Niagara Gazette


September 25, 2012

Mary Ann and the miracle of the opened gate

Niagara Gazette — As the rays of the sun poured through the sparse cover of the clouds in the warm September sky above Niagara Falls, and then mingled with the sparkling tears that poured from the sobbing woman’s eyes, a small miracle happened.

Mary Ann Di Gregorio-Brannen of Scottsdale, Ariz., was in the Falls with her husband this week, Michael Brannen; where together they stood locked outside of the fenced-off memorial monument at Hyde Park, wondering how they would get in.

Sadly, they peered through the chain link fence straining to see a single one of the special names inscribed onto that dark granite sarcophagus beneath the two and one-half story stone canopy that is dedicated to those service men and women from Niagara Falls who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.

The name that they looked for her brother’s, Joseph Di Gregorio; whom she lost when she was but an eighth-grader in the nearby Gaskill Jr. High School. Mary Ann stood there behind the padlocked fence to mourn his death from so close, yet from so far.

That was April 15, 1970. Twenty-year-old PFC Joseph Di Gregorio died of mortar fire in Tay Ninh, South Vietnam, just a day short of four months from the time that he arrived in Vietnam.

As Mary Ann and her husband were getting back into their rented car to return home when a member of the Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial Commission, just happening to arrive to take pictures of the gray Wall of Honor of the name of a WWII veteran who was too ill to view it in person himself.

Talking to and feeling the hearts of the mourners, that commissioner, who requested anonymity, opened the gate for these visitors, and accompanied them safely into the monument to mourn.

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