From: Joseph R. Stanaitis
To: Gerald F. Merna
Cc: David T. Feliciano; John Antonacci
Sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 5:05 PM
Did you know that the coach had a brother? i was looking for his obit when this excerpt from the congressional record for that date… I forgot his brothers name…another senior moment..
(BY RICHARD GOODEN) (Extension of Remarks - September 27, 1996)
[Page: E1730] GPO's PDF
HON. BENJAMIN A. GILMAN
· Mr. GILMAN. Mr. Speaker, the St. Agnes Home for Boys in Sparkill, NY, was an outstanding home for orphaned boys for over 100 years. It closed its doors forever back in 1977, but the many boys who were raised by the loving Dominican Sisters of Sparkill will never forget their kindnesses and the outstanding lessons of life that they learned there.
· In it’s over 100 years of existence, thousands of orphaned and needy boys were reared at St. Agnes home. The home taught these youngsters the importance of patriotism, which is underscored by the fact that over 555 graduates of St. Agnes served in the Armed Forces of our Nation during World War II alone. It is hard to believe that any school so small anywhere else in the Nation could possibly have produced so many soldiers. Sadly, 39 of them were killed in action during that conflict--a record of valor, which is probably unequaled.
· One graduate of St. Agnes, Gerald F. Merna, is today the vice president of the American Defense Preparedness Association, headquartered in Arlington, VA. Another is his brother James, a resident of Lanham, MD, who now serves as chairman of public relations for the St. Agnes Alumni Association. Jerry, James, and their four brothers all were raised at St. Agnes. Their eldest brother, George, was killed at the age of 19 in a sea battle during World War II.
· On August 24 of this year, the St. Agnes Alumni Association conducted its 50th anniversary reunion. Seventy-five alumni of St. Agnes from all across the Nation came to Rockland County, in my congressional district, to pay tribute to the sisters, and the sports coaches, who molded them into outstanding citizens, and to reminisce about their incredible experiences at St. Agnes.
· The Speaker of the House generated a great deal of controversy last year regarding his comments on orphanages. Here is an example of an orphanage, which filled a community need and became a beacon for thousands of youngsters.
· Mr. Speaker, I wish to insert into the Congressional Record the newspaper article dated August 25 which appeared in the Rockland Journal News recounting the recent reunion:
(BY RICHARD GOODEN)
Sparkill: Art Kingsley provided humor, emotion and nostalgia yesterday during the 50th anniversary celebration of St. Agnes Alumni Association's founding. He held the attention of 75 feisty people, in 85-degree heat, on the grounds of the Dominican Convent.
That was the easy part.
In order to prepare for the day's events, the 73-year-old World War II veteran and former resident of the St. Agnes Orphanage used a chain saw to remove two plaques from a wall of the Hallan Building. He bought a third plaque. He then dug a shallow 10-by-5 bed on the lawn, filled it with gray stone and embedded the plaques in a cream marble.
`This is a beautiful work of art,' said James Merna, a resident of St. Agnes from 1946 to 1950 and now head of public relations for the alumni association. `Art Kingsley made this all happen today.'
The corner plaques were dedicated to St. Agnes physical education teacher James Faulk and the nuns who worked at the home. The convent closed the orphanage in 1977. The plaque in the middle honored the 39 soldiers that attended St. Agnes, who died in World War II and the Korean War.
Merna, a stocky round-faced man, eager to help all in attendance, reminisced on the transformation from childhood to manhood at St. Agnes.
`We went from the ball fields of St. Agnes to the battlefield of World War II and the Korean War,' said the Marine veteran who graduated from Tappan Zee High School. Merna challenges any orphanage to equal or eclipse the 555 St. Agnes residents who went on to become soldiers. Merna credits Faulk, who died in 1985, with shaping the orphans into productive citizens. In honor of his role model, Merna named his first child James Faulk.
Pete Lawton, a resident at St. Agnes from 1940 to 1948, also shared his recollections of the football coach while posing for a picture beside the plaques.
`This man was an inspiration to us kids,' said Lawton, a Congers resident who was at the orphanage from age 6 through 13. `He is the major reason why most of the St. Agnes kids lived decent lives.'