Ceremony to honor Pearl Harbor victims, survivors

Jessica Ryen Doyle

Stan “Stash” Babiarz never met Edward Bator. But this summer, Babiarz traveled thousands of miles to Oahu, Hawaii, to visit the site where Bator died Dec. 7, 1941, during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Babiarz will mark the anniversary today by displaying a memento from his trip – a flag that flew over the USS Arizona – at a ceremony at Purple Heart Park in Utica.

Along with honoring living veterans, the ceremony will pay tribute to Bator and brothers Theodore and Richard Ingalls of Clinton, who also died during the attack.

“I remember that day vividly,” said Babiarz, 75, a Korean War veteran who was 9 at the time the United States entered into World War II.

“That’s when Bator was killed. I never knew him, but all these years later I’m an officer of the post named after him, respecting him and honoring him,” said Babiarz, who is sergeant of arms of the Edward Bator Post No. 21 of the Polish Legion of American Veterans.

Babiarz’s journey to Hawaii this summer also served as a 50th anniversary trip with his wife, Barbara.

Several family members came too, along with a few pieces of home. Babiarz, who co-owns Oriskany Garage, donated some mementos to the museum at the USS Arizona memorial.

As thanks for his donation, Babiarz received an American flag that had once flown over the Arizona.

“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Babiarz’s son Dr. Mark Babiarz, who lives in Utica and accompanied his father on the trip. “When we were there, we saw a movie of the attack and then they took us all out to the memorial.”

Mark Babiarz described being aboard the memorial as a unique experience.

Once aboard, observers must be silent in respect for those who died there. The names of the deceased are inscribed on a stone wall, and Stan Babiarz took pictures of Bator’s name and the Ingalls brothers’ names. Those pictures will be displayed at today’s ceremony.

One of the items Stan Babiarz brought with him to Hawaii was the book “New York Mills: The Evolution of a Village.”

According to the book, Bator was one of 12 servicemen from New York Mills stationed at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day.

Unfortunately, Bator, who lived on Maple Street, was the only one of them to die, said the Hon. Stanley Wolanin, who is commander of Bator Post.

“The population of New York Mills was about 3,500 at that time,” Wolanin said.

“And about 867 men were at war. Some families had four sons in the war.”

Stan Babiarz said it is important for today’s younger generation to honor Pearl Harbor Day because of its importance to history.

In order for young people to understand this day, he compared it to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Freedom is not free,” Stan Babiarz said. “That’s what we have to keep in the forefront. We almost lost our freedom that day and then we won that war. Then, we got hit on 9/11 and we can’t drop our guard. We have to keep our vigilance.”