The intersection of 69th Lane and 60th Avenue in Maspeth was officially co-named after decorated World War II hero Joseph Schmidt in a heartfelt ceremony surrounded by family and friends on Saturday, Dec. 2.
Council Member Robert Holden, in conjunction with the Newtown Historical Society, Juniper Park Civic Association and Haspel-Stabb VFW Post 551, joined the Schmidt family to celebrate the life of Joseph Schmidt and share stories of his heroism in World War II.
According to information provided at the street naming and from the Juniper Park Civic at 22 years old in 1942, Schmidt was enlisted into the military. He completed basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division, Big Red One.
Schmidt was awarded the Bronx Star after being shipped to Tunisia, North Africa, where he completed his first campaign. He then battled in the invasion of Sicily and on June, 6, 1944 — forever marked in history as D-Day — he was promoted from the rank of private to sergeant. Among many great feats, Schmidt was a survivor of the Battle of The Bulge.
Altogether, Schmidt was awarded a Bronze Arrowhead, Bronze Star with cluster, Combat Infantry Badge, Distinguished Unit Badge, European African-Middle Eastern Service Medal, Purple Heart with 4 clusters and a Silver Star, the Newtown Historical Society documented.
“Dad was a very humble, kind, generous and selfless person with the greatest sense of humor,” said Evelyn Skelly, daughter of Joseph Schmidt. “It was not until later on in life that dad spoke of his wartime combat.”
Skelly shared details regarding her father’s fifth Purple Heart, received during The Battle of The Bulge, and how he had survived inside of a foxhole with enemy German soldiers. She said her father believed it was his last name that saved him from being killed that day.
Holden, the chair of the committee for veterans in the City Council, said he related to the family who spoke at the ceremony and further emphasized the benefits of the Schmidt family documenting their father’s life for all their years.
Robert Schmidt shared the words of his father in recounting another outstanding moment of fighting on the front lines on the Belgium and German border. He also shared that his father’s spirit remained strong during the war.
“He always had so much determination and resolve that he wrote his mom on Christmas Day 1944. He goes, he said to her, ‘tell Hitler we’re still here. He’s dug into his foxhole and we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,’” Robert recounted.
Dennis and Jennifer Schmidt also shared kind words about their father.
Dennis said how remarkable it was to have his father still live a normal life after the war and Jennifer also commended her father’s presence in her life.
At the end of the ceremony, after the street sign was officially unveiled, a proclamation was also awarded to the Schmidt family.
The DSNY color guard, members form the local FDNY Squad 288, and NYPD Auxiliary were also present during the ceremony.