace others stolen or misplaced over the years. He hopes to have the project completed by Veterans Day.
More than 100 plaques dedicated to veterans once hung on the trunks of trees in the park. Since Cuddy began his project, only one plaque remains on a lone tree that the Department of Public Works has been unable to remove. The plaque bears the name of Domenick P. Cicatelli of the U.S. Army, who was killed Dec. 17, 1944, in Germany. He was one of six veterans from Willow Street in Port Chester, all killed in battle.
“They saved this world … we could all be speaking Japanese or German right now,” said Cuddy. “These were young people in their 20s that died and had as many hopes as anybody else did, and so did their parents.”
The plaques were first put up on the trees in the park in 1948 in memory of 90 residents killed in World War II, including Cuddy’s father, Maj. William Cuddy, who was killed Sept. 15, 1943, in a plane crash. Since he was buried in Tunisia, Cuddy says, the plaque in Lyons Park is the only monument to his father in the United States.
“I think it’s a great idea because you’re actually someone that dies with a living thing. People say, ‘why don’t you put all the plaques on one tree?’ I say, it was an individual life and they should have an individual tree,” said Cuddy, who says he plans to place the new and refurbished plaques in cement blocks to sit at the base of each tree. “This way, if a tree died then the plaques would still be there and they would be too heavy to be stolen,” he added.
Shortly after Cuddy began his mission to collect money for the plaques, Cmdr. Hank Birdsall of VFW Post 1576 wrote a letter informing Cuddy of a veteran who was never memorialized: Pvt. 1st Class Charles Thomas Tate Jr. of the U.S. Marine Corps. Tate was killed in Vietnam and lived on Leicester Street in Port Chester when he entered the Marines in 1967. He was killed in action in April 1968.
“His name was inadvertently left off of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Lyons Park. We would like to have his name etched on the memorial. Late as it may be, this is a tribute Charles Tate deserves,” Birdsall wrote in the letter.
Ten other veterans’ names were on the memorial, but they never had plaques.
The cost is $225 for a new plaque and $100 to refurbish an old one, for a total price tag of about $15,000. So far, Cuddy has collected $4,000.
“I felt you could go to the community and the town to do it, but I wanted to raise the funds privately,” he said. Any additional money raised will be used to gold-leaf the Vietnam Memorial. The deadline for donations is Sept. 15.
The word “plaque” should be written on donors’ checks, which should be made payable to the Village of Port Chester and mailed to:
Village Clerk’s Office
222 Grace Church St.
Port Chester, NY 10573
For more information, contact Cuddy at 914-937-1592 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.