Category Archives: Obituaries

Rest in Peace: Otto Frederick Warmbier

UPDATE: Thousands Attend Funeral for Otto Warmbier

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4628846/Hundreds-gather-funeral-Otto-Warmbier.html

 

“Apparently under President Obama’s administration, Warmbier wasn’t even worth a Twitter hashtag tweet: “Bring Back Our Otto,” for example.”

Written by Juliana Simone

June 21, 2017

American Otto Warmbier (December 12, 1994 -June 19, 2017), taken by the North Koreans and subjected to the severity of their labor camps, died two days ago after being sent home to the U.S. from this communist country in a coma.

Apparently under President Obama’s administration, Warmbier wasn’t even worth a Twitter hashtag tweet – “BringBackOurOtto,” for example. Obama’s First Lady Michelle, made such an effort on the social media site when learning 276 young school girls were taken by an extremist Nigerian group “Boko Haram.” Days later she said her husband was doing “everything possible” to help Nigeria bring the girls back.

A New York Times report, for whatever this is worth these days, reported the U.S. Air Force had now sent dozens of personnel to the area to use drones to help find the kidnapped girls. Officials did follow up and said the girls had been found but they could not be saved because too many people could have been killed, perhaps even the innocent girls themselves. The White House moved on.

Otto Warmbier, made the naïve mistake of visiting North Korea in January of 2016. A University of Virginia college student from Ohio, he apparently was being watched by the North Korean government, during a five-day tour in January of 2016 which he had seen advertised while he was touring China. Maybe five days seemed to be a safe entry and exit time for a curious twenty-one year old who as class salutatorian gave his fellow high school seniors their graduation speech.

OttoWarmbierportraitWikipedia
Otto Frederick Warmbier

North Korea alleges he stole a sign from a wall in the hotel where he was staying promoting the leadership of Kim Jong-il. A couple of months later, they produced a video of low quality as proof to their claim, but there is no clear image of Warmbier and its arguable whether it was him at all.

For this, Warmbier was picked up at the airport while standing in line the last of his five day tour to leave North Korea for theft, and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. Warmbier is seen on video in North Korean court in February of 2016 confessing to stealing the banner but no one knows whether he did this under intimidation or some false promise that if he admitted to doing this he would be released. A U.S. envoy was sent on his behalf once, in March, but he met with no success.

ottowarmbierNKCNAphotoMarch172016
Photo released by the North Korean Central News Agency via Yonhap News Agency of Warmbier in Pyongyang Court March 16 2016

OttoWarmbierintearsincourtwithNorthKoreanguard

OttowWarmbierbowsandasksforforgivenessforhostileactNKcourt

OttoWarmbierbeingledoutofcourtKoreansoldierDailyMail

A month after his trial, it’s reported Warmbeir somehow experienced a medical incident that left him with severe brain trauma, information not produced by North Korea and only learned after his release. Otto’s parents desperately wanted to get their son out of the labor camp and bring him home to America, but Mr. Warmbeir says he and his wife were told by the Obama administration they could not participate in any negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea and to keep quiet.

OttoWarmbierparents
Otto Warmbier’s Parents

 

On June 12, 2017, Rex Tillerson, the United States Secretary of State, announced that North Korea had released Warmbier, and that the U.S. State Department secured Warmbier’s release at the direction of President Donald Trump.

Otto Warmbier was flown home on June 13, 2017. Unable to walk or talk, carried off of the transport to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, doctors were unable to bring him out of his coma. Physicians claim his condition came from a severe heart attack and that no signs of abuse were found on his body. Even though he was able to breath on his own and blink his eyes, he failed to recover and died on June 19th, 2017. Otto’s father has stated he does not believe anything the North Korean’s have said in terms of what happened to his son.

Twenty-two years old, gifted, loved and wanting to explore the world at its best and its worst, what happened to Otto Warmbier, is an alarming and sad reminder to what happens to American’s abroad, as well as other  civilians,  more and more today in both free and communist countries. Shame on our governments that allow this to continue to happen. It’s much more serious than a hashtag. Rest in peace, Otto.

 

Obituary: Connecticut Veteran John Puzzo

Veteran, author, cable news commentator and father, John Puzzo
Veteran, author, cable news commentator and father, John Puzzo

Written by Juliana Simone

July 11, 2015

 

Plainville, CT – It is with great sadness Ameriborn News Network has to publish this obituary for Hartford native John Puzzo. He had many titles. He was last perceived as an insurance and investment professional, but this was a minor view of the great man who served his country. Though he dedicated seventeen years to his work as a financial advisor with many well-known companies, such as Aetna, Citigroup and AMEX, to those who knew him, he was a seasoned Army veteran who participated in counter terrorism operations and the global war on terror.

He spent three years under the designation High Threat Personal Protection Officer and security consultant, and included on his background on LinkedIn the designation of ANTI-TERRORST OPERATIONS, Iraq: Armed Personal Security Escort in High Threat, non-permissive Areas, Force Protection Operations, Residential and Installation Security Operations, Emergency and Contingency Response, Surveillance/Counter Surveillance Operations.

His professional profile also included this on LinkedIn:

Contractor; Counter Terrorism Operations; High threat Personal Security Officer

US Department of Defense

July 2004 – November 2007 (3 years 5 months) Iraq; USA.

Private Military Contractor, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Global War On Terror; GS-12 (O-4) Rating

RANGER; Artilleryman, Infantryman, Combat Engineer

US Army

November 1968 – August 1971 (2 years 10 months) Republic of Viet Nam

Served in Viet Nam as Long Range Patrol team member and sniper with Company K (RANGER), 75th Infantry (Airborne), and as an artillery Forward Observer to the Infantry, an Infantryman and a Combat Engineer with the 4th Infantry Division.

JohnPuzzoveteran

John authored two books “Vietnam and Hollywood” and “K75th Rangers: The Highlanders.” He was a guest and commentator on politics and the Middle East appearing on CNN and ABC among other broadcasts to share his insights on Iraq, terrorism and what the United States of America needs to do to combat this threat which is still active today. John’s views can be heard here, in an exceptional hour and a half long interview on blog talk radio:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/freedomriders/2009/12/06/john-puzzo-our-featured-guest

There was a sensitive side to this great man, as well, where he spent time as a published writer, photographer and poet. Forty images of John’s can be seen at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. A poem he also chose to share on his profile on LinkedIn reads as follows:

Waves

Out there in the sea, with others of his kind
he looks back at you,
still there, on the shore, with your feet in the sand.

You are the last thing he sees, too.
They share something very precious
in the sea of sacrifice where they live now.

This ocean will never die.
It will keep sending them back to us
to remember.

http://memoirsfromnam.blogspot.com/2012/12/please-play-video-while-you-read.html

Fluid in four languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese) and conversational Arabic, he was an educated man, with a BA from UCONN and studies at Yale University, the Sorbonne in Paris, Boston University, the Art Institute of Boston and the University of the Americas in South America. He added a Master’s Degree in National Security Policy Studies from the University of New Haven in 2015.

Like many accomplished men from an older era, John was a modest man. He did not boast about any of these achievements when one was in his company. This author has to say probably half of this is news to me. Ameriborn News Network’s William Landers and Juliana Simone, were privileged to share Thanksgiving Dinner with John and his wonderful son John at his home in Plainville in 2010.

He was a gracious host who gave us many hours of entertaining conversation that showed his intelligence, humor, wit, valor, compassion, sophistication, concerns and integrity. Most of all, he radiated what a unique individual he was in terms of humankind. His children John and Sarah lost a fine father. The world and America has lost a great soldier, and all of us who knew John lost a very special life, indeed.

The last time I saw John was outside of a restaurant in Plainville where Fifth Congressional Republican candidate Justin Bernier was running for a second time in a crowded field that included State Senator Andrew Roraback, Mark Greenberg – also running for a second time – and Lisa Wilson Foley. Trying to cover such a large group on the night of the primary for final comments from everyone on the ballot before the numbers came in, I rushed past him in my haste.

He called out to me, and asked, “Juliana, you don’t have time for an old friend?” I quickly turned and saw John. It was so moving to see him. I rushed over to him and gave him a hug. He reminded me that he had to walk over to the event but still wanted to watch what was going on. We chatted for a few minutes.

If I’d known that was going to be the last time I saw him, I would have called it a night and gone and shared a glass of wine with him. Not that the politics on hand weren’t important – they were – but it was pretty clear who was going to win the primary despite Justin and Mark being fine contenders. But as it always is in life, when suddenly someone is gone, you wish they were still here, and that you could have had more time, or even one more moment to tell them so. Looking through our email exchanges yesterday and this evening, I saw one of John’s final sentences to me:  “You are always welcome here.” Thank you, John.

Juliana Simone and John Puzzo
Juliana Simone and John Puzzo

Juliana Simone and John Puzzo Barkhamsted CT 2010

 

John Puzzo submitted these words to Ameriborn News on Facebook:

John Puzzo posted in Ameriborn News

John Puzzo 2:04pm Nov 10

As untrue as the following statement is it remains the cultural memory of the Viet Nam War, institutionalized across the spectrum of print and broadcast media, in the courts, by legislation, in the workplace and especially in academia where the experts tell us all what is and what is not. In the universe of ‘Vietnam and the Opinion makers’ a generation of American veterans became disenfranchised by their own country, willing as it was to accept an undeserved and untrue reputation, articulated by future US Senator John Kerry in testimony before Congress in March of 1971:

“[US soldiers in Viet Nam]…raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam…These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command…The country doesn’t know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history…” 

My premise for creating the Viet Nam War Veterans Oral History Project in 1980 was simple: To counter that generally accepted deception about the Viet Nam Veteran and use their own words to do it. I hoped to earn a PhD in American History from UConn in the process.

This project and the NEH grant that funded it would be the basis of my doctoral dissertation, but the project itself would become part of the story of the Viet Nam War Veteran and the historical record, and I would never get my Doctorate.

What began with such promise ended nearly orphaned. Two years of my life were dissolved on a seemingly ephemeral pursuit: Change the way the world viewed the Vietnam veteran and the war, one person at a time. 

Two great Connecticut institutions, The University of Connecticut – flagship of Connecticut’s university system, and the Connecticut Historical Society – the State’s premier archival repository, in this instance revealed themselves to be common and inclined to bias.

This is what happened. As a Viet Nam War veteran and an individual who loved scholarship and the academic life I thought it was time, in 1980, to redefine what Kerry had said about the Vietnam nine years before.

I received the backing of the American Legion as my sponsor and earned a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, administered through the Connecticut Humanities Council which is the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

This work would help resolve issues and misunderstanding about a controversial War and contribute to some much needed healing of the nation. After all Viet Nam was a national experience, not just the veterans’.

As principal architect of this effort and project director, I was responsible for everything, including the budget and the finished product – the biographies of the veterans in the form of oral histories and transcripts spoken in their own words.

The University of Connecticut would be the repository of the tapes and transcripts associated with the interviews but it grew beyond that. NERAC, one of four national mega-data base research application centers offered as a matching donation a very large block of computer-based research. NERAC proved to be a valuable resource. Their interlocking data bases dumped thousands of articles, monographs, and studies on the Viet Nam War and the veteran, principal of these (and totally unanticipated) were associated with the health aspects of service in Vietnam.

The granting authority required that three PhDs act as ‘Scholars’ for the project who would be independent but answered to me as to direction of the work. When the accountant I hired to oversee the budget reported that monies were spent by two of the Scholar historians to interview a veteran who had stories to tell about ‘atrocities’ I asked them about it. “Was this veteran vetted, how did you get his name and do you know him,” were some of the questions I wanted answered. 

That is when things changed. My office – little more than a closet – at Wood Hall on the UConn campus was closed, my keys confiscated, the phone was disconnected, and I had only limited access to my work in that it was only available during office hours. This created a huge hardship for me and I believed it would impair the success of the project. 

When the campus closed for Christmas break that year I packed what remained of my project out of the History department and down to my car. A blizzard was raging. As I was backing out, the Chairman of the History Department engaged me in conversation as UConn police arrived. I left that day with my material intact and severed my relationship with UConn forever.

On Veteran’s Day in 1982 the Viet Nam War Veteran’s Oral History Project was dedicated in a small function at the Connecticut Historical Society. Many of the Veterans were there. 

The Director of the Society, Christopher P, Bickford, publicly received the “Tape recordings, transcripts, and other memorabilia of the Viet Nam War Veterans Oral History Project.” 36 vets had participated, most were from Connecticut and many had extraordinary stories they had told. 

Incredibly, he Historical Society promptly deep-sixed everything. 

For many years after the dedication, decades, in fact, the “Viet Nam War Veterans Oral History Project” could not be found by me or by anyone else. In 1988, 6 years after the dedication, I was at the Historical Society looking for evidence of my project – something I did periodically and unannounced, I opened a crate of heavy books entitled, “The Bibliographies of New England History.” I went to theConnecticut volume and to the index to look for Viet Nam related items.

There I found 100% of what was catalogued as ‘Viet Nam’ in this directory of Connecticut specific reference material was by, for, and about the Anti-war movement in Connecticut. Not one word about Connecticut’s two (at the time living) Medal of Honor recipients, the number of memorials dedicated to the Viet Nam War and Veteran in Connecticut towns, and of course, nothing about the “Viet Nam War Veterans Oral History Project.” 

The Director of the Connecticut Historical Society, Christopher P. Bickford was also the Treasurer of the collection, ‘Bibliographies of New England History.’ 

More that 20 years later, and after three tours in Iraq as a private military contractor I once again looked for my former project at the Historical Society. It did not appear in any of the Connecticut Historical Society’s online sources and when I called, no one seemed quite sure what or where or it was or if they had it. 

It took a lot of effort and I know I annoyed them quite a bit, but eventually they did locate the remains and on Veteran’s day of 2010, I rededicated what lingered of the old project. Of the 36 original transcripts only 14 were left. None of the Tapes or memorabilia survived.

The two couples who served together in Viet Nam as husband and wife, the nurses with poignant stories, the infantryman from Puerto Rico who lost an arm, the General who gently put down a rebellion of mountain forest dwelling allies, the pilot who flew top secret intelligence missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Marine who got out of Jail by joining the Marine Corps, and John Levitow, the airman who was awarded the Medal of Honor in Vietnam – all lost to history as far as this project was concerned. 

Me? Well, after changing the world all I wanted was to wear argyle sweaters, knit ties and tweed jackets with corduroy pants and crepes sole penny loafers as a professor of History somewhere. That became lost, too.

John Puzzo
Plainville, Connecticut 06062

Memorial Service for Andrew J. Pape

 

Andrew J. Pape - Vice President, Republican American newspaper
Andrew J. Pape – Vice President, Republican American newspaper

Written by Juliana Simone

November 12th, 2012

Waterbury, CT – At eleven this morning at the St. John’s Episcopal Church, a memorial service was held to honor the memory of Andrew J. Pape, 46, for family, friends, colleagues and those wishing to show their respect to the Pape family. There was such an enormous turnout there was standing room only in both the back areas of the church as well as in the balconies.

Andrew’s father William J. Pape II is well known throughout the state and the world of journalism as the publisher of the renowned newspaper “The Republican-American.” Connecticut locals call the paper ‘The Waterbury Republican.’

The name “Republican-American” came from merging two newspapers in the 1990’s, “the American” and “the Republican” by their owner, William J. Pape. Founded and still run by the Pape family and a holding company, “American-Republican, Inc.” William J. Pape II now serves as the paper’s CEO.

Andrew Pape was born in Waterbury in 1966 on February 13th to his father William and mother Patricia Moran Pape. He was raised in the scenic town of Middlebury in Litchfield County along with his brother, William B. Pape. Andrew graduated from Connecticut’s Suffield Academy before choosing to attend college in New Orleans, where he earned a degree from Tulane University. He returned to Connecticut for both his family business and to be with his future wife, Christine Pattillo, whom he met while attending Suffield.

Within the Pape’s American-Republican, Incorporated, Andrew was happy to serve as both Vice President and assistant treasurer. At the “Republican-American” Andrew was the Director of Operations.

Besides being energetic at his work, Andrew Pape was an avid sailor and participated in leadership positions at many community clubs such as the Madison Beach Club, The Mattituck Museum, the former Waterbury Club, the Anderson Boys Club, as well as the National Rifle Association.

The lovely Memorial Service included the King James Version of Psalms 23; The Apostle’s Creed; Hymn 208 “Alleluia! The strife is o’er”; Hymn 597 “O day of peace”; Hymn 671 “Amazing Grace” and Gospel Lesson John 14:1-6. First Lesson Isaiah 25.6-9 was read by Richard Pape.

Remembrances were given by Andrew’s brother Will Pape, daughter Alexandra Pape and friends Dick Grant and Peter Gersky. Will Pape remembered the things that made his brother special; Alexandra recited a poem she created for her father that placed him in Italy; Dick and Peter reminisced about how kind Andrew was and quick to assist those in need as well as point out how much he loved his wife and children. There were also some amusing antidotes for levity that were shared with worshipers and gatherers. All speakers agreed Andrew was already missed.

Homily was delivered by a female minister who was once the Chaplin at Suffield Academy. Communion was offered to those in attendance who wished to receive it which was the majority. Because of the amount of people who came to pay tribute to Andrew and the Pape and Pattillo families, the Holy Eucharist was given from a few stations.

At the end of the Memorial Service, the Pape’s stood outside to receive guests. Waterbury’s State Representative Selim Noujaim was in attendance as well as Senator Rob Kane. A reception was held at the Mattituck Museum held by Andrew’s wife Chrissie and the Pape family. Donations in memory of Andrew Jamieson Pape can be made at the family’s request to Suffield Academy.

Roxane Page Ruhl Simmons

 

Roxane Page Ruhl Simmons
Roxane Page Ruhl Simmons

Written by Juliana Simone

April 28, 2012

Stonington, CT – At the Episcopalian Calvary Church on a sunny spring Saturday morning, Roxane Page Ruhl Simmons was remembered by an exceptional family, their acquaintances and many friends. The program handed out to those who came from near and far to pay their respect to Mrs. Simmons read “In Celebration of the Life of Roxane Page Ruhl Simmons.” The story of her life brought forward by three sons and others close to her exemplified why her life was indeed celebrated.

A program of music, prayer, and remembrance moved the congregation on hand with many emotional moments. Using time as a means to reflect on Roxane Simmons special life, her sons each took a turn remembering their mother’s unique ways.

Chuck Simmons told everyone about her early years, and how she eventually came to marry their father while attending Vassar College in New York, and needing a place to stay for the summer rather than having to travel all the way back to her native Oregon, ended up in Stonington.

Former Congressman Rob Simmons (CT-2) told how his mother was a life long Democrat, and though he was Republican, she would still attend his important public appearances and sit in the back row with a big hat on, so Rob could see from the stage if she vigorously shook her head up and down when in approval, or right and left when in disagreement.

Tom Simmons spoke lovingly about her waning years as they saw her slipping away but how their mother still kept her feisty character to the end, bagging her two Siamese cats to take with her when once again trying to walk away from the convalescent home she believed she did not need.

Heidi Simmons also presented a reading “What is dying?” at the beginning of the memorial and granddaughter Jane Simmons read Epistle Lesson: Romans 8:14-19, 34-35, 37-39. Gospel John 14: 1-3, 27 was read by Lisa Kennedy. A meditation was given by Rev. Dr. W. Alfred Tisdale, Jr. There was also a moving handbell solo that left few dry eyes within the cathedral.

After the service, the immediate family left for a private burial ceremony in the magnificent cemetery nearby.  Guests were invited to a reception at the Simmons’ home. In good spirits, the Simmons’ welcomed everyone from political colleagues to dear friends of Roxane’s, and thanked them for coming as some traveled a good distance to be there for this occasion. Former Lt. Governor Mike Fedele and veteran State Rep. Pam Sawyer were among those who attended the service.

Rob, always able to tell a fascinating story at a moment’s notice, told us about the antique clock against the wall. Rob said his mother found the clock and had it restored after some time and research in 1969 to working condition. When she moved out of state from Stonington she naturally wanted to take it with her but realized her new home did not have high enough ceilings to house it. She asked Rob, what should I do? Quick on his feet, he said, mother, leave it here! He mused how this was how they were able to keep this lovely antique.

Simmons' Family antique clock
Simmons’ Family antique clock