Uncle Dewey and WWII

Much of what’s printed in The Vindicator is what we gather or you provide. But some comes from other places. And much of that information is from now; but some of it is not.

Several weeks ago, we published a photo to go with our Sunday “Years Ago” history column.

It was a triumphant World War II image that led to the below letter I share with you today on Memorial Day weekend. Enjoy.

“Dear Todd,

My best friend, Sallie Lesinski Lepore, text messaged me Sunday to say that Dewey Brucoli’s picture, taken May 10th, 1944, was in that morning’s Vindicator, in the “Years Ago” column.

She asked, “Isn’t this your uncle?”

Indeed Dewey Brucoli was my uncle.

This photo, never seen by me until two days ago, was part of the verbal tapestry of my early years growing up on Youngstown’s West Side.

My nieces, nephews, cousins and an 80-year-old sister finally got to see the very photo that I’d heard about decades ago.

Until I saw it Sunday, it lived only as an image in my mind.

I’m not a big Facebook fan and likely never will be, but I’ll give that platform credit for helping me disseminate the Vindicator discovery.

More to the point, you get a big thank you for bringing smiles to the faces of our large, mostly Italian family, who, like me, spend most of their time in other parts of the country.

I can’t speak for them, but I still appreciate my Youngstown roots, including access to my hometown paper. At a time when most dailies are circling the drain, The Vindicator still does a pretty good job covering local news. The “Years Ago” feature is an expression of that.

Upon seeing Sunday’s photo, my sister reminded me that our Uncle Dewey later received the Silver Star for rescuing others while injured in that ammunition/arsenal fire.

All that I had remembered as a 10-year-old is how my father, Ben Brucoli, described a photo that “was taken in a hospital in England,” while Dewey was recovering. I can’t recall his words beyond a description of bandages and a cigarette.

Being 10 years old, I pictured a mummy – a mummy with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. I’m glad the picture was much more and included other soldiers.

The other thing my father said was that the cutline included a quote from Dewey: “Plasma saved my life.” I didn’t know what plasma was, but I imagined it was something pretty scarce. Is there an archived story in addition to this photo?

There were many stories about WWII shared around our table. Nick Lutseck, my mother’s brother, drove one of the first Allied trains at the end of the war when the Americans entered Nazi-occupied France. At the request of the Brucoli family, that uncle, also from Youngstown, took leave to visit Dewey while he recovered from his severe burns.

I currently reside in Durango, Colorado. Almost 20 years ago, I purchased a business in Columbiana County (Lock 30 Woodlands) which brings me back to this area about four months of the year. I have not returned to the west side of Youngstown, other than to purchase pierogies at St. Anne’s Ukrainian Catholic Church or to shop at Rulli Brothers, still the best grocery store in the country, as far as I’m concerned!

Keep up the good work.

Karen Brucoli Anesi”

Through our friends at the Tyler History Center, we were able to dig up more of Uncle Dewey’s story.

On Nov. 7, 1944, he was featured in The Vindicator for the “Plasma Saved My Life” story, which was a national blood donation campaign.

He was on a base in England with supplies set for the battlefield. The garage caught fire with two men inside. Uncle Dewey pulled them out, then joined others in battling the fire. He suffered burns over two-thirds of his body.

The photo in The Vindicator was actually from The Associated Press and was taken in England.

Uncle Dewey lived until age 87 – dying in 2001 in Poland. His business was A&D Tires.

He’s survived by many relatives – including one niece in Colorado who had childhood tales come back to life by her hometown newspaper.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes emails about stories and our newspaper. Email him at tfranko@vindy.com. He blogs, too, on Vindy.com. Tweet him, too, at @tfranko.

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