89-year-old Parma veteran takes strides to make “sweet” changes in his community for his fellow veterans at East Coast Original Frozen Custard
By: Felicia Naoum
PARMA HEIGHTS, OHIO –
November 11, 1919: President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp
True American Heroes: (L to R) Mike Siley, Chester (Chet) Selwa, Joseph (Joe) Lucas, Joseph Gramuglia
Joseph Gramuglia of Parma, Ohio – Merchant Marine WWII 1944-1946, Lake Erie Pittsburgh Steam-lines in Cleveland 1946-1950, Korean War 1950-1952
Joseph Gramuglia of Parma has carried his bravery with him long after his days on the battlefield. This 89-year-old veteran and long-time resident of Parma never let his age stop him – if he’s not working in his yard (laying bricks or planting trees), he is knocking on doors, asking questions and making change happen. Joseph’s youngest daughter, Sandy Stanko, may be far from her father on his special day but she recalls everything he means to her, “My father’s laugh lights up the room. I’ve learned from him to be kind, gracious and to treat others with respect. I’m proud of my father for all he has done for his family, his friends and our country. If I could hug him and tell him how much I love him, I’d be right there.”
From afar, Joseph is keeping his children and community proud. It all started with an email that Joseph sent to East Coast Original Frozen Custard (East Coast) (http://eastcoastcustard.com/) in Parma Heights, where he has frequented since his early days as a resident of Parma, especially with his oldest granddaughter, Danielle. This message was among several that Joseph sent out to various businesses inquiring about veteran discounts for his fellow veterans. “I’m not doing this for myself; I’m doing this so my fellow veterans have a break. Every penny counts,” said Joseph.
As for the team at East Coast, they had no hesitations. East Coast responded to Joseph’s request and honored his wishes of implementing their first ever veterans discount at all of their locations.
Joseph Gramuglia at East Coast Original Custard in Parma Heights hanging out on the back of the East Coast truck while decked out in his trademark veteran gear
Shirah Gottfried, employee and daughter of East Coast Owner, Ivan Platt took action as she graciously and promptly responded with a phone call to Joseph. Joseph was thrilled and thankful that his wish, a 10% savings on any item to honor our American Heroes, was granted. Following the phone call, Shirah sent a handful of free custard coupons to Joseph to enjoy. And to thank Shirah and the East Coast team, Joseph expressed his gratitude by hand-delivering Shirah a homemade thank you card covered in patriotic decor – Joseph has to be one of the proudest American Veterans around – he’s always representing the country he defended then and still today.
Joseph and his friends enjoyed East Coast Custard on October 6, 2016
Following the thank-you and in his true generous fashion, Joseph took his veteran buddies to his favorite custard shop to enjoy a sweet treat.
As the veterans enjoyed their custard, I had the opportunity to interview Shirah. Shirah explained how her father used his desire and skills to recreate Coney Island’s (New York) and Euclid Beach’s (Cleveland) version of custard. The result: a decadent, creamy, Parma Height’s original that prompted the opening of the very first Original East Coast Custard in Parma Heights, Ohio. The year: 1984. The taste: everything this little town of Parma/Parma Heights was hoping for. Thirty-two sweet years later the line at the window and drive-thru at East Coast is still long on hot summer nights, and not a soul is complaining because everyone knows it’s worth it. “You can’t get frozen custard like this anywhere else – made fresh all day, every day – never frozen. Plus we have 200 flavors that we make. The best is our signature vanilla custard. We use a vanilla extract from Madagascar; a special extract that makes our vanilla so great,” explained Shirah.
I had a chance to meet up with Joseph and his veteran friends while they were indulging at East Coast. As they enjoyed their custard, they shared what being a veteran means to them and why they love East Coast.
L to R: Joseph Lucas, Chester Selwa, Joseph Gramuglia, Michael Siley
A word with our American heroes, our veterans:
- Joseph Gramuglia, Parma
Merchant Marine WWII 1944-1946, Lake Erie Pittsburgh Steam-lines in Cleveland 1946-1950, Korean War 1950-1952
“I feel that we veterans deserve something like this. Especially with the management that’s in there right now. She (Shirah Gottfried) was very kind and pleasant; she appreciated me being there.”
Joseph beamed with pride and gratitude as he reiterated Shirah’s words to him. “Shirah respects and honors our veterans, our men and our women.” Joseph reminded us to remember our fallen veterans as well. “A lot of my friends, buddies, are gone, but God rest their souls; they’re in heaven.”
- Joe Lucas, Parma
United States Army, Infantry, “Grunt” Rifleman 1952-1960
Joseph Lucas appreciates the lasting relationships being a veteran gains. “To me, being a veteran is something kind of special. I’ve met so many people, so many good guys that I’ve hung around forever that are just like brothers. And that’s what part of it means to me. I’m proud to be an American and a service man.”
On East Coast:
“My granddaughter is about twenty-five and I used to bring her when she was 5 years old; a good place to hang out, good custard and good comradery.”
- Michael Siley, Parma Heights
United States Marine Corps, 1954-1959
Michael represents those who are unable to walk in his path. “I’m out there helping the people that can’t become service people because of a problem they have physically or mentally. Some of them wish they could have been in the service so I’m helping them out by being in the service and doing the job for them also.”
On East Coast:
Michael shared the first time he was introduced to custard at Euclid Beach Park. Michael recalled memories of picking up his dad after work and going to Euclid Beach for the night.
“With the discount or without the discount, their custard (East Coast) is freshly made every day; it’s not frozen like you buy in the store. Since Euclid closed, we’re here at least three times a week.”
- Chester “Chet” Selwa, Parma
Navy and Marine Corps 1963-1967
A milestone: 50 Heroic Years Later
Chester celebrated a milestone during the veterans’ gathering at East Coast Original Custard on Thursday, October 6 as this day marked the 50 year anniversary of Chester’s time in the service. “I fulfilled my military obligation to my country, to my fellow man and to my own personal self-satisfaction that I was able to do it.”
Chester spent his former years as President of the Parents’ Association for the City of Parma Heights’ Swim Team. Chester shared fond memories, “All the kids, parents came – we walked right over; we all had ice cream.” All these years later, Chester is still an East Coast fan. When I asked Chester how much he enjoyed his banana split, his voice uttered great enthusiasm with these adjectives: Outstanding! Fantastic! Delicious flavor aside, Chester truly appreciate the value of saving with East Coast’s new discount: A penny saved is a penny earned as he reconfirmed his pal, Joseph Gramuglia’s, thought that every penny certainly does count, especially at East Coast Custard.
It’s clear how proud Joseph and his buddies are of their service and how their pride for their country shines so bright. We thank our veterans and East Coast for honoring are true American Heroes.
The East Coast Banana Split (pictured above) that Joseph and his friends enjoyed during their October 6, 2016 visit. “I cannot explain it! It’s great I tell you! I’m enjoying every bit of it right here,” exclaimed Joseph!
And don’t worry folks; you still have time before East Coast closes on December 4th for the season. If you’re too cold for custard, just top it with one of my personal favorites, the hot fudge. That will surely warm you and your taste buds.
Be certain to mark your calendar for March 1st on your calendar – the season opener for East Coast. Shirah explained that dedicated custard fans will be in line early on March 1st. Who will be lucky enough to receive the first cone? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to thank a veteran.
U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, n.d., retrieved from: http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp