Framing memoriesLouis Damiani lost his house in a fire a year ago, fortunately his friend had his pictures from World War II
By: Emily Zimmer, Rosemount Town Pages
Hanging on the wall of Louis Damiani’s apartment is a frame crafted by his friend Ken Talbert. In the frame is a handsome picture of Damiani when he was a Navy Pilot. Below that picture is a row of medals he earned while serving during World War II. And below the medals are pictures Damiani took during his time in the South Pacific aboard the battleship USS Tennessee.
While simple, the frame displays an important part of Damiani’s life. The pictures are among the few possessions Damiani had left after a fire last March destroyed his home and everything in it.
The 88-year-old man got out of his Akron Avenue with just a t-shirt and underpants on. The fire destroyed the home and killed his dog, Holly.
Damiani credits Holly for saving his life. Her barking woke him up the night of the fire. Through the smoke, Damiani was able to find his way out of the house and into his car. He then drove around trying to get help. A newspaper delivery person called the fire in.
The pictures that now hang in his Waterford Commons apartment were on display at the Rosemount VFW at the time of the fire. As for the medals, Congressman John Kline was able to get the Department of the Navy to reissue them.
The medals include the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two bronze stars, Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp, Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon, Combat Action Ribbon, Naval Reserve Medal, Discharge Button and the Honorable Service Lapel Pin, also known as the Ruptured Duck.
Usually Kline’s office would have presented the medals to Damiani, but Damiani recently underwent open heart surgery to fix a leaky valve.
So, Talbert got the medals for him.
Talbert didn’t want the medals to just sit in a box somewhere so he crafted a frame out of walnut he had taken from Damiani’s former property.
With help from some other VFW members Talbert put together the frame with the pictures and medals. They presented it to Damiani Feb. 11 at the VFW.
Talbert, who has been Damiani’s friend for many years, said Damiani isn’t much for notoriety. But Talbert wanted him to have something to preserve the memory of his service.
Damiani served as a Navy pilot on the battleship USS Tennessee. Talbert said Damiani’s plane would be catapulted off the battleship and he would take pictures to tell the ship where to shoot.
At one point the battleship had to answer an SOS call while Damiani was out taking pictures. He was stranded and spent days on the open sea before he was picked up. Talbert said Damiani’s mother received an MIA letter.
The pictures reveal moments in time such as the invasion of Guam, a crumpled Kamikaze plane on the deck of the Tennessee, the battle of Iwo Jima and the signing of the peace treaty. Treasure like that needed to be preserved, Talbert said.
“He had the history of World War II in boxes,” said Talbert.
After the war, Damiani worked as a pilot for Northwest Airlines for 30 years. He and his wife raised three sons in Rosemount.
Damiani’s health is fading. He recently he lost a brother. Despite everything, Talbert said Damiani has a heart of gold.
“He’s an incredible man,” said Talbert of his friend.