Manhasset held numerous Memorial Day ceremonies especially at the village level. In Plandome, the ceremony began at 8:30 a.m. In Munsey Park, a revived ceremony was initiated by Munsey Park resident Greg LiCalzi, Jr. in conjunction with the village at 9 a.m. The event began with the singing of the National Anthem by Nicole Sciarrino, a Manhasset High School student and Munsey Park resident. With an introduction from LiCalzi, Mayor Frank DeMento addressed the crowd. LiCalzi then spoke about Ace In The Hole Foundation created after the loss of his brother First Lt. Michael Lialzi in Iraq and talked about the namesake of Waldmann Park:
Ensign George Raymond Waldmann was the first Munsey Park resident to lose his life in service for our country. While training as a Naval Aviator, George died during a practice flying mission. George was only 23 years old. Waldmann Park in Munsey Park, NY was named to honor Ensign Waldmann. A Ceremony was held at the park on Memorial Day, 1946. Over the years, seven more names have been etched onto the plaque in memory of those from Munsey Park who have died while in service for our Country.
George was born on Jan. 3, 1920 and raised in Manhasset, NY. He was son of Charles John & Bertha Waldmann. His father was a graduate of New York University and was a partner at the investment securities firm Kean, Taylor, & Company. The firm was headed by Robert Kean, a longtime US NJ Congressman and member of one of the nation’s oldest and longest serving political families. The Waldmann family raised George and his brother Charles Jr. at 512 Park Avenue in Munsey Park.
George received his diploma from Manhasset High School in June 1937. Manhasset Mail stated in its Jan. 21, 1943 edition that George was “one of the school’s most popular students and outstanding athletes, having starred in football and lacrosse”. He was also a member of the Chef’s Club, Chorus, Service Corps, Dance Committee, and Vice-President of his senior class. George not only excelled on the playing fields but also in the classroom. He was class salutatorian and winner of the Elliot Eickelber Memorial award and Board of Education Scholarship.
Waldmann enrolled at Yale University in the fall of 1937 where he was a member of the freshmen football and lacrosse teams. George continued to play lacrosse on the University team. Well-rounded athletically, George also played intramural baseball, football, squash and basketball. He was the athletic secretary his senior year. George graduated from Yale in 1941 magna cum laude.
Waldmann, like many former and current Manhasset alums, entered the world of finance upon graduation. He was hired as a salesman at the financial firm Harris & Hall in Chicago. The firm was engaged in a variety of investment banking businesses. The firm developed a specialization in underwriting securities for public utilities as well as trust certificates. Waldmann was at Harris & Hall for only five months when disaster struck the United States.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 altered the normal course of life for George and countless other young men in the United States. On this day, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory, killing more than 2,300 Americans. The following day, in an address to a joint session of Congress, President Franklin Roosevelt called Dec. 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy.” Congress then declared War on Japan, abandoning the nation’s isolationism policy and ushering the United States into World War II.
George endeavored to enlist the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. George joined the U.S. Naval Air Reserve and was called into service as a seaman stationed at the Naval Reserve Aviation Base at Floyd Bennett Field. George quickly moved south to become an aviation cadet at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville FL. George was commissioned an officer of the US Naval Reserve and appointed naval aviator on Nov. 27, 1942.
On Jan. 13, 1943, George perished while practicing diving maneuvers in Jacksonville. A family member of George, who also was a pilot, stated, “he’d said he felt he knew what must have been going through George’s mind at the time of the crash. Pilots in training are told that if you get into trouble, don’t try to save the plane—bail out, save yourself. But every pilot’s instinct is to try to save the plane and avoid a crash, so he felt that as the dive bombing practice run was coming in too low there must have been a point where George probably knew he could have bailed, but tried desperately to yank hard on the controls to see if he could pull it out, his last thoughts being something on the order of “I can do this.”
Family members remember George as being admired by all. He was intelligent, handsome, extremely good humored, and very talented musically. He sang and played the piano.
Finding information about George wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be from the onset. The power of Google was no use for a man who died in 1943. I had conversations with Manhasset Library and Manhasset High School looking for archived information. I thought I would be able to get his Manhasset High School yearbook as Manhasset Library has them archived. The archive starts in 1938. George graduated in 1937.
A chance encounter with a descendant of George allowed me to get some information from his college days and also some pictures. I was able to piece together his high school years by accessing Manhasset Library’s historical newspaper archive. Manhasset Mail published a front page article on George upon his death in its Jan. 21, 1943 issue and again for Memorial Day of that same year. Dean Schlanger, principal of Manhasset High School, was able dig around and find some class notes on George.
After all this, I am forever connected to George. I am so proud to share his story of courage and sacrifice. He was a true renaissance man. Smart, athletic, and talented. George’s life parallels to the brave men of my generation. Our war on terror has ripped out the hearts of so many families. My brother Mike died in Iraq at the age of 24. Munsey Park native Jimmy Regan died in Iraq at the age of 26. These three men were all cut from the same cloth. Even though George was born 60 years prior, they all chose service to country above all. Raised right, top educations, humble, disciplined, righteous men. These guys had it all.
Taken too young from this world. They deserved longer lives and large families. They should to be skating on Polliwog Pond in the winter. Instead they are forever remembered here at Waldmann Park.
A roll call of those lost was read by Dr. Jean Kendall.