We know it's been over 50 years since we graduated. But we never forgot your sacrifice for us and your country. While ceremonies are for those of us who are still here, we believe that somehow you are aware of what has been done in your honor and hope you approve. Your lives were cut short, but your heroism will live on long after we are all gone. This is our way of making certain that all Fitch alumni in the future will know who you are and what you did. On behalf of a grateful nation, and a grateful class of 1962, Thank You!
Click on their picture to be taken to their memorial pages.
The Memorial Project Story
At the 50th Class Reunion in 2012, there was a brief memorial ceremony for our deceased classmates. Following that, we had a special ceremony for two of our very special classmates, James Prommersberger and Charles Brown. Both gave their lives in military action in Vietnam, and both were awarded the Silver Star for bravery. Following the conclusion of the reunion, it was suggested to the Committee to investigate the possibility of a permanent memorial for our two fallen heroes.
At that time, we had no idea what this would entail, or what it would lead to. Thanks to the hard work of the Reunion Committee, we got the opportunity to present our idea to the Austintown Trustees, the Board of Education, and the Fitch Administration. What we didn’t expect was the overwhelming approval and support we received from these entities and what happened next as a result.
The original plan was to design, fund, and place a permanent memorial honoring Jimmy and Chas as they were called, on the newer Austintown Fitch High School Campus adjacent to the football field. It was to be a simple memorial, perhaps a large granite boulder, with a bronze plaque with the names and details of how these men died and what they did to be awarded the Silver Star. The monies to cover the costs were obtained by a fund raising campaign which included selling collector-grade ball point pens made from the wood of various locations inside the old Fitch Building where our 1962 class attended. Click here to learn how to order a pen
The building was due to be sold and torn down, and many of us had so many fond memories of special places in that building. Some wood was taken from the gymnasium floor, the auditorium stage, the band room, and several different offices and labs that had meaning to many in our class. The pens came in a velvet box with a certificate of authenticity that included the origins of the wood. What no one could imagine was what happened next.
When word got out about our project, we started to get donations from various groups, and got interviews with WFMJ News( Click here to see interview) and the Youngstown Vindicator.( Click here for article.) This project started to take on a life of its own and now was getting further attention from the Board of Education and the Austintown Trustees. While doing more research it came to the Committee’s attention that there is a third alumnus from Fitch, who also was killed in Vietnam, Darryl Dombroski. This new discovery put the Committee in a bit of a quandary. What had started as a simple concept to honor two men from the Class of 1962 had now become a much different and larger endeavor than originally contemplated. This, as one can imagine, was not without controversy!
Some on the Committee felt the project had lost its primary reason for existence. What is the Memorial’s purpose? Wasn’t this supposed to be a gift from the Class of 1962 to honor two of our class who died heroically? Should Darryl Dombroski be honored by the Class of 1962 since he was from the Class of 1966? Shouldn’t the Class of 1966 be the ones to honor their classmate? As a Reunion Committee for our class, are we overstepping into areas that are beyond our purview?
This was discussed and debated at length. In the end, all realized that something wonderful had happened. Instead of the Committee leading the way for this project, the project was leading us, as if it had a life or spirit of its own, and it was leading us on the correct path! We had become more than just the Reunion Committee, but now were responsible for spearheading a project that had grown to a bigger, better and even more important purpose.
Many in the Austintown School District had relatives and close friends that were in the unpopular Vietnam War. They remembered how the returning warriors were vilified by the public, and the media, and ignored by the very government they were ordered to serve. Many soldiers were drafted, and did not volunteer, but performed heroically anyway. This was an opportunity to give some closure to those memories and memories of those buddies who didn’t come home. Since Darryl Dombroski was the third and last Fitch alumnus to die in that War, it was fitting and proper to honor him as well. We knew that Jimmy and Chas would not only approve, they would have embraced Darryl as a comrade in arms.
Donations of money, time, labor, and materials continued to be pledged as the Committee planned, and approved the new design of the now much grander Memorial. Volunteers tore the top caps from one of the entrances of the old Mahoning Avenue school building to be used as the top cap for the monument.
Two of the 600 pound Fitch signs were removed and also some of the bricks from the old school were brought over to be used. We had assumed that the old building would be torn down, but as it happened the sale fell through. As of March, 2014, the building was still not sold.
The flagpole from the old football field was removed, cleaned and polished to be used with the new memorial. The American Flag that flew with General Colin Powell to Iraq would be flying on that flagpole. It was donated by the pilot, Capt, John Boccieri, that flew General Powell on that mission. He, as of this writing, is stationed at the Youngstown Air Reserve Base. In order to continue to raise money for a scholarship fund, paver bricks form the approach to the foot of the outdoor Memorial. Each brick can be purchased by families of veterans as a “Walk of Honor” for all veterans, and can be engraved with the name of a serviceman or woman that is serving or has served honorably in the military.(See slide show of the construction of the memorial)
On July 26, 2013 the Groundbreaking Ceremony was held at the Memorial site, then actual construction began.(see videos of Groundbeaking and contruction). On October 6, 2013, the Memorial Dedication Ceremony was held in the football stadium as a finale to the celebration of the opening of the new Middle School on the Fitch Campus.( See videos of Ceremony here)
It became clear that if we wanted to preserve any of the original idea of specifically honoring Jimmy and Chas, a second memorial would have to be constructed. So, the Committee made the decision to have a special cabinet built and placed inside the high school where it would be seen by everyone every day. The cabinet was hand-made by Jim O’Neil, Kriss Prommersberger O’Neil’s husband. It contains pictures of Jimmy and Chas, a copy of the Citations they received, and is illuminated with LED lighting. It is placed in the lobby of the current high school where it can be enjoyed and appreciated by anyone entering the building for many years to come. The Dedication Ceremony was held on April 10th, 2014.( See the entire pictorial from start to Dedication Ceremony by clicking here.)
We wish to thank the following people for their contributions to the entire Memorial Project. Without the help and support we received, none of this would have been possible:
Jim and Kriss O'Neil
Karen (Brown) Ruberto
Don Hall Excavating
Bricklayer Union Local 8
Masonry Materials Plus
Youngstown Electrical Supply
Rotary Club of Austintown, Mr. Mark Cole President
Youngstown Air Reserve Station
Mr. Marty Dyer
Mr. Jim Penk
Pallante Concrete Construction
Tom and Kathy Mock
Mr. Vincent Colaluca, Superintendent
Austintown Schools Board of Education
Mr. Mal Culp
Mr. Rob Conklin
Mr. Mark Miller