by Sarah Einselen
At 91 years old, Ben Rozzi still walks slowly around his business, Warner’s Greenhouse, helping arrange flowers and turning his right ear slightly toward anyone speaking to him.
He’s one of the few remaining veterans of World War II, during which he worked as a construction foreman in the Philippines.
Rozzi, owner of Warner’s for 62 years, will lead Logansport’s Memorial Day parade this year as its grand marshal. At first reluctant to accept the honor, he said he decided to go ahead with the parade after urging from his staff at the greenhouse.
His voice became a little higher-pitched as emotions overcame him.
“I think it’s great to be in the service,” Rozzi said. “I think it gives them a chance to help their country.”
Rozzi was drafted while working in the railroad industry in Logansport. He shipped off on Feb. 3, 1945, to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, for basic training, then spent most of two years on Leyta Island in the Philippines with the 7th Fighter Air Service group. He worked there till discharged on Aug. 13, 1946, with the rank of corporal.
He received a Victory Medal for service in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater of World War II, as well as two overseas service bars and a good conduct medal.
After returning home, Rozzi went back to work for the railroad until starting work for a friend in the greenhouse he now owns. He also joined the American Legion and the VFW.
Through the Forty and Eight, another veterans’ organization he joined, Rozzi got involved in efforts to promote children’s welfare, serving until recently as the child welfare director for the Cass County chapter and eventually becoming the national Sous Directeur, or assistant director, of the organization’s child welfare program, a position he held for about three years.
“It gives you the opportunity to help a lot of kids,” Rozzi said.
Rozzi also returned to Asia to visit on two occasions, “just to see what the country was like,” he said. “Japanese people are nice people.”
As Rozzi leads off the parade Monday, he’ll be followed by several returning vehicles and organizations, including area emergency responders, veterans’ organizations, the Caston Junior-Senior High School band, Boy and Girl Scouts and four local funeral homes.
The ceremonies are scheduled to start at 10 a.m. sharp at the Logansport City Building, 601 E. Broadway, where members of the Walton American Legion will place wreaths at the Doughboy Monument honoring veterans of World Wars I and II.
The parade will step off from there and head west to the clock tower at the Cass County Government Building on Fourth Street. After a ceremony there, the parade will continue north to High Street and back east until ending up at the Sixth Street bridge, where it will pause to memorialize veterans lost at sea.
Next, the parade will proceed to Mount Hope Cemetery’s Civil War Monument for the day’s main program, including an address by Sgt. Major Jeff Duncan. The events conclude with a final march to Legion Circle on the cemetery’s main drive, where a final wreath will be placed and veteran’s council president Jim Stokes will make closing remarks.
Sarah Einselen is news
editor for the Pharos-Tribune. Reach her at 574-732-5151 or by email, email@example.com