By Allison Deutschman
Thursday's Village of Youngstown Board meeting began with a pleasant surprise. The Vietnam Veterans of America Niagara County Chapter 268 presented donations to the village in honor of Francis Daniel Zuhlke, a veteran and active community member who passed away in October.
Zuhlke's friends generously donated $600 in his name, which was matched by the local chapter of the VVA and combined with a $150 donation from the Seawolf Association. The $1,350 will be put toward a new security system the Village Board has been looking into installing in an effort to protect the memorial that was vandalized in December 2014.
"This money is going to help us tremendously," Mayor Raleigh Reynolds said. "I'm sure Frank would be very proud."
Francis Zuhlke's wife, Sheila, was moved by everyone's generosity provided in her husband's name and spoke positively at the meeting about the VVA, where he was a lifetime member. Francis Zuhlke was also a lifetime member of the Purple Heart Association and U.S. Navy Seawolves. He flew over 280 missions.
Sheila and Francis Zuhlke lived in Youngstown for 18 years and 25 years in Lewiston. He was an entrepreneur and the proprietor of Generation Construction Co. in Youngstown. Francis Zuhlke was very involved in the early days of the Youngstown Recreation Department, helped out frequently with the local fire company and was a coach for 20 years with the Niagara Pioneer Soccer organization.
On Monday morning, Francis Zuhlke will be buried in the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. His death was the result of stage four lung cancer caused by exposure to Agent Orange, a deadly combination of chemicals known today for causing many health issues and taking the lives of countless Vietnam veterans.
"He is finally getting the honors so due, and he will then be forever with all of the Seawolves before him," Sheila Zuhlke said.
Village trustees Steven Suitor and Stuart Comerford are planning to review a proposal of security options for the Veteran's Memorial provided by Smart Edge Technology, the same company the firehall uses for its security needs.
The next Youngstown Village Board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11.