Port Washington's American Legion Post has selected Vickie Johnson to be this year's co-grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. Mrs. Johnson's selection marks the first time in the history of the parade that this recognition was given to a female. A veteran of World War II, she volunteered to join the armed forces to free up men for fighting.
On August 26, 1943, Johnson voluntarily enlisted in a unit organized to enhance our wartime efforts known as the WAVES an acronym for Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services. Her boot camp was Hunter College in Manhattan where she studied general naval duties and went on to serve as a specialist third class. Her first assignment was at the naval base at Arlington, Virginia, the Bureau of Personnel in Washington, D.C. Johnson was responsible for recreational activities for three barracks housing hundreds of servicemen.
An experience that Johnson vividly remembers was the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She joined the thousands of mourners who watched as Roosevelt's funeral cortege passed through the streets of Washington. She recalled the sense of depression and uncertainty fueled by a new president who was charged with ending the war.
After the war, Johnson was honorably discharged on December 6, 1945 and returned to Port Washington to work for the telephone company at 290 Main St. Her career at the phone company was extended to 40 years. A handsome young man who lived directly behind the phone company on Bank St. had an active interest in the employees of the phone company. Often this young man, who was also a World War II naval veteran, would bring coffee and doughnuts, entering the office through a fire escape in the rear of the building. In short order, this young man, Robert E. Johnson, fell in love with Vickie (nee Kohanska) and, in 1949, they began a marriage that was to last 42 years.
Vickie Johnson was born in the house where she presently resides in Port. Her father, Joseph, emigrated from Poland and worked as a plumber in Port. Her mother, Victoria, was born in the United States, worked as a homemaker and, with her husband, raised five children in Port. Vickie attended Port schools and raised two of her own children here in Port. She is a member of numerous Port institutions including the Polish Americans Citizens Association, the American Legion where she is a life member and is a member of St. Peter's parish. She maintains an active association with the past commander of the American Legion, Bob Click, who is also her cousin.
A charming woman, Johnson speaks eloquently of her fondness for the men and women of our armed forces now serving in Iraq and for all the veterans of our nation's conflicts. She views her selection to be this year's co-grand marshal as 'a great honor of which she is extremely proud.' Her description of her regard for our country is underscored by a patriotic conviction which that a listener will readily realize that they are in the presence of one whose devotion to our nation has been aptly labeled the greatest generation.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post of Port Washington has selected one of Port's native sons, Edward Tylinski, as co-grand marshal of this year's Memorial Day parade. As a life-long Port resident, Tylinski had a distinguished military career during WWII followed by the raising of a family and the conducting of a successful business in Port for over one-half century.
Tylinski's military career began at his induction on October 14, 1942 when he was assigned to Camp Upton in New York. From there he went to Fort Sill, New Jersey, where he was assigned to the 92nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Unit of the 12th Armored Division. He was very proud of this assignment because his father had served with the cavalry in France during WWI. Fort Sill led to Camp Campbell, Kentucky, Camp Barkley, Texas, and finally to Camp Shanks, New York, prior to shipping out to Europe. In his travels around our nation, he recalled no place was as beautiful as Port. Tylinski's Atlantic crossing was marked by several unsuccessful attacks by German submarines. After arriving in England, his unit was sent across the English Channel several months after D-Day.
After entering France, Tylinski's unit fought with the 3rd and 7th Armies under the command of General George Patton. His assignment called for his operating a six-wheel reconnaissance car, which was fired on several times and pinned down by machine gun and artillery fire. One occasion while under fire, his vehicle was damaged; he very cleverly concealed it from enemy fire fearing that if it were too severely damaged he might have to walk across Europe. Among the many brave men Tylinski remembers best were two first lieutenants who lost their lives in the war, Lt. McGuff who studied for the priesthood and Lt. Cohn, a Jewish rabbi. The victorious allied forces filled their canteens with cognac in France and schnapps in Germany and the 12th Armored Division was awarded three battle stars for bravery on the battlefields of the Rhineland, Ardennes, Alsace and central Europe. Tylinski was honorably discharged on December 5, 1945 and received two bronze medals for bravery under fire.
At the conclusion of the war in Europe, Tylinski returned to the States where he was retrained for the invasion of Japan. When the atomic bomb brought WWII to an end, he was asked to sign up with the reserves. He replied the only thing he wanted to sign was the payroll sheet for the $99 owed him for his latest three months in the service.
Ed Tylinski was born in Port Washington at 7 Avenue A and attended Port schools. After his wartime service, he married and raised four children in Port. He joined his father, William, who owned a delivery service supplying ice, coal and kerosene to Port residents and businesses. The William Tylinski Ice Company prospered in Port for 76 years of which Ed worked 54. Their unofficial motto was ' Every man had his woman but the iceman had his pick.' After the decline of the ice, coal and kerosene business the company began delivering heating oil of which Tylinski boasted that Polish oil contained more BTUs to the gallon.
Tylinski has been a member of the veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion since the end of WWII and served as the financial secretary of the Polish Club for five years. He successfully maintained his membership in Alcoholics Anonymous although he says he can still smell the cognac and schnapps of WWII.
He has exceptionally high praise for the VFW and membership. He was especially anxious and pleased to receive the honor of being named co-grand marshal when he heard his good friend, Vickie Johnson, was selected as co-grand marshal by the American Legion. He unabashedly said that, if they were younger, he would consider asking for her hand in marriage. Tylinski's bright smile on making that comment hinted that he might have been thinking that there might indeed be enough youth in the relationship. Port Washingtonians will watch with admiration and pride on Memorial Day when this patriotic couple receives the well-deserved recognition of our community for their service to our nation.