Those who have read and admired the heroes of Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation should view with pride this year's selection as grand marshal for Port's 82nd Memorial Day Parade, John H. Weaver of Baxter Estates. Weaver's combat exploits in WWII during which he was awarded a bronze star and two battle stars for service in Northern Italy combined with his many other achievements as an entrepreneur and civic leader make his selection noteworthy.
Weaver served in WWII with the famous Tenth Mountain Division, which was formed by General George Marshall and designed for combat in mountainous terrain. The division was atypical of Army units in that, when formed, the recruits were chosen from among the population by civilians. As a result, an exceptionally talented military unit was formed nicknamed 'the college boys.' At the beginning of WWII, Weaver began his military career as an infantryman and retired as a lieutenant colonel with the reserves in 1977.
John Weaver was born in St. Ann's Hospital, later known as the Foundling Hospital on the east side of Manhattan. His mother, Mildred, of Atlanta, Georgia, chose this hospital because of her fondness for the Catholic nuns. John's father, John, Sr., was an artistic painter who founded a school for artists in Manhattan. Some of his most memorable works were done for the WPA Art Project. In 1932, after John's early years near Pompton Lakes, NJ., his family moved to New York and young John pursued his education at New York University until it was interrupted by the war.
In 1948, he met his wife, Natalie, while both worked on the presidential campaign of Governor Thomas Dewey. They were married in 1950 and made their first home in Jackson Heights. In 1956, they moved to Port Washington compelled by the esthetics and fondness for life on the north shore of Long Island. John raised three children, Roger, Nancy and Constance. Their son, Roger, holds a master degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and has been employed for twenty-five years as an account executive with AT&T.
On returning from WWII, Weaver finished his education attending NYU and attaining a B.A. in 1949 from Hofstra University. In 1946, while enrolled in night school, he boldly set out on an entrepreneurial career by forming an insurance company specializing in property and casualty insurance; the firm was soon called Clinchy, and Weaver had offices on 42nd Street in Manhattan. It prospered many years under his guidance and, in 1985, he structured a merger with MRW Group of Huntington, Long Island where he now serves as vice president. He commented that the greatest event in his long career in the insurance business was the events of 9/11, which has dramatically raised property premiums and depressed the industry.
Few could match Weaver's involvement in and commitment to civic affairs. He remembers vividly the satisfaction he got when he was co-chairman of Citizens For Rockefeller in 1958. He also worked in the presidential campaigns of Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower and New York Mayor John V. Lindsay. He was the founder of the Hofstra Pride Club and has served as president, secretary and fundraiser over a twenty-year period. In the incorporated village of Baxter Estates, he was a trustee from 1978 through 1998 and mayor from 1999-2001. He was recently named mayor emeritus by the village and represents the village on the New York Conference of Mayors (NYCOM). For five years he was district commissioner of the Boy Scouts of Port Washington.
He served as both president and member of the Board of Trustees of the United Methodist Church for three years. He is an enthusiastic member of the Manhasset Bay Preservation Committee, the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. Weaver speaks convincingly of his high regard for civic affairs and his firm belief that people need the best in politics and government.
On entering the armed forces, Weaver was trained in Camp Hale, Colorado with the unit later called the Tenth Mountain Division as a trainer in the unit's medical corps. Sergeants Jack Parker and Peter Seibert were among Weaver's colleagues; they bought some of the surrounding ski slopes after leaving the service. The slopes prospered and later became the focal point of the emerging town of Vail, Colorado, which boasts the largest ski slope in the United States.
The training at Camp Hale consisted of skiing and techniques of combat at high altitudes. Years later, the same training and tactics used in WWII were used by the Tenth Mountain Division in our war in Afghanistan. United States forces were trained for this battle in elevations of ten to fourteen thousand feet and successfully fought in the Afghan campaign. British forces, however, experienced much more difficulty and medical problems due to a lack of high altitude training.
The battle of Riva Ridge on Mount Belvedere involved the full US Army division going up against dug-in forces of German troops on Riva Ridge. Among the participants was 1996 presidential candidate, Bob Dole, who was seriously wounded and partially paralyzed. Colonel Bill Darby, who led the famous Darby Rangers in the invasion at Anzio, was reassigned to the Tenth Mountain Division and took part in battle. The Tenth suffered over five thousand casualties and became the first allied unit to reach the Alps. On the day of the German surrender, May 2, 1945, one of the last enemy shots fired took the life of Weaver's commander, Col. Darby. After the battle, they were held for two months awaiting orders for reassignment to the Japanese theater. With the Japanese surrender, the Tenth was sent back to the United States.
Weaver's last four years with the division were spent as the inspector-general, which required his attention to investigations along the East coast. For more information on the Tenth Mountain Division read The Ski Troops by Hal Burton.
He dearly cherishes his ties with the military and keeps abreast as president of the Association of the Tenth Mountain Division, which retraces its steps in the battlefields of northern Italy every three years. The sentimental side of his time as a military man is evident in his proud display of the crossed skis pin of the Tenth Mountain Division; he talks with pride of the skis and other military artifacts he retains to this day.
Weaver proclaims his fondness for Port as a great place to live. In his many years as a resident, he has seen the traffic grow and notes that expansion has been especially evident in Baxter Estates which now has not a single vacant lot available. Weaver offers sage advice to those considering moving to Port-do it fast, the quicker the better. He is not overly concerned with the pending tax increases coming with reassessment and accepts the change as fair and necessary.
The 82nd annual Port Washington Day Parade forms at 10 a.m., Monday, May 27 on Campus Drive. You may have seen many such parades in the past but this year offers somewhat more. The parade is a chance to show your appreciation for one of the many members of the greatest generation. After 9/11, and with the patriotic spirit which is evident in all of us, it is a good time to cheer an American who has distinguished himself as a soldier and citizen. We owe our salute and our cheers that day to Port's own John Weaver.