NAUGATUCK — As a young sailor from Naugatuck, John DeBisschop III came of age emulating local veterans like Robert Genovese and the late Frank Johnson, Sr.
Now, DeBisschop will be joining them in Connecticut’s most prestigious organization dedicated to veterans — the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame.
“I’m humbled and honored to join in a group with those guys,” said DeBisschop, who called Genovese and Johnson icons in Naugatuck who have helped countless veterans and inspired his own work with vets. “Mr. Johnson passed the torch to Mr. Genovese, and I feel like this is the torch going down one more generation to keep the traditions alive that those guys had maintained.”
The Hall of Fame was established in 2005 to increase the awareness of a lifetime contributions of veterans after completion of honorable military service. Those selected are veterans who served the U.S. military honorably and who have continued to serve their communities throughout their lives, according to the state’s website.
There are approximately 12,000 veterans in Connecticut. Of them, 104 are in the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame. During a ceremony on Nov. 30, DeBisschop will become the fourth inductee from the borough. On top of Johnson and Genovese, the other is William Coffey Sr., who lives in Plainville but is originally from Naugatuck.
Genovese said he was not surprised that DeBisschop has been chosen.
“I think it’s a great choice,” Genovese said. “The guy is a workaholic. He’s got his hands full, but he’s always there.”
Like Johnson, DeBisschop is chairman of the Naugatuck Veterans Council, a group that since 1946 has advocated for veterans, has been actively involved in the planning of the Naugatuck Memorial Day Parade, has placed flags on the grave sites of every American veteran in Naugatuck and bringing an honor guard to funeral services of local veterans. He has been chairman since 2012.
“There is a brotherhood and sisterhood in the veteran’s community, whether it’s peace time or war time,” he said. “They’ve all taken the same oath of service and there is a common level of respect and experiences that comes with it.”
DeBisschop has been a member of Post No. 17 for 22 years, having served as post commander, district commander and department vice commander, among other posts.
Currently, he is chairman of Post No. 17’s Americanism and Children and Youth committees, through which he is responsible for promoting Connecticut State Police Youth Week and American Legion Boys State. He also oversees Naugatuck’s annual Halloween Parade, along with other firefighters.
And he volunteers with Scout groups and is a member of the National Ski Patrol at the Mount Southington Ski Area. Much of the time, DeBisschop volunteers with his wife, JoAnn, and their young children, James, 15, and triplets, Jeffrey, Jack and John, who are 8.
DeBisschop said he wants his children to have the same great experiences growing up in Naugatuck that he had.
“If people don’t step up to make sure the parades and other community events are organized, then we won’t have them,” he said. “I got involved because I said if I wasn’t willing to step up and maintain those things, how can I expect anyone else to?”