Monday, September 25, 2017

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Dogged effort by Councilman McKeever yields ‘lost’ WWII medals for soldier’s family

“Say a prayer for Sue,” was how Mayor Mike Gonnelli opened the Town Council meeting on the evening of August 22. He was referring to Third Ward Councilwoman Susan Pirro who has been battling cancer for well over a year. Pirro returned to the council dais and meetings back in February, but has been absent for the last several meetings. The mayor did not elaborate on the councilwoman’s condition, but his request for prayers cast an ominous shadow over the proceedings.

The Kuprel family, led by Jeanne Kuprel Addvensky, was invited to the front of Council Chamber I for a presentation of military medals awarded to Jeanne’s father, Joseph F. Kuprel Jr. The Secaucus resident enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1941, just six months prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and participated in five major European campaigns in Normandy, northern France, Central Europe, the Ardennes, and the Rhineland (EAME). He achieved the rank of staff sergeant and was honorably discharged on July 23, 1945. Unbeknownst to Jeanne and her brother, Joseph Kuprel III, their father was awarded numerous medals by the Army for his military service and participation in the campaigns mentioned above. Councilman Bill McKeever spearheaded the campaign to have the medals presented to the Kuprel family. (McKeever, a veteran himself [Vietnam War], has done the same research and found the same or similar medals for several World War II veterans; most recently, for the family of Edward Zibowich.)

The medals awarded to Mr. Kuprel were: (1) Good Conduct Medal, awarded on June 8, 1943; (2) European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with silver star attachment; (3) bronze arrowhead attachment worn on the EAME ribbon medal that indicates participation in an amphibious assault landing within the EAME Theater, and (4) Bronze Star Medal, awarded on October 29, 1944, for heroic achievement or service (i.e., saving a fellow soldier or successfully completing objectives). All the medals were displayed in a glass case frame that was given to Mrs. Addvensky upon the conclusion of the ceremony. Ian Godfrey, representing Congressman Bill Pascrell, presented a special Congressional Resolution to the Kuprel family in honor of Staff Sgt. Kuprel’s military service. Mr. Kuprel, who was born on July 24, 1919, passed away in June 1967 just shy of his 48th birthday.

The front page of the Secaucus Home News dated July 5, 1941, reported that Lester Klein, Joseph F. Kuprel Jr. and William A. Ahr Jr., recently inducted into the Army, left Fort Dix by special train for Camp Wheeler, Georgia, where they will be temporarily assigned to the Infantry Replacement Center. While the men were at Fort Dix, they were interviewed and classified at the Reception Center, took aptitude tests, and received their uniforms and equipment.

A very proud and humble Jeanne Kuprel Addvensky thanked the Mayor and Council for recognizing her father’s military service “fifty years after his death.” She singled out Councilman McKeever: “I’m grateful to you all my life, Bill.” Mayor Gonnelli, later in the meeting, offered, “Great job with the presentation to Jeanne, Bill,” a sentiment that was echoed by Councilman Rob Costantino. McKeever explained that it took two years to put the Kuprel application together, submit it to Washington, D.C., and finally have it approved.

The Town Council will resume its nine-month practice of two meetings per month starting in September. The meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month; in September that will be on the 12th and 26th. During the three summer months, the Council only meets in public on the fourth Thursday. Except for Susan Pirro, all the council members, the mayor, Town Attorney Keri Eglentowicz, Town Administrator Gary Jeffas, and Town Clerk Michael Marra were present for the August meeting.

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