NAUGATUCK — In the late 1960s, as the Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular, veterans of that war felt discouraged from joining local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Frederick Haas, however, made them welcome in the borough.
“They felt like they were accepted,” said his wife Gail Haas, 63, of 356 Quinn St.
About 60 friends and relatives crowded the borough’s VFW post on Rubber Avenue to honor Haas on Sunday.
Haas, who had lung cancer and coronary artery disease, died Sept. 16 of a heart attack at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Waterbury.
He grew up in the borough and served for four years in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, in the Seabees Mobile Construction Batallion-4.
He was wounded by mortar fire in 1964 while clearing a landing strip in Cambodia, family members said. His neck was fractured in the attack, and he had shrapnel in the back of his knees, family members said.
After winning eight medals in the war, including the Purple Heart, Haas came home and joined the borough’s VFW chapter. He remained an active member for the rest of his life and served as a commander for three years, most recently in 2000.
He was also the post’s chaplain for many years, and organized its annual Christmas party, choosing gifts for the children, said his best friend and fellow VFW member Ed Kazimir, 63, who also lives in the borough.
Haas was also a member of the Waterbury Area Vietnam Veterans Association, with which he organized trips to the Arlington National Cemetery so veterans could visit graves of those from the borough who died in military action.
“He was a no-nonsense commander,” Kazimir said. “He was 110 percent dedicated to veterans’ issues.”
Haas was the head of shipping and receiving at Cole Screw Machine Products in the borough’s industrial park. He retired in 2005 after working there for 28 years. He also enjoyed fishing, going to the ocean or local lakes about twice a week, family members said.
He remained upbeat after his cancer diagnosis last December, Kazimir said.
“He fought to the end with this,” Kazimir said. “He was a very proud man, and he was going to beat this, but God took him.”
His daughter, 36-year-old Kristen Keeler, said Haas was known in the community for his kind, friendly personality.
“He was always very patient,” Keeler said. “He always took the time to sit down and talk to me as a kid.”