The Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park held a fundraiser hosted by real estate developer Douglas Jemal on St. Patrick’s Day in support of the USS The Sullivans ship, which is in dire need of repairs.
Jemal — who has become well-known in recent years for building up the Buffalo area — spearheaded the efforts, meeting with workers at the park as well as the four-year-old Buffalo boy who donated his piggy bank to the cause.
At the invitation-only event, Jemal spoke about the 78-year-old Fletcher class destroyer and asked attendees, as well as the citizens of Buffalo, to consider contributing to the effort to save one of the city’s most historic sights.
“As a community and as the city of good neighbors, we really all have to pitch in just a little bit. A little bit of money goes a long way. Let’s make sure this naval museum continues on for generations and generations,” Jemal said during his speech.
Known for his role as a developer in the Buffalo area, Jemal said he took on the new project because it is something he is passionate about. As a New York native, he has taken quite a liking to the Queen City.
“We are very fortunate to be here today to honor this family and this ship. I’m looking forward to bringing my grandkids here to share this experience and this memory that we have today,” said Jemal.
The USS The Sullivans is the namesake of five Sullivan brothers who served on it during World War II. In November of 1942, all five brothers died when the ship sank during a battle.
The youngest brother, Albert Sullivan, was the only brother with a child, and his granddaughter, Kelly Sullivan, came to speak at the event. As a third grade teacher in Waterloo, Iowa, Sullivan spoke of her love for Buffalo and her gratitude for all the work that has already been done to preserve the ship. She also encouraged the community to donate and continue to visit the Naval Park to commemorate the Sullivans’ sacrifices and to teach the next generation about the boys’ story.
“We need to continue to make sure we have this. This is an artifact: this is something that we want our kids to see,” Sullivan said as she told attendees about her childhood memories of visiting the ships.
The USS The Sullivans has begun taking in water due to age and the harsh Buffalo winters. Water has accumulated due to small holes in the base of the ship. Paul Marzello, president and CEO of the park, also spoke at the event: he promised that the park would do everything in their power to maintain the ship.
In an emotional address to save the ship, Sullivan noted the five star gold flag that hangs atop the vessel, representing the loss of a child in battle. She commended the sacrifices that thousands of Americans have made in the service of the country.
“This ship represents all veterans, not just the Sullivans. The Sullivans are a symbol of all that have sacrificed for our country,” Sullivan said.
Donations were made at the event, and all were appreciated, whether it was the $50,000 pledged by West Herr or the entirety of four-year-old Arrow Swartwout’s piggy bank.
The Naval Park has declared the ship to need $1 million in repairs: if you would like to donate, visit www.savethesullivans.org.