Vet’s family receives medal

Man fought, died in France during WWII

WARREN — Ray Davis was raised by his grandmother, so Rudy C. Plaskur was more like an older brother to him than an uncle growing up.

“He used to buy me comic books,” Davis said.

On Thursday, Davis and his daughter, Lisa Marini, both of Howland, got Plaskur a posthumous gift — the Purple Heart he earned nearly 75 years ago when he died at age 28 from combat injuries suffered in France in 1944 during World War II. The honor was presented to the family during a ceremony at the Samuel E. Lanza Veterans Resource Center.

The process started about two years ago because Marini wanted to replace Plaskur’s headstone in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

“The stone was totally dilapidated,” she said. “You couldn’t read anything on it … We knew he was a Purple Heart recipient, but you cannot get that on the tombstone without having the certificate.”

The problem was that Plaskur’s service records were destroyed in St. Louis, and Marini kept hitting roadblocks trying to find the documentation she needed. As a last resort, she went to the Lanza Center, and the case was assigned to Chuck Ciapala, a veterans service officer.

Ciapala and Marini contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland. Marini said, “And in a very short matter of time they found the records in Washington, D.C., of Rudy being awarded the Purple Heart.”

“It started from a grave marker and ended up with getting the honor that this guy should have always had,” Ciapala said. “It was incredibly humbling to work on it.”

During the ceremony, Ryan quoted President John F. Kennedy — “‘A nation reveals itself by the men it honors and the men it remembers.’ This is an opportunity for us to remember the service that Rudy gave his country … Today is an opportunity to celebrate his service, his selflessness, his belief in a cause bigger than himself.”

Davis, 88, was 14 years old when his uncle died, and Marini remembers hearing stories about Plaskur when she was growing up.

“Mom would always tell me he was such a good looking man,” she said. “He was a ladies man.”

Both were happy to learn that Plaskur’s service and sacrifice was being recognized.

“I was excited, there’s no other word for it,” Davis said. “I told Lisa she did a great job.”

Marini added, “Well, I was lucky to run into Chuck because I was pretty much at a standstill.”

The family hasn’t decided yet where it will display the Purple Heart.

“We haven’t really thought about it,” Marini said. “I assume my dad will display it in his home.”