Greenwich woman finds memorial to her brother-in-law, killed in Vietnam, gone
GREENWICH — Liz Eckert was in for an unpleasant surprise when she stopped by group of old oak trees dedicated to veterans on Hamilton Avenue last week.
The tree dedicated to her brother-in-law, Donald Repaci, an Army corporal who was killed in action in Vietnam in 1969 was gone. Only a pile of sawdust remained.
“I was in shock Friday, and no one was around to say what happened,” Eckert said. “I was shocked and devastated.”
She posted news about the disappeared tree on Facebook, causing a stir with readers there.
“My brother in law Donald Repaci was a decorated war hero killed in action at age 20 in Vietnam. The town of Greenwich cut down his monument tree at the Byram School without informing anyone in our family,” she wrote. “This pile of sawdust is what we arrived to today. There are no words...”
It turned out the oak tree, one of more than a dozen that were dedicated to fallen servicemen from the Byram section of town, had come down in a wind storm this winter.
Steve Gospodinoff, deputy tree warden, said the tree couldn’t be saved after the storm hit.
“That tree actually broke in half during one of the wind storms,” he said. “We ground the stump down recently.”
A new tree will be planted at the exact same location on Memorial Day, May 27, Gospodinoff said.
“In hindsight, I should have notified the veterans group,” he said. “That’s on me, I take responsibility.”
The deputy tree warden said there was no intention to cause harm or distress to anyone. “I have great respect for vets,” he said. “I hold that ground sacred.”
His father and uncle served overseas in World War II, he said.
“I should have reached out, but it gets hectic during storms,” he noted.
In the future, Gospodinoff said, any damage to trees dedicated to veterans will be reported to the veterans’ association, “to keep them in the loop.”
The plaque for Donald Repaci was not damaged and still stands at the site. Two American flags have been planted in the ground beside it.
Eckert said this week she was mollified by the town Tree Division’s response.
“Making things right is good with me — and taking steps that it won’t happen to anyone else,” she said.
People on social media were less forgiving. “That is terrible, disgraceful and so disrespectful!” wrote one poster. “Disgrace!” commented another.
Eckert said she and other family members are looking forward to the tree planting on Memorial Day.
Repaci was serving with with 9th Infantry Division when he was killed in action at age 20. He was awarded several medals for his service, including the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Twenty-four men from Greenwich lost their lives in the Vietnam war.