Private John Kozdron – Park #50

Here’s one from the gone file.. when a playground disappears.

20 DAYS IN

The boyish John Kozdron off to fight in an unforgettable war. Photo courtesy VFW 4553. Thanks guys.
The boyish John Kozdron off to fight in an unforgettable war. Photo courtesy VFW 4553. Thanks guys.

Private John Kozdron was born on July 7, 1925.  He attended St. Hedwig High School in southwest Detroit graduating with honors in 1943.  Like many young men in the 1940’s, Kozdron was active in the Catholic Youth Organization.

A year later, John was inducted into the in US Army 9th Infantry, 6th Armored Division.  Basic training was received at Fort Hood, Texas and he shipped out to Europe on January 3, 1945.

Twenty days later on January 23, 1945, Private Kozdron died in the closing of the Battle of the Bulge.   Letters indicate he died a hero’s death.  He earned the Purple Heart and is buried at the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg.

 A COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER

John was just 19 at the end of his life.  He was recognized as the youngest man from his neighborhood to die in World War II.  In 1951, the veteran community united to remember John’s brief life by naming the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 4553 in his honor.  

Post member John Czapski [chop-sky / free polish pronunciation lesson; you’re welcome ] built a fine post ‘home’ on the corner of Campbell Street and Plumer located near to Kozdron’s childhood home on Merritt .

The Vets and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Kozdron VFW line up in their finest while the post is adorned with the largest flag in the neighborhood.
The Veterans of 4553 and the Ladies Auxilary wearing their finest while the post is adorned with the largest flag in the neighborhood.
How the post looked in the 1960's
John Czapski built this building as well as two others on the adjacent corners of Plumer and Campbell. His signature touches were detailed brickwork and putting his name “Czapski” into the terrazo in the foyer.

 In 1956, Czapski along with Post Commander Louis Marmul petitioned the Detroit Department of Parks and Rec to dedicate a small play lot in Kozdron’s name.  After an initial denial and subsequent post appeal, the playground came to fruition later the same year.  For  three decades, the John Kozdron Memorial Play Lot was located across the street from the post and gave neighborhood kids a destination.  In the late 1980’s, the playground was deemed underused and a roofing manufacturer accepted the land transfer and built a storage facility on the site.  

Home base today at the corner of Campbell and Plumer.
Home base today at the corner of Campbell and Plumer.

While the park might be gone, the Kozdron VFW Post 4553 and Ladies Auxiliary are still active within the Southwest Detroit community.  With the Suchan brothers  leading the way, this post draws in everyone from regulars, neighbors to local politicians for a friendly beer, the occasional wake and camaraderie.  

The former site of the playground. Across the street from the post.
The former site of the playground. Across the side street from the post.

The overarching mission of VFW 4553 is to serve veterans and the surrounding community; members of the Kozdron Post keep this duty close to their hearts.  From their yearly fundraising efforts, they are able to send children to Camp Trotter in Grand Rapids; help St. Hedwig Church with financial support for Christmas giving, as well as providing holiday dinners to homeless vets and parties for kids.

The VFW 4553 John Kozdron Post is located at 2501 Campbell Street. Hours:  Wednesday  – Sunday Open at 3:00pm.  It’s off the beaten path and frankly, they prefer it that way. Stop in for a beer and a burger; it keeps John Kozdron’s memory alive and supports the surrounding Southwest Detroit community.  The stories are good and the veteran hospitality will exceed expectation.     

Thanks so much to the VFW 4553 for allowing me to spontaneously interrupt their Saturday [ i seem to be super good at that ] and for bringing the memories out of storage.  Photos used with kind permission from the VFW 4553.  Thanks again Suchan!

Map courtesy of Google.
Map courtesy of Google.

Have a great day.  Thanks for reading. © Andrea Gallucci, 2015 per the usual.