Posts Tagged ‘Author Matthew Rozell’

My post last week made the rounds, was read about 500 times, and was published in its entirety by the Chronicle newspaper in Glens Falls. And I meant every word.


The book is doing quite well. If you have read it and would like to help push it to the next level, please stop by and leave a review at my Amazon site.

Today Mr. Peachman and I will be back out at the Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market from 10 to 1. Come on out and see us!



Upcoming events are also listed below:

Sunday, Oct. 11 (weather permitting)
Hudson Falls, NY
Sandy Hill Farmers Market
Juckett Park, Hudson Falls, NY 12839

October 16, 2015- For Teachers- REGISTER TODAY
Saratoga Springs, NY
39th Annual Civics & Law-Related Education Conference
New York State Bar Association
Law, Youth and Citizenship Program
Human Rights Challenges: Past and Present
“American GIs and Human Rights Violations: Combat Soldiers Confront the Holocaust”


Nov. 5, 2015
Toronto, Canada
“Through the Eyes of Liberators: History Comes to Life”
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre
Holocaust Education Week

November 8, 2015
11-3 pm
Glens Falls, NY
The Chronicle Book Fair
Queensbury Hotel
88 Ridge St, Glens Falls, NY 12801

Sunday, November 15
2 pm
Glens Falls, NY
Book Talk/Signing
“Coming Home: Reflections on the 70th Anniversary the End of World War II”
The Hyde Collection
Warren St. Glens Falls, NY 12801

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I brought copies of my recently published book with me to the inaugural Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market on a beautiful autumn Sunday, not knowing what I was in for.

I was wiped out and overwhelmed.

I wound up talking to hundreds of people.  Some I did not know, but most I could place from somewhere in my life in being a part of this amazing community. I introduced myself to people that I should know, but who for some reason, I never crossed paths with. And to think the Market was orchestrated by former students who I remember very well, Joelle Timms and Jenny Demers. I am proud of them and their commitment to moving the town forward-and it’s just so comforting to know that the kids you had in class are now the leaders in making the future.

Matt Rozell at the Sandy Hill Farmers' Market. 9-26-2015. Portrait by Kendall McKernon.

Matt Rozell at the Sandy Hill Farmers’ Market. 9-27-2015. Grading papers before the rush. Portrait by Kendall McKernon.

I finally got to connect with Kendall McKernon, who has been trumpeting my work and is a major force himself in promoting the revitalization of this town. Be sure to pick up some of his amazing work in the following weeks as the Market continues every Sunday until November.

Some of my former students are now veterans themselves, Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy, and came out to reconnect again and express their appreciation—and some parents whose kids could not make it because they are somewhere in the field today, stopped by to get a book for them. World War II veterans I did not know before came out to chat with me and Pacific veteran Alvin Peachman, especially Phil Battiste, who wanted to tell me he read my book THREE times and knew just about everyone featured in the book! I asked him if I got it right—he told me I was on top of my game. Phil told me he knew my late father very well and could place him and his family in the childhood house they lived in near him on the corner, during the Great Depression.

My best hometown friend’s mom came out to get a book and reminded me that I escorted her down the aisle at his wedding to his bride 32 Septembers ago- and Dolores was just was beaming with pride. Later, the still lovely bride stood in line patiently to get a book and reminded me that we need to see each other soon! My preschool teacher from 50 years ago came out to say hi, and I joked with a woman whose face I could just about place, and when she said that she was one of my former teachers, I immediately recited her first, last, and married name. I knew this because she was one of my first crushes and she married the year she had me in her elementary class. I told her she was still beautiful. She picked up two books.

My cousin, whom I have not seen in years, stopped by, picking up books for the family. She filled me in on her genealogy research and sent her son to get coffee for me, and restocked the books that Alvin and I signed, and helped keep us organized as a line began to form. My wife stopped in after Mass, and ran to the truck to get more books. My parents’ friends were there. Mom and Dad passed on ten and fifteen years ago, and seeing people I remember fondly from my own days of being raised right here brings my folks right back to the forefront of memory with a warm bath of affection and love that today was impossible to overlook.

Then, there was the girl (woman! mother!) who told me she is in her 7th year teaching at a nearby school, with her own sister teaching in an adjoining classroom! I remembered S. as being very happy and fun in class, and congratulated her on becoming a teacher, because I even in high school I could sense that she would  make the world a better place just by the sheer force of her ‘good will to others’ presence. I wish I paid a little more attention to the little one who was with her, but she kind of struck me when she volunteered that I was the reason she was a teacher. We had never had that kind of conversation in the classroom—but that is the way it works, and I am lucky enough to hear this later in life, rather than eavesdropping at my wake! Just a few weeks ago, a young man from my first year of trying to survive as a teacher came out to my first book talk and raised his hand when I called for a show of hands of former students in the room. I could not place him right at that moment, but later, when he told me his first name, I could spell ‘Ehren’ correctly as if it was 28 years ago. He teaches history in Albany, and told me I was the reason for that…

But of all the wonderful blasts from the past, tugging at my subconscious was the presence of the young woman who was standing back and watching me sign a book for her friend (one of my former students, now a combat Marine veteran of the Iraq war, with whom I was chatting away and really enjoying getting to know again). She was quiet, in the background, but smiling as T. and I talked, and just kind of gazing at me in a special way. I knew that I knew her, but just couldn’t place it—so I finally asked her. And it all came flooding back, when she spoke her first name. Half a lifetime away, at an immensely difficult time in her life, I had reached out to her and taken her under my wing while she struggled through and worked to regain some balance as a sixteen year old. We did not speak of it, but before she left she stepped forward because she said she had to give me a hug.

When I see my brother, who lives in Alaska, once a year, when it is time to part, he puts his arms around me and squeezes me hard, in silence. So it is. I did a lot of hugs today, but she got the hardest squeeze, in silence. Bless you, C. So it seems that ‘Repairing the World’ has turned out to be a theme in my life’s work, and in most teachers I know, but in truth, it starts at home, and it works both ways. Bless everyone who has played a part of and enriched my life in so many different ways.

I write about the feeling I have for my hometown in the introduction of the book. I have been moved and shaped in so many ways by the veterans, by the people who came out today, and the hometown folks who could not make it. I hope the book is but a small token of my appreciation, and if you read the book, you will see it is my attempt to give back, but also pay it forward for the younger crowd who step up and make the vision real.

Mr. Peachman had a great day, and was on the receiving end of many hugs himself. He knew just about everyone who saw him, and held his own court in the temple of the Hudson Falls Farmers’ Market. Thank you Joelle for asking me, and Jenny, who did so much, and all the others with a vision for this small town on the Hudson that we all call home, no matter how far we have wandered. So I remember the words:

I cannot forget where it is that I come from.

A small town.

Matt Rozell and Alvin Peachman at the Sandy Hill Farmers' Market. 9-27--2015. Portrait by Kendall McKernon.

Matthew Rozell and veteran Alvin Peachman, 9-27–2015. Photo by Kendall McKernon.

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It was six years ago this evening, we shared a meal on the eve of Shabbat, after watching ourselves on a national broadcast that reached millions. Why does it seem, so long ago?

Maybe because it all seems so unbelievable- that out of the darkness of the past, on a day when the sun dawned clearly and was warming the Earth in its mid-April morning ascent, a low rumble was heard by  hushed and huddled groupings of tormented humanity as they strained to hope for friends amidst their lurking murderers. As the metallic clanking grew louder, over the horizon broke the earthly angels, two Sherman light tanks and an American Jeep with the emblem of the white star. A cry broke out. They realized they were saved, and the American major snapped a photograph at the exact moment the overjoyed survivors realized it.

And out of the past on a warm September day, we brought them all together again. Who would have believed that 62 years later, a high school in a quiet, rural part of the world would  bring the soldier-liberators and the rescued survivors together from the US, Canada, Israel and elsewhere? All because I couldn’t let go of a good narrative history, and pursued the story behind the photographs that proved it really happened?

And think about the risk you run, inviting hundreds of octogenarians to come to a high school for half a week to mingle with thousands of high school and middle schoolers? Talk about sweating bullets. What if they are uncomfortable? Cranky? Complaining? What if the kids I can’t control are rude? And what if one of these “old” folks, who I don’t even know, dies on our watch? I would lie awake at night wondering if I was out of my mind.

But the miracle came to be-for the two dozen or so elders who could come, tears flowed, wine spilled, and our “new grandparents” danced with young teenagers who adored them, but only after the risk was accepted, with the enthusiastic help of Mary Murray, Tara Winchell-Sano, and Lisa Hogan, Rene Roberge and others. Have a look at the videos, and feel the love. We created ripples, and tripped the wires of the cosmos, and the reverberations are still echoing. To date, with Varda Weisskopf’s and Frank Towers’ help, the list is at 275 survivors whom we have found. And how many generations has it effected?

This is the subject of my second book, due out this next summer. In the meantime, I am working on a shorter work of what I have learned in teaching the lessons of the Holocaust. So take a look at the videos, and remember the words of the liberator:

“Here we are! We have arrived!”

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Veterans book

History teacher and author Matt Rozell, right, talks with World War II veteran and former history teacher Alvin Peachman at a book signing Sept. 11 on LaBarge Street in Hudson Falls. Peachman is one of several veterans featured in ‘The Things Our Fathers Saw.’ Ashleigh Abreu photo.


September 22, 2015 7:00 am •  by RHONDA TRILLER

HUDSON FALLS | Matt Rozell remembers the moment he realized his life’s work.

It was 1984, and as the nation marked the 40th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, President Ronald Reagan spoke at Normandy.

“Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for,” he said of the Americans who fought in World War II, during an iconic speech.

That year, “The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two” by Studs Terkel was published. In it, Terkel looked at the war from a historical perspective, told through some 120 interviews with the men who fought, as well as nurses, entertainers and bureaucrats. Terkel was awarded the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction for the work.

“It was the first historical piece on World War II entirely told by regular people,” Rozell said, recalling the 600-page book was “this thick,” holding his thumb and index finger inches apart.

The book raised an interesting question about war, Rozell said.

“The war was put on a pedestal — it should be, especially now that so few of the men are left — but is any war good?” he said. “It was a fascinating book.”

“That’s when I woke up and that’s when my teaching career began,” Rozell said. “I think that’s when it finally dawned on me how important World War II was in history and in the fabric of our own country here, let alone the world.”

Rozell did, in fact, become a teacher — history, of course — at his alma mater, Hudson Falls High School.

But as important, he has devoted his life since to telling the stories of World War II veterans.

This summer, Rozell independently published “The Things Our Fathers Saw: The Untold Stories of the World War II Generation from Hometown USA.”

“I’ve thought about it for 20 years,” he said. “I was at that point, I had to get it out of me.”

The book recounts the war in the Pacific Theater, told from interviews and, in some cases, journal entries, of men from the Glens Falls area.

“The Things Our Fathers Saw” works through the war, beginning with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, following some of the men from enlistment, through battles and being taken prisoners of war. He includes lectures from veterans visiting his classroom, photographs and maps.

“It’s a war that, outside of Pearl Harbor and the dropping of atomic bombs, very few people have an understanding of what happened in the Pacific Theater,” Rozell said.

At a recent book signing, Rozell sat next to Alvin Peachman, 93, one of the veterans featured in the book.

Peachman is a longtime Hudson Falls resident and retired history teacher, who had Rozell as a student.

His classes were much different than Rozell’s, though.

“I don’t remember any teachers talking about their own experiences,” Peachman said, adding that he didn’t talk much about his service until years later. “Everybody wanted to learn about Adolf Hitler.”

Rozell studied history at SUNY Geneseo, but didn’t realize how much of a gap in knowledge the American public suffered until he started interviewing veterans and chronicling their stories.

“My interest was what Al Peachman was talking about when I was in school — Adolf Hitler this and Adolf Hitler that,” Rozell said.

“When you call for World War II stories and these people are talking about things you don’t know a thing about, you realize you have so much more to learn,” he said. “It’s the experience of a lot of Americans, I think.”

Rozell now teaches a separate course at Hudson Falls High School focused on World War II. The class is so popular, some students can’t get in.

Vinny Murphy, a senior, is among the lucky ones this semester. He wanted to take the class after attending a Rozell-organized assembly as a middle-schooler.
“For him to be a teacher and have an interest and want to share that with the students is very refreshing,” Murphy said. “He wants to teach us and remember this stuff and really take it to heart and make sure stuff like this never happens again.”

Until Rozell, Peachman said, the men who served in the Pacific got little recognition.

“We always fell second to Europe, although we did almost all the fighting in the Pacific,” he said.

As World War II veterans age — two of the men featured in Rozell’s book died in the past few weeks — Rozell is feeling a sense of urgency.

“I really wanted to get it out while some of the guys are still alive,” he said.

The book is a culmination of efforts that began years ago, when Rozell started inviting World War II veterans into his classroom in the early 1990s.

“It was really a two-fold thing: I need to make history alive for my kids; it’s their grandparents, their aunts, their uncles, in some cases, their actual parents who were involved in the war; and take that person’s story and find out more how this person fits into the big picture of the war, the big overall standard history, but at the same time realize that you as the interviewer, or the person talking to the adult, you are actually creating a new piece of history, which is really exciting,” Rozell said.

Students’ interest grew even more when, in 2001, Rozell initiated a living history project, A Train Near Madgeburg, in which he and his students reunited Holocaust survivors and the American soldiers who liberated them from a death train in April 1945.

“I think for most teachers … that’s why you teach, to bring history alive and, boy, did that ever do it for them,” Rozell said.

Rozell and his students were named People of the Week in September 2009 by Diane Sawyer on “ABC World News” for their work on the project.

The liberation is the subject of Rozell’s next book, which is tentatively scheduled for release in the summer of 2016.

“My story is to make it known,” Rozell said. “It’s their story; it’s in their words.

“I need to do it before everybody is gone.”


History teacher and author Matthew Rozell has several speaking engagements lined up throughout the area, including:

Sunday: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sandy Hill Farmers Market, Juckett Park, Hudson Falls

Oct. 16: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., 39th annual Civics & Law-Related Education Conference, Saratoga Springs Holiday Inn

Oct. 21: 7 p.m., book signing/reading, Chapman Historical Museum, 348 Glen St., Glens Falls

Nov. 8: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., The Chronicle Autumn Leaves Book Fair, Queensbury Hotel, 88 Ridge St., Glens Falls

Nov. 15: 2 p.m., book signing and talk, The Hyde Collection, 161 Warren St., Glens Falls

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Dan Lawler in my classroom, 2011. Portrait by Robert H. Miller.

Daniel Lawler in my classroom, 2011. Portrait by Robert H. Miller.

I’m staring down a stack of papers I have to grade, and the pile keeps growing higher. I’m too busy teaching and planning lessons at school, so like most teachers I know, I bring them home. I’ve gone through a ‘first look’ once, and that’s  a start. But I can’t get into the rhythm until I write about my friend Dan Lawler, who passed away almost a week ago at the age of 90.

I’m ashamed to say I missed his wake today, and tomorrow I will miss his funeral. But I think he knows that I will be doing my best in school and elsewhere to keep the memory alive.

Dan Lawler was a Marine’s Marine, World War II edition. He was wounded at Peleliu, and then miraculously made it all the way through the Battle for Okinawa. Later he served in China to protect against communist insurgents; he had many stories to tell and I detailed many of them in my book. But what struck me the most about Danny was his devotion to his friend, Jimmy Butterfield, and Jim’s wife Mary.

They would come to my classroom and entertain and enthrall the kids, but it was always tempered with the realities of what they truly experienced. You see, Jimmy was blinded for life at Okinawa. But Danny always got him to come in to school, and together they told the stories that only brothers can share. They would rib each other, fun stuff to reel the kids in. And then the stories would flow. It was never an act. It was brothers being brothers and letting us in on the most intimate stories that would bubble forth, sharing with the teenagers in my room, who fell in love with them, and for the moment, becoming the teenagers who they once were themselves.

People I don’t really even know, who have read my book where both are profiled, have reached out to me to express their condolences at my loss. Of course, that is one of the downsides of getting close to the folks who fought and sacrificed in World War II. Eventually their time is up, and they have to leave us.

And of course, my sorrow is nothing compared to that of his family, but remember this- Danny, and all the survivors of World War II who managed to make it back, had stories to share. I thank God that I knew Daniel Lawler, and Jim Butterfield, who passed 2 years before him. But it’s not just a loss for those who had the honor of getting to know him- it’s the loss for humanity. I just hope, Danny,  I did my part in keeping your memory alive.

Rest easy, Marine.

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Dorothy Schechter probably saw Mr. Cole in his practice runs. The only female on the base in the Carolinas, she describes, in my new book, the experience of watching and wondering what the future Doolittle Raiders were up to.



At 100, a Doolittle Raider recalls WWII suicide mission

Nathan Hunsinger/Staff Photographer, The Dallas Morning News

James Megellas (left), the 82nd Airborne’s most decorated officer, and Richard Cole, co-pilot to Jimmy Doolittle on his famous 1942 Tokyo raid, celebrated Cole’s birthday Monday by toasting during a reception for Doolittle raid survivors at the Frontiers of Flight Museum.

They took off knowing they wouldn’t be able to land.

When a Japanese fishing boat spotted the American aircraft carrier April 18, 1942, the Doolittle Raiders had to start their flight early. They had to strike back against Japanese assaults in the Pacific, even though they wouldn’t have enough fuel to reach landing strips in China.

On his 100th birthday Monday, sitting under a Frontiers of Flight Museum replica of the B-25 bomber he flew that day, Lt. Col. Dick Cole remembered everything.

“I was scared the entire time,” Cole said, noting that he knew he might die but “you’d hope you wouldn’t.”

Despite his apprehension, he was in awe serving as a co-pilot next to Jimmy Doolittle, “the greatest pilot in the world.”

As a kid, Cole would ride his bicycle to a levee above Ohio’s McCook Airfield, where he sometimes caught a glimpse of the famous pilot.

The eastern coast of Japan was peaceful the morning of the raid that changed the course of World War II, Cole recalled.

Japanese citizens waved, mistaking the plane for one of their own. Over Tokyo, Cole and Doolittle dropped incendiaries to light fires so the 15 planes behind them could see what to bomb.

Back over the water, sea spray and fog made it impossible to navigate. Doolittle guessed a direction toward China, and they flew until they ran out of fuel and bailed out.

2 still living

Most of the 80 airmen survived the raid, but Cole is one of only two who are still alive.

Cole, saying simply that it was his job, volunteered for the raid after seeing a listing saying “Wanted for dangerous mission.”

His centennial birthday celebration Monday at the museum included a screening of the new documentary Doolittle’s Raiders: A Final Toast.

About 600 people turned out to sing “Happy Birthday” to Cole.

“This is history that we’ve all known about in our lives, and we get to see it firsthand,” Navy veteran John Hansen said.

Jim Roberts, president of the American Veterans Center, said the story of the Doolittle Raiders resonates with young people more than many others from World War II.

“I think it’s because of the sheer audacity of the raid,” he said. “It was seen by many at the time as a suicide mission because it was a one-way trip.”

It was the first U.S. success in the Pacific after Pearl Harbor, heartening Americans and shaking Japan. It led the Japanese to attack Midway Island, where they suffered a defeat that marked the war’s turning point.

On the ground

After bailing out over China, Cole hiked for a day before he found Chinese soldiers who reunited him with Doolittle and smuggled them out of danger. The Japanese killed an estimated 100,000 Chinese in retaliation for the raid.

For more than a year, Cole stayed in Asia, setting up a link between India and China, and flying over the Himalayas.

Cole and his wife moved to Alamo in the Rio Grande Valley to grow oranges and grapefruit. They raised five children.

The Raiders had reunions every year until 2013, a tradition Cole said began after Doolittle kept his promise to throw “the biggest party you ever had” in Miami when the war ended. Doolittle died in 1993 at 96.

“Why did I get to be one of the last people? I didn’t do anything special,” said Cole, who now lives in Comfort.

Source: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/park-cities/headlines/20150907-at-100-a-doolittle-raider-recalls-wwii-suicide-mission.ece?hootPostID=efcab07f925d65315d623f5988358d4e


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My friend Barney Ross passed away a few days ago.

I hadn’t seen him in a while, and I know he was not well these past few years, but he was one of the first vets to come to my class and spend some time with us. He is also the first veteran to speak in my new book. I remember one poignant moment when he briefly lost composure recounting his friends who had died and whom he missed. It’s always something to be prepared for when you interview any veteran, but Barney hardly missed a beat-he brought smiles through the tears as he reminded us that, “I may get emotional, but I’m still a tough guy.”

So today, on the anniversary of the signing of the surrender aboard the USS Missouri, where his boat was also anchored for the ceremony, I’ll let him recount for you what it was like at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. Yes, he was there, too.

Rest easy, Barney.



early interview in my class- housed now at the New York State Military Museum collection.


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