By CLOEY CALLAHAN
To honor Veterans Day this year, the Town of Fishkill held a ceremony in remembrance of the Mount Beacon Eight on Saturday, November 7 with special guest speakers.
The eight Navy servicemen lost their lives in two separate plane crashes on Mount Beacon – one of which was 85 years ago and the other 75.
The first crash was on September 14, 1935, which involved Pilot Lincoln Denton (27) and Aviation Machinist Mate Clinton Hart (28). They lost their lives when the single engine biplane crashed on Scofield Ridge.
On November 11, 1945, a second plane crashed into Mount Beacon, which held six servicemen. One of which was the highly decorated Navy legend Commodore Dixie Keifer, who was largely recognized at Saturday’s event. The other five men included pilot Lloyd Heinzen (27), co-pilot Hans Kohler (25), passengers Dr. Ignatius Zielinski (45), David Wood (23) and Clarence Hooper (22).
Both Kiefer and Zielinski served in World War I and World War II.
Hooper’s daughter, Patricia Hooper Wiggins, was planning to attend the ceremony, however was unable to due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Local officials, including the Town of Fishkill Town Supervisor Ozzy Albra, Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro and Congressmen Sean Patrick Maloney, were in attendance at the event.
Three Fishkill veterans who were killed in action in Vietnam were also honored. The Town of Fishkill dedicated three County roads in their memory. County Route 34 (Baxtertown Road) will be dedicated to Richard Robert Smith, County Route 35 (Osborne Hill Road) will be dedicated to Michael Garlo and County Route 36 (Red Schoolhouse Road) will be dedicated to Robert Bruce.
“We had to think differently to honor our fallen soldiers because COVID prevented traditional memorial day services,” said Albra. “I decided to honor these three Fishkill residents who were killed in Vietnam.”
“I’d like to remind everyone of the courage and honor these three heroes showed in their service to the nation,” said Albra.
In attendance during the ceremony was the brother of Robert Smith, William Smith. He was able to accept the dedication and shared a few words.
“This means so much to me and I thank everybody that’s here and showed up to remember my brother and the other two who paid the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives,” said Smith. “The dedication of Baxtertown Road means a lot to me.”
When his father was sick and he had to take care of him, he drove down Baxtertown Road every day.
“The road has a lot of significance to me and a lot of sentimental value,” said Smith. “I never even realized that road was going to be dedicated to my brother.”
Molinaro expressed the importance of Veterans Day and encouraged those to celebrate it this year however they wish.
“Those will find it within themselves to drive down one of these County highways to pay respects and honor the life and service of the three men, maybe walk or hike up Mount Beacon to remember the history that we recognize and acknowledge today,” said Molinaro. “What Fishkill does today is to recognize the men and women who serve and continue to serve our home.”
“The service and heroism, extraordinary sacrifice, the pain, the willingness to serve even when hurt, should inspire us all,” said Maloney. “When a time when our country is so divided but doing the work of democracy, it’s so important to remember the things that unite us, which must remain stronger than what divides us.”