Gathering Dec. 2 to honor the late Fred Vetter for his service to Chestertown, Warren County and the nation, are (front row, left to right): Jackie Vetter-Avignon, Nick Avignon, Jennie Vetter Sausville and Jim Sausville of Saranac Lake, (rear) Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec, Phil and Emmy Santasiero of Johnsburg, state Senate aide Dan MacEntee, Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe, and county Supervisor-Elect Mark Wescott. The Vetter family was presented with a flag flown over the U.S. Capitol (front, center) to memorialize Fred Vetter’s service to the nation.
Bearing flags, a silvery bugle and solemn expressions, veterans stood at attention while county and state officials recounted the military service of the late Frederick J. Vetter, a pillar of the Chestertown community for decades.
The ceremony was held Monday Dec. 5 in the Warren County Municipal Center.
Vetter was a Medical Aidman in the U.S. Army, serving in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II from 1943 to 1945 in the Apennine Mountains and Po Valley Italy.
After the war, he returned to the North Country, representing the third generation of Vetters working in his family's hardware store – after attending St. Lawrence University and earning a degree in Business Administration.
Vetter sold the business in 1967, then worked with local surveyors Bill Brannon and Joseph LaFlure. He also worked as a full-time professional ski patrolman for 17 years at Gore Mountain Ski Center.
During these years, he worked on the family's tree farm. His community service includes membership in the Chestertown Fire Department for about 33 years, serving as Fire Chief from 1961 to 1964.
He also served on the Town of Chester Zoning Board of Appeals, the Advisory Board to Emerson Bank in Warrensburg, and the Advisory Board of the Chester-Horicon Health Center.
Warren County Board of Supervisors Chairman Dan Stec noted that Vetter's dedication was reflected in the six military medals he received, including the Purple Heart.
Stec gave the Vetter family members a proclamation declaring Dec. 5 as Frederick Vetter Day in his honor.
“We all appreciate his life and everything he's done for our community, not only in the U.S. Military service overseas, but right here,” Stec said.
The solemn recognition of Vetter's service to his country was the latest of dozens of “Honor a Deceased Veteran” ceremonies held in Warren County since the program started in 2002.
Chester Supervisor Fred Monroe said he and Vetter were friends.
“Fred Vetter was a fixture in the town of Chester, and he accomplished all kinds of good things for local citizens,” Monroe said.
Daniel MacEntee, representing state Sen. Betty Little, presented the Vetter family with the state Senate Liberty Medal honoring Fred Vetter’s service. The award was on behalf of the New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
“This is the state Senate’s highest honor,” MacEntee said. “He was an outstanding veteran that meant a lot to his community.”
County Supervisor-Elect Mark Wescott, an aide to U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, presented the Vetter family with a flag that had been flown over the U.S. Capitol. That flag is to be flown for 30 days over the Warren County Municipal Center, then returned to the Vetter family for posterity.
Vetter’s daughter, Jackie Vetter-Avignon, talked of how right after her father had graduated from Chestertown High school, he left his hometown to train at Camp Hale, high in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
There, he prepared for alpine winter warfare. Among the training exercises, were when soldiers stayed out in the wilds, enduring bitter cold, for up to four weeks in canvas tents.
It was Fred Vetter’s experiences in the Rockies, she said, that prompted his love of the outdoors and interest in skiing.
Vetter-Avignon brought to the ceremony photos and memorabilia of bygone days, and they sparked considerable discussion and reminiscing that lasted about an hour at a reception that followed.
Fellow members of the 10th Mountain Division, including Phil Santasiero of Johnsburg, attended the event, as did friends and family members.
Jackie’s husband, Nick Avignon, noted that he passed on his love of skiing to Jackie, who also was a ski patrol member, Avignon said.
“No one was more of an Adirondacker than Fred was,” he said.
Vetter’s love of the high peaks was passed on to yet another generation, as the Avignon’s son Christian, Fred Vetter’s grandson, now lives and works a few miles from that former military outpost.
“Fred Vetter won’t be forgotten,” Avignon said. “We remember his service to his nation and his family — we miss him.”