As work to convert a utilities garage into a community center at Veterans Memorial Park nears completion, Mattituck Park District commissioners have turned their attention to memorializing two local men who gave their lives for their country during World War II.
Russell Penny and Peter Krupski will be honored next spring at ceremonies dedicating the new building to their memories. The commemoration was voted on earlier this month by park commissioners.
The men, whose families have deep ties to the North Fork, went off to war, never to return to their community. Pvt. Penny died at Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941. Master Technical Sgt. Krupski died June 13, 1943, from injuries sustained on Guadalcanal in the Pacific.
He had served for two years as a marine and reenlisted for another two-year stint, dying just three months later, according to his niece Pat Krupski. He died at age 22 at a U.S. Naval mobile hospital in the Pacific, Ms. Krupski said.
Ms. Krupski was too young to have known her uncle, but has heard family tales about him, she said. He received three awards during his service with the Marines: the American Defense Service Medal, a medal for his participation in the Asiatic Pacific Campaign and a World War II Victory Medal.
Sgt. Krupski was initially buried on an island in the South Pacific and later his remains were returned to the family to be interred in the family plot in Cutchogue, Ms. Krupski said.
Before joining the Marines, Sgt. Krupski worked on the family farm and did a lot of work on machinery, which helped him develop skills he used during his years in the service. He was one of five children born to Frank Joseph and Tekla Patricia Krupski. His niece believes he was either the youngest or second youngest of the siblings.
The family of Pvt. Russell Penny learned of his death when they received a Western Union telegram on Dec. 10, 1941.
“The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son, Russell M. Penny, was killed in action in defense of his country at Hickham Field, Territory of Hawaii, December Seventh. No remains can be transported to the United States until after termination of hostilities.”
Pvt. Penny, the son of Anna and Clifford Penny, enlisted in the Army Jan. 5, 1940, and was 20 when he died.
In letters home, he wrote that his unit had the reputation of being “the ruggedest crew on the islands.”
“Man, if you aren’t, you don’t last long,” he wrote.
In a letter from June 1941, he wrote, perhaps prophetically, “Things look black around here. I am still having a good time as a private and it don’t look like I’ll ever be anything more than that.”
In an earlier letter, he had written about two men being “shipped back in nut cages, a third attempted suicide and others have tried other methods of forgetting it all, such as getting and staying drunk.”
Pvt. Penny was hoping for a furlough to get home and see his cousin’s daughter, who had been born while he was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Japanese planes with the Rising Sun emblazoned on them ended that dream six months later. Russell Penny was the first Suffolk County man to die during World War II.
Pvt. Penny is buried at New Bethany Cemetery in Mattituck. The Krupski family, who were awaiting the remains of their own son, were in attendance at Pvt. Penny’s funeral, according to his obituary.