Frederick J. Vivenzio
HTCS, United States Navy
Ultimate wish granted for U.S. Navy veteran
Reaching out, and advocating for the men and women who served this country is the legacy of the career Navy man, whose family saw to it that in the end, his own wish was granted.
For years, Port Byron resident Frederick J. Vivenzio talked about his desire to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Last month, the wish was granted when Vivenzio's body was laid to rest in the military cemetery that had been so important to him.
This week, as the Fourth of July approached, Fred's family reflected on the experience in Arlington and on how he touched their lives.
"It just made me feel such pride; no words can describe how I felt," said Michael Vivenzio, Fred's son. "It was his last wish that his last resting place be at Arlington.
"The cemetery is so beautiful. It's just totally incredible - the feeling, knowing that all these veterans being laid to rest there had a hand in freedom. Knowing my father had a part in that is a very proud moment. It was such an honor to have everybody there to honor my father - a really special memory."
More than 60 friends and family members made the trek to Arlington to witness the burial. The 26-year U.S. Navy veteran, and father of six, died in May, after a two-year battle with cancer.
Fred's first station in the Navy was as a pipefitter on the USS Howard W. Gilmore, a submarine tender ship. "That has stayed with him for all these years, whenever he thought of the service, he thought of the Gilmore," Michael said.
And Fred stayed with the people he served alongside. Roscoe Wise, editor of the newsletter "Gilmore Globe" for the servicemen who served on the Gilmore, wrote about Fred in a letter when he learned that he had died.
"In today's society it is extremely rare to find a person reaching out to others and helping them as Frederick so often did," Wise wrote.
"Fred will certainly be missed at our reunions, and will be honored in our solemn bell ceremony in 2005, along with the wish that he will forever sail on a placid sea."
Fred was director of the Cayuga County Veterans Services from 1992 to 1996. He also served as naval recruiter for the reserves at various locations, with the most recent being in Mattydale.
His son Michael followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Navy. Fred was proud, and went to California to witness Michael's pinning ceremony, when he became a Chief Petty Officer in the Seabees.
"He was a deeply patriotic man," Michael said. "It meant a lot to him to serve."
Fred's patriotism showed itself in the way Vivenzio dedicated his life to helping his fellow veterans. "My dad was a very generous man," Michael said. "There is nothing he would not do - he gave money, bought clothes, drove to Syracuse. He was a very big-hearted, kind person. He would not turn anyone away."
Paul Breuer, a national service officer with the Disabled American Veterans, was impressed by Fred's untiring service to veterans.
Fred was instrumental in the development of a transportation program to bring veterans in Cayuga County to Syracuse for medical services and appointments in the Veteran's Administration Hospital, he said.
"There is no one who could even closely approximate the commitment he showed on a daily basis," Breuer said. "He was in touch with us on a daily basis. Citizens in Cayuga County were extraordinarily well served by that guy."
Breuer said he has worked with 18 to 20 counties on veterans' issues, and no one in those counties was more knowledgeable than Fred on the rules and regulations for veterans' benefits.
"He took it upon himself to learn things he did not have to. Extraordinary is a term often used, but in this case, it fits," Breuer said.
Fred believed the veterans are always the first ones to be called upon, but sometimes the last to be serviced by their government, Michael said.
He felt the veterans were being betrayed. "We forget what freedom costs sometimes," Michael said."He always felt bad about how veterans were treated," said Shirley Moore, Fred's longtime companion.
In fact, he felt so bad that when he could not get official vans with wheelchair lifts purchased for veterans fast enough, he took his own van, and with his own money paid to have a wheelchair lift installed.
Fred then recruited volunteers to drive his van to bring veterans to Syracuse.
"That's just the type of person he was," Moore said.
Fred was not a flamboyant patriot. "It was a quiet patriotism. He wasn't looking for recognition from someone high up in the government," Michael said.
Being involved with the many veterans groups, and listening to their stories touched Fred.
"He would assist veterans in receiving benefits from the VA - compensation for wounds and injuries," Breuer said. On several occasions, Breuer would speak with Fred about former prisoners of war, and Fred would track them down, assist them and work the claims for them.
"He believed through those activities he was serving the veterans," Michael said.
Fred was a sportsman who loved to hunt and fish. "Next to veterans, they were his greatest pleasure," Moore said. "Hunting in the Adirondacks with a bunch of friends, hunting at his camp in the Southern Tier, and fishing with the guys."
He participated in salmon derbies, and The Golden Age games for veterans. "He won a medal every year he went," Moore said.
"He was proud of his uniform," Moore said. Fred always kept up on his Navy uniforms, buying a new one a few years ago. "He would wear it to parties, and marched in parades," Moore added.
When a veteran died, if the service could not get an honor guard to come stand watch, Fred would put on his uniform and go stand watch himself.
Michael said serving the veterans made Fred feel like he was still serving his country.
"We felt like the veterans are our national treasure, but through political reasons they sometimes get left behind. He felt obligated to help these people," he said.
In Arlington, Fred's fellow servicemen honored him with a 21-gun salute.
A bugler played "Taps."
"That used to really get him when he'd hear it," Moore said. The burial was a special honor to his family.
"It meant a lot to him," Moore said. "He had been talking for years about going to Arlington."
Fred's daughter Sherry Musso was happy to witness her father's wish - being buried at Arlington.
"My dad said that was the ultimate honor," Musso said. "He was a good man."
"He gave quiet and dignified public service," Breuer said.
"He was an outstanding, highly ethical patriotic
American - a genuinely decent guy who showed compassion for his fellow