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Community celebrates service of WWII veterans Claire Smith and Frank Parlato


Wed, Aug 5th 2015 04:00 pm

During National Night Out, neighbors and leaders take time out to honor local veterans

During the Wingate Wallace "National Night Out" block party Tuesday, community leaders and residents took time to recognize the military service of two of their neighbors who served during World War II: Private First Class Frank W. Parlato, who served in the United States Army, and Claire Ruth Swanson Smith, who served in the United States Navy WAVES program during the war.

"Today's tribute is what community is all about: looking out for one another, celebrating each person's unique contributions and caring for the place we call home," Congressman Brian Higgins said. "We are honored to join a neighborhood in a special tribute to Claire Smith and Frank Parlato and we are grateful for your service to this country and community."

"It is fitting that we honor and celebrate the lives and service of veterans Claire Smith and Frank Parlato in the year that marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II," Erie County Clerk Chris Jacobs said. "Both answered the call to serve when needed, and both continue to be an inspiration to their family, friends and neighbors. And we will all be forever thankful for their service and sacrifice."

Jacobs also presented them both with the clerk's "Thank-A-Vet" discount card, which is issued to honorably discharged veterans who file their original DD-214 (discharge papers) with the Erie County clerk's office. Veterans can use the "Thank-A-Vet" card at more than 1,100 participating local businesses that have agreed to honor the card with a discount on purchases or services.

Erie County Legislator Peter Savage said, "Claire Ruth Swanson Smith and Frank W. Parlato represent the very best in America - having put their lives on the line for our country and for freedom during World War II; proving resolute, unflinching and fearless in their military service; and exhibiting strong leadership in the United States Army and Navy. While we salute these two American heroes today with this tribute, we could never fully compensate them for all they have achieved for America, for the world and for mankind."

"It is with great pleasure our block club is honoring both Claire Smith and Frank Parlato on this day," added Andrew and Roberta Gardner, Wingate-Starin Block Club organizers.

Smith demonstrated leadership and initiative at an early age, serving as president of her senior class at Mount St. Mary Academy and seeking to join some of the first women to serve in the military by enlisting in the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) program. She underwent basic training at the Bronx campus for Hunter College and was stationed at the Naval Barracks in Washington, D.C. Smith worked as a telegrapher third class, approved to handle sensitive material, and was honorably discharged on May 7, 1946. She returned to Buffalo, married a prominent Western New York architect, George Smith, and they had two sons: Scott and Jason. Smith remained active in the community, including working actively as a volunteer at the Albright Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo History Museum.

Parlato graduated from Grover Cleveland High School in 1939, attended Canisius College and worked at Republic Steel before enlisting in the Army at the age of 20. Following basic training at Camp Perry in Ohio, he worked as automotive parts clerk, maintaining the military fleet of tanks and trucks during critical operations such as the Rhineland Campaign. During his service, Private First Class Parlato received devastating news that his brother, Staff Sgt. Jesse Parlato, was killed in action in the Invasion of Normandy.

Proud of his brother and his country, Frank continued to serve until his honorable discharge on Nov. 7, 1945. When he returned home, he became one of the original founders of the F.J. Donovan American Legion Post No. 1626. Parlato finished his degree at Canisius College, married and had five children: Joe, John, Charles, Lynda and Judy. He worked for the City of Buffalo and Buffalo School Board before retiring as the superintendent of the accounting department for the Board of Education in 1984.

Germany surrendered to the Allied forces on May 7, 1945, marking the end of World War II in the West. This year marks the 70th anniversary of this milestone, also known as Victory in Europe (V-Day).

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