(Photo by John Cook) This ramp was installed recently at a Juniata Township home by area veterans for a local World War II widow.

Local veterans make holidays happy for World War II widow

As Mary Connell, the widow of a World War II veteran, went through rehab at a local facility last fall, she was told a ramp needed to be installed at her home before she could be discharged.

And around here, veterans take care of each other.

“I think it’s an awesome thing,” said Mark Zmierski, Tuscola County Veterans Affair director. “She’s a World War II widow, and she needed a ramp before they let her out of rehab, they make sure patients have a set up so it’s safe for them to go home.”

So while the 86-year-old Connell was recovering from a recent illness and subsequent rehabilitation (she spent nearly two months being treated at medical facilities), local veterans sprang into action.

“It was all veterans that did the work and all veterans that paid for the ramp,” Zmierski said. “When it’s no longer needed, they will come and repurpose it for another time project.”

When Connell arrived at her Juniata Township home in December, about 50-feet of wooden ramp was waiting for her. “I feet total gratitude and I will forever be humbled and honored that they would do that for me,” Connell said. “That’s the kind of people they are.”

Vassar Building Center, 1013 W. Saginaw Road, in Vassar, sold building material to the veterans at cost, Zmierski said.

“They said if we needed anything else that they would help even more,” Zmierski said. “So Vassar Building Center was phenomenal, they were just wonderful.”

Connell also wished to express her gratitude to Vassar Building Center, adding that, “I can’t express enough how thankful I am” to the local veterans who lent a helping hand.

“These kinds of things need to be done, and our veterans that do them should be honored,” Connell said.

Zmierski said Connell’s situation was brought up at a meeting of Tuscola County’s Veteran to Veteran program.

“It’s a group that gets together the second Thursday of every month in Akron, and it’s for veterans – some male, some female – and their families to come together for food, fellowship and comradery,” Zmierski said. “And we also like to see how we can help our veterans and their families in our community.”

Meetings are at 6 p.m. at the Akron Village Offices, 4380 Beach St.

“It’s wonderful that veterans are keeping an eye out for other veterans,” Zmierski said. “And also the widows, because we can’t forget about the widows, shame on us if we do. Our charge as veterans is we’re supposed to take care of each other and be positive members of our community and make sure that we’re helping others.”

Connell was married to World War II vet Cameron Connell, who passed away in 1993. The couple had three children. She worked for more than 30 years – from 1953 through 1984 – at the Caro Center.

Connell said she enjoys speaking to veterans and their families, and “would love to hear from people around the country.” Her address is 5781 W. Caro Road, and Connell said she would enjoy corresponding by written letter with former military men and women.

John Schneider is editor of The Advertiser and can be reached at john@tcadvertiser.com.