The men behind the names on the plaque

| 15 Feb 2012 | 08:38

The refurbished fountain in Memorial Park honors local heroes, By Jeff Page Warwick - For years, the tribute fountain in Memorial Park to two Warwick men who never returned from the two world wars stood in stark disrepair. Now, as reported here last week, the 62-yearold fountain has been rehabilitated - new roof, fresh paint, new plumbing and a restored memorial plaque. The work was done by several volunteers from Warwick Grove who also helped the Warwick Valley Gardeners Club lay out and plant a garden to honor local heroes. The garden is just a few yards away from the memorial fountain, which recalls Roy McCoy, who enlisted in the army in 1917 after growing tired of waiting to be drafted, and Joe Prochnicki, who signed up eight months before Pearl Harbor. At different times, McCoy and Prochnicki were volunteer firefighters with the Excelsior Hose Company, and it was the Excelsiors who built and dedicated the fountain, which resembles a small covered well. Here are the stories of the two soldiers, one born 14 months after the other died. Roy McCoy Roy McCoy was a machinist working for the Lehigh and Hudson River Railroad in April 1917 when the United States entered World War I. He joined the Home Guard one month later and registered for the draft in June. He was 24. His number wasn’t called in the July draft lottery and he continued drilling with the Home Guard, about which The Warwick Valley Dispatch reported: “The boys have their uniforms and look very fine in them.” By December 1917, McCoy chose to wait no longer to be called and enlisted. That same month, on the night of the seventh, the village honored all its young men heading off to war, or awaiting the call, with a program of speeches, prayer and song at Demerest Hall. The following Monday, the Warwick enlistees traveled to New York. There McCoy boarded a train for Camp Kelly, near San Antonio, where he would undergo training as an aviation machinist. But he fell ill on the train and was hospitalized when he reached Texas, where doctors diagnosed his illness as lobar pneumonia. McCoy died on Jan. 16, 1918, just 37 days after he left Warwick. “He has done his bit,” The Middletown Times-Press observed. “Another public ceremony will be held. Then, only a sweet tender memory will remain.” McCoy, the son of Edward D. McCoy, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Buchanan McCoy, had lived with his family on McEwen Street, near Wheeler. He sang in the choir of Calvary Baptist Church two blocks away on West Street. He graduated from Warwick High School in 1910. Roy McCoy is buried in Wantage, N.J., near the graves of his parents. Joseph Prochnicki Joseph Prochnicki was born in Newark in 1919. He lost his mother in 1927, when he was 8 years old. His father Anthony placed him in the care of relatives in Warwick, where he would spend the rest of his childhood and adolescence. He served as an altar boy at St. Stephen’s Roman Catholic Church, and was a popular figure at Warwick High School where he was a member of the track team and from which he graduated in 1937. He spent the next few years working in construction, mostly in Connecticut. Prochnicki volunteered for military service in April 1941 and was assigned to the Army Air Corps. He was trained as a gunner and also qualified for duty as a bombardier. For his exploits during the great allied struggle to retake the Philippines, Prochnicki was awarded the Air Medal. Additionally, his unit, the 89th Bomb Squadron of the Third Bomber Group, received a Presidential Unit Citation for its destruction of 477 Japanese planes and 298 ships. Prochncki’s luck ran out on what was to have been his last mission before being rotated back to the United States. He was killed when his plane was shot down over Mindanao in February 1945. The war ended six months later. He is buried in the American Military Cemetery in Manila. Joe Prochnicki was 27.