Private John I. Marruso – Park 20

Marruso Park update:  

In summer season of 2014, through grant funding, the Greening of Detroit took Marruso playground under their supervision.  Greening works to create community stakeholdership of the playground by encouraging use; an excellent program that unites the community.  A neighborhood park ambassador is selected to plan, advertise and execute playground kid activities such as storytelling, organized games and yarn bombing on the fence line.  Detroit teens are trained and hired to mow, trim and maintain the playground from spring to fall.  

The season was capped off with a re-dedication of the park which told the story of John Marruso and a tree planting to make 2015 even more beautiful.  Photos of the dedication are below.   Thanks to Greening for inviting me to tell the story… and super thanks to the James Reese Europe VFW Post 2233 on Mound Road for performing the color guard and flag ceremony.  The nicest vets I have ever met.  

marruso vfw 2233
Doing research, I have met a lot vets.. The guys from Post VFW 2233 on Mound Road are so kind and dedicated. When I phoned them to see if they wanted to come to the park dedication, they didn’t hesitate.
marruso flag
Flag color guard duties.
marrusso planting
It was a cold and overcast October day.


“I’m coming home soon – I think for good,” wrote John Marruso in a letter home shortly before his death in combat on July 9, 1950.

Yeah .. the sign is spelled wrong. It’s definitely Marruso.

Marruso never returned to the family residence on Vinewood Street in Detroit; instead he returned in a pine casket as the Detroit’s first casualty lost in the Korean War.

The Marruso’s were a family that served.  John’s father served in World War I.  He later passed before John and his brother Joe finished elementary school; the boys were raised by their mother Lena.

When high school ended, John started working for Chrysler and then followed in his dad’s footsteps and enlisted to serve in the military.  In 1948 he shipped out for a three year join as a member of the 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division of the US Army. Within six months, Private Marruso was sent to Japan.  He landed in the Korean War where he was wounded by shell fire and later died in a Japanese hospital.


On a Thursday morning in August 1950, six of his school buddies from St. John the Evangelist Intermediate School acted as his pall bearers.  Private Marruso was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery on Detroit’s east side.   A squad of veterans from the VFW Fairview Post – the same post that saluted his father in death – honored his memory by sounding their guns for a military tribute.  All that was left for his mother was the US flag that draped his coffin.


The final reminder of John Marruso’s selfless sacrifice is a playground located at the corner of Annott Street and State Fair.. not far from Mount Olivet Cemetery.  The park’s dedication plaque bearing Marruso’s name and telling his history was taken long ago by scrappers, regardless his memory lingers.


© Andrea Gallucci, 2013.  All rights reserved.