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Veteran headed project to build war memorial

Robert C. McCusker

Robert C. McCusker

April 29, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

HANCOCK - When Robert C. McCusker looks at the Hancock War Memorial he sees the McCusker family name under each war listed.

There's his late son Robert and his brother Harry, who served during Vietnam; his nephew Danny, who served during the Gulf War; his father William and uncle Harry, who served during World War I, and cousins and ancestors who served.

Robert C. McCusker served with the Army for two years during World War II in France and Czechoslovakia. He was an assistant driver of a medium tank who also fired the mounted machine gun, he said.

Several years after WWII, Robert McCusker dreamed that he built a monument to honor the men and women who did whatever it took, gave up their lives if necessary, for their country, he said.

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"It was tried one time in Hancock and it failed," said McCusker, 81, pulling out a Jan. 23, 1948, clip from The Hancock News. A story tells how a veterans committee disbanded without building a WWII monument because members couldn't agree on what type of memorial to build.

McCusker never let go of that dream, but it wasn't until after a Veterans of Foreign Wars post formed in Hancock in August 1988 that he figured out how his dream might become a reality.

A charter member of the VFW and its commander for all but the post's first few months, McCusker received permission in 1991 to use the VFW post's nonprofit status to raise funds for a veterans monument.

He set that goal aside for a few years to help others get the Hancock library moved out of the flood plain to higher ground at Widmeyer Memorial Park.

Then he returned to the memorial, with the help of many people, including Dan Fleming, Tommy Ernst, Walter Dyer Jr. and the late Carl Norris.

"He worked his job and then he worked there at night," before sleeping a few hours and heading back to work, said McCusker's wife of 60 years, Aura.

"It is really something spectacular. Some of the kids say it's 'awesome,'" she said.

"It really was probably one of the greatest days of my life," Robert McCusker said of the dedication on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2000.

There are more than 1,100 names on the granite memorial that stands near the library.

The memorial lists men and women who were living in the Hancock area when they served in the military during wartime, specifically the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korean War, Vietnam War and the Gulf War.

Veterans are listed whether they were stationed in a war zone or not, because it was wartime and they could have been sent to war.

McCusker, a Hancock Rotary member, also has lined the town's streets on holidays with 45 American flags and, as a Hancock Rotary member, helps with fundraisers for community and international projects.




Q&A



Name: Robert C. McCusker

Hometown: Hancock area

Occupation: Retired May 2, 2003. Was manager of H&H Storage, a fruit packing and storage operation that formerly was a Fairview Orchards operation.

What was your proudest moment?: "I'm sure my first pride was my wife."

His wife, Aura, says his proudest moment is the building of Hancock's War Memorial.

Whom do you most admire, and why?: "Naturally, my family." He mentioned friends Dan Fleming, Walter Dyer and Tom Ernst. "And of course, you have lots of friends, but they were men who went beyond the call for assisting and so you have to really admire them for it."

What is the best piece of advice you ever received and who gave it to you?: "I always felt if you were going to try to do something, do the best you can. I was taught that if you're going to go work for a man, do the best you can and you'll always succeed. My father (the late William "Bill" McCusker) always said 'You have to work and you have to make the man happy who you're working for.'"

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: "I enjoy (my retirement) and I also ensure the monument is taken care of."

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