PORT JEFFERSON, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — It’s called the forgotten war, but a hero’s daughter will never forget the sacrifices of her father, Private First Class Walter E. Decker, during his time in the Army in World War I. A special golden crucifix passed on to her keeps him first place.
“I was close to my dad growing up, and I always remembered in the summer, he’d be wearing these long johns, and the tissue on his skin was so thin, that he’d bleed through,” said Carol Fazio, 77, of her father. “He suffered ‘til the day he died from mustard gas.”
Decker’s hand-written discharge papers notes he was gassed on October 15, 1918 while serving in France for just under 10 months.
He entered the service at 16, just before his 17th birthday, after his father died. He mailed each of his allotment checks to his mother.
“He was a communication expert. His company would go up to see the enemy and to send back [intelligence] to his troops,” said Fazio. “On the way back, that’s when the enemy got them and shot them.”
German troops attacked Unit Company B in the 303rd Field Signal Battalion of the 78th Infantry Division in the French forests with mustard gas.
“My father was left for dead. They thought he was dead,” Fazio said, adding several of his cohorts were killed.
Decker was 20 at the time of the gas attack. He died in 1980 at the age of 82. He is buried at Calverton National Cemetery on Long Island where local soldiers from all the wars are buried with their spouses.
Private First Class Decker received the Purple Heart in the first year the award was instituted, 1932, on the bicentennial of George Washington’s birth.
He also received the Distinguished Service Cross – the second highest decoration for valor.
But it is a different cross passing through the generations that’s revered by Decker’s daughter.
“At the time, the French monks used to go through the forest when they knew it was safe and call out to find out anybody who was alive. And, they heard my father, and what they did was they placed this cross on each of the bodies that were ready to go back, back to a hospital,” said Fazio while holding the golden crucifix.
Fazio just learned of the cross last year when she visited her niece and nephew in Wilmington, North Carolina. The cross made its way to Decker’s step-son Daniel who was a Marine, and then, Daniel’s brother Alfred when he died. The family wanted Carol to have it, as she is Decker’s biological daughter.
“I had no idea. It was really overwhelming, it really was, to think I was holding something that was 100 years and it stood on my father in the forest,” Fazio said.
When Carol was growing up, it was common for disabled veterans to be at her house. Decker was active in the Disabled American Veterans Charity (DAV) after leaving the Army and would visit wounded soldiers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Veterans Affairs facilities.
“My father would walk them through it,” said Fazio who saw her father as a caregiver, serving throughout his lifetime.
Like many WWI veterans, Decker did not talk about his service, what he saw overseas or the gas attack in France that left him suffering until the day he died. The stories were passed on through family members who gleaned information over time.
“One thing I asked him about the war and about his involvement, everything with the VFW, I asked him, if he had to do it all over again,” said Fazio. “I said to him, ‘Dad, would you do that?’ I said, ‘Would you go into the service?’ And he said, ‘Without a doubt.'”
NEW YORK (AP/WCBS 880) — Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia has won the New York City Marathon, holding off countryman Shura Kitata by 1.99 seconds.
Desisa finished in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 59 seconds. Last year’s winner, Geoffrey Kamworor of Kenya, finished third.
Mary Keitany of Kenya became the second woman to win the marathon four times, beating countrywoman Vivian Cheruiyot by 3 minutes, 13 seconds.
Keitany ran the race in 2:22:48, the second fastest in history. Margaret Okayo of Kenya holds the record of 2:22:31, which was set in 2003.
The victory was Keitany’s fourth in New York in the last five years. She won in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before coming in second last year to American Shalane Flanagan. Keitany joined Grete Waitz as the only women to win the marathon four times. Waitz, a Norwegian, won the marathon nine times between 1978-1988.
Flanagan finished third.
More than 50,000 runners began their 26.2-mile journey across the five boroughs on a sunny Sunday morning as part of the 47th New York City Marathon.
They trained in darkness and rain, and through pain, for this day, which starts on Staten Island, winding through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, before ending back in Central Park.
NEW YORK, NY – A West Point graduate created a unique social experience in an age when no one seems to look up from their cell phones.
“Drinks are things that bring people together,” said Owen Meyer, CEO of Liquor Lab, which is billed as “Manhattan’s first interactive cocktail experience.”
On a crisp autumn evening, a diverse group of people arrived at the cozy second-floor space in the SoHo neighborhood on a romantic cobblestone street reminiscent of old New York to indulge in a French-themed night of cognacs and cuisine.
“Four different cocktails on every menu and the menus are relegated by themes,” said Meyer, adding, “We might have margaritas and tacos one night, we might have bourbon and barbecue, we might have Japanese spirits and sushi.”
Music sets the mood and people make new friends over drinks and food, catered by local establishments. They also learn a little history related to the night’s theme and how to be their own bartender.
This week, Liquor Lab launched Dollar Cocktail Club, a product line of $12 mix kits with the exact ingredients to make a dozen drinks with a bottle of liquor. Meyer expects it to be a popular holiday gift item that is cross-promotional with their classes.
Liquor Lab has a calendar of events on their website, which they sell-out every night with a capacity of 50 people to maximize the intimate experience they label “social mixology.” They also offer private and corporate events.
“We have a little old couple sitting in the back corner, we have a newly met couple in the front corner, they’re having the same experience and they’re enjoying it equally as much,” Meyer said.
But, not everyone is on a date. Friends, colleagues and strangers come by for a cheerful evening that costs less than most nights out in the Big Apple – $65 for most classes.
Meyer, who turns 33 next month, is an old soul who feels he’s in a traditional industry unaffected by technological advancements. His company could fill a societal need when seemingly everything has become politically divided and intense. The atmosphere at Liquor Lab is the opposite – relaxed, enlightening and refreshing.
“After I got out of the military, I wanted to do something that was a little more interactive and fun, so I started working with Jim Beam, now known as Beam Suntory,” said Meyer who worked there for nearly three years as a “spirit specialist” and in a sales capacity after two foot injuries and a back injury cut his military career short.
Meyer said he has come to realize the “cliché” of taking calculated risks is true. He honed his leadership skills at West Point.
“SOP – Standard Operating Procedures – we harp on that here probably more than anything because everything we do here is very repetitive,” said Meyer of his staff’s routine in setting each table. “In the military, it’s your weapons, your equipment, it’s your gear, it’s your reports. From an officer’s standpoint and a manager’s standpoint there’s also an assimilation there with managing people, making it very clear their task and purpose each day, and those are things we do every day here.”
Meyer tested Liquor Lab in Chicago and launched a pop-up shop in Southampton before opening in SoHo last September. Liquor Lab has been profitable since its inception, gaining customers solely by word-of-mouth.
They are expanding nationwide over the next year, opening in 10 cities, including Nashville, Denver and Las Vegas.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Donato Panico watched in horror as al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two airliners into the World Trade Center.
He felt he had to do something right away, and as the owner of a Smithtown deli for more than three decades, Panico knew he could provide a needed service.
“(My friend) was telling me that all kinds of commanding officers were killed down there and that they had no food system and it was in total chaos,” said Panico.
He then prepared his catering trucks with sandwiches and drove to Ground Zero the next morning. He got through most of the tight security checkpoints in Manhattan, but he was still far away from the Trade Center when commanding officer Louis Pacheco recognized Panico from his Long Island deli and ushered him into site so he could fill a void serving starving, dehydrated, weary, angry and saddened First Responders.
“A couple months later, (Pacheco) presented me with a flag that they hung in front of the Millennium Hotel,” Panico said. The hotel, which is adjacent to One World Trade Center, suffered significant damage in the terrorist attacks.
“He presented it to me and I presented it to a friend of mine in the store whose son was getting ready to deploy to Afghanistan. He hung it over his camp,” said Panico, continuing, “He had the flag commissioned by President (George W.) Bush and he returned it to me 4 years later.”
Panico continued to lend the gifted flag to local police, fire and veterans organizations on Long Island.
“You can’t hold onto something if you don’t give it away,” said Panico when asked why he felt so strongly about imparting such a meaningful and emotional souvenir to patriotic organizations. “It’s not my flag, it’s ours.”
His foundation Heros 4 Our Heroes was born from tragedy. Today, Panico aims to keep a “constant awareness” for the need to take care of police officers, firefighters and our veterans who make sacrifices to keep us safe and free. He is currently undertaking a project to re-build the patio at the Department of Veterans Affairs facility in Northport, Long Island.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) was the only local politician to show up at Donato’s fist Heros 4 Heroes Foundation event after 9/11; Panico said his first impression of Zeldin was he’s “special.”
The Republican congressman was deployed to Iraq in 2006 with the 82nd Airborne Division and is currently in the Army Reserves. In a sit-down interview with him, Donato and this reporter, he praised Donato as a selfless patriot while he engaged in the same type of organic camaraderie he has with fellow soldiers. Zeldin said Panico has the “type of character, values, ethics and beliefs” that guided his selfless actions on 9/11.
“If he was on the first floor of the Trade Center that day, he would have went straight up and started rendering first-aid to people even though he wasn’t NYPD or FDNY,” Congressman Zeldin said. “That’s his character.”
Recently, Panico had one particular person he wanted to lend “our” Old Glory that flew in front of the Millennium Hotel on September 11 to: The President of the United States.
Congressman Zeldin invited Panico to President Donald J. Trump’s first State of the Union Address in January. Panico brought the flag to Washington with him in hopes to give it to the President. That’s when Rep. Zeldin learned of the sentimental history of that American Flag. Donato did not get to meet Mr. Trump that day, but Mr. Zeldin held onto the flag for the right time, and on June 20, the Congressman received a phone call from The White House for a last minute policy meeting with President Trump and several representatives.
Zeldin recalled, “All I was thinking of was ‘where’s the flag?’”
After the meeting, Congressman Zeldin told President Trump about the flag.
“You could tell the story was impacting him, he was deeply moved by it, he was moved by Donato’s story, the first responders, the journey of that flag from the Trade Center, overseas being flown over a base to back home,” said Mr. Zeldin, adding that the President brought him into the Oval Office where he had an aide write down Panico’s story for a museum, and posed for a picture behind his Resolute Desk to send home to Donato.
Congressman Zeldin says when he meets with the President like he did when he rode in his motorcade with him to a GOP fundraiser in Southampton last month, President Trump asked about Donato.
Donato feels an unspoken bond with the current Commander-In-Chief, a man he has never met, but respects as a patriot, as he does his fellow New Yorkers and Americans who still suffer pain, sorrow, and illness from 9/11.
Panico still shakes when the calendar turns to September. He and we will Never Forget.
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Sofia “Sonya” Kenin is only 19, but has been climbing the ranks to the top in professional tennis.
Kenin won in three sets during her first two matches at this year’s US Open and has reached the third round. The Florida resident will take on Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic Friday night.
Kenin joined WCBS 880 Producer Neil A. Carousso on Thursday evening to talk about her experience. Here are some excerpts from their interview:
Carousso: “What’s your experience like so far?”
Kenin: “It’s amazing, you know. I love playing here. It’s the greatest thing in the world. I have a lot of confidence. I’m playing really well. I feel like my best tennis is right here in New York City.”
Carousso: “You last year gained a lot of notoriety because you played against Maria Sharapova… and so it’s funny, going back to last year and playing that match, what has changed from then to now?”
Kenin: “I feel like the confidence that I have and the fact that I have more experience playing at these high stages…. Last year was kind of like a bit more overwhelming. It’s more yes, I’m really excited, looking forward to it. But I’m just going to try to take it easy, not get too overwhelmed with the crowd and everything.”
Carousso:“And you’re going to play at Louis Armstrong tomorrow. What’s the difference between playing on a big stage versus a smaller court?”
Kenin: “I mean, there, you actually have to play well. But the atmosphere’s just incredible there… I obviously really wanted to try and play in one of those courts, and yeah, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Carousso: “So playing in New York City… do you feel like you have that mojo; do you feel like you go into a match a little differently here in New York?”
Kenin: “Yeah, I feel like I can bring out that energy here and everyone’s going to support me. Some other places where I can’t – if I do that, they’re not really going to be behind me.”
Carousso: “What about other players? You obviously grew up watching Maria Sharapova. You’re 19. You know, what’s it like being in the same locker room as some of those greats?”
Kenin: “It’s amazing. I’ve been watching them – from when I started playing tennis, I’ve been watching them, and I always wanted to get here, and playing against them and being next to them is incredible, but I’ve gotten used to it.”