Vet performed during Navy tour
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series published each Monday between Memorial Day and Veterans Day honoring local veterans. To nominate a veteran, email metro editor Marly Kosinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AUSTINTOWN — People around the world know William Dick as Santa Claus.
The 82-year-old Cold War veteran kept up his appearance as the jolly elf, playing the part during mission trips.
“I am Santa Claus to the children in Ukraine,” he said during a phone interview from Austintown Healthcare.
The opportunities lent themselves to his writing a book, “Santa Meets God’s Ukrainian Children.”
His mission work, where Dick visited orphaned and abandoned children, followed a four-year stint with the U.S. Navy from 1956 until 1960, where he was honorably discharged before seeing conflict.
“If I stayed in two more years, my ship did go to Vietnam,” Dick said.
Born in Hartford, Conn., Dick’s quest to join the Navy began when he auditioned for the Navy School of Music.
Calling it a success, Dick was a petty officer 2nd class musician, playing the baritone at sea on the USS Ticonderoga.
“I think music is important,” he said, noting that as ships passed his, the band provided entertainment for everyone who could hear.
Performing first thing in the morning, the band would play during sea burials.
After sea duty, Dick spent the last 1 1/2 years of his military career performing in New York City, first the tuba then sousaphone.
Once he left the military, Dick attended the University of Connecticut to major in industrial administration.
“I’ve never been in a factory in my life,” Dick said, working in various sales positions.
It wasn’t until after graduation that he made his way to the Youngstown area for work straight out of college, living in the city most of his time here.
One of his largest transactions was with the company that sold the fountains that were once inside the Southern Park Mall.
Besides being known to children as Kris Kringle, Dick said his legacy is at the University of Connecticut, as he took the initial steps to establish the school’s first chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi.
While he was studying there, Dick wanted to bring a musical fraternity to the campus.
“I talked to my band director about this fraternity, and he said ‘do what you want.'”
Since then, Dick said that chapters around New England have been established. Kappa Kappa Psi now embraces female students, which is something that has changed since the chapter started at UConn.
One of his pastimes throughout the years was performing in bands around the area.
Dick has played in the Canfield Community Band, Salem American Legion Band, Girard Swing Band and the Mount Carmel band in Lowellville.
During some summers, Dick said his schedule was rigorous enough that he would get dates of concerts and practices mixed up.
“Some summers I had multiple concerts in the same city with different bands,” he said.
Dick has a daughter,Elizabeth Shewell, a music teacher with Western Reserve Local Schools, and a son Philip, a paramedic, in Mississippi.
Although his time with the military took a different path than others, Dick said he is grateful for the care he has received being a veteran.
“The medical benefits I have received are incalculable,” he said, noting doctors detected cancer for which he was treated.
For anyone considering joining the military, “go do it,” Dick said.
The opportunity will provide discipline, opportunity and guidance, he noted.
SERVICE BRANCH: U.S. Navy
FAMILY: Daughter, Elizabeth, and son, Philip