Middletown may rename street, park after city’s only Medal of Honor recipient

It’s time Middletown renames a city park or street after a “common man,” said David Shortt, an Army veteran and retired Middletown police officer.

Shortt is hoping the city renames Flemming Park off Clark Street to Pfc. Patrick L. Kessler Park or renames a portion of Reinartz Boulevard between Clark and Charles Street. Kessler is Middletown’s only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, the nation’s highest honor.

MORE ABOUT KESSLER: Family remembers brave actions of Medal of Honor recipient

Kessler, a member of Company K, 30th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, was killed on May 25, 1944, during World War II. One of the 167 white crosses in the World War II section of Woodside Cemetery and Arboretum in Middletown bears his name and date of death.

The 22-year-old earned his medal for action in the Battle of Anzio, which began in early 1944. On May 23, 1944, the Allies were near Ponte Rotto, Italy. This is when Kessler, acting without orders, raced 50 yards through a hail of machine gun fire that had killed five of his soldiers and halted the advancement of his company.

He snaked his way to the enemy machine gun, killed the gunner and his assistant, captured the third soldier and injured the fourth. He then grabbed a machine gun from a wounded soldier, killed another gunner and captured 13 Germans.

On Monday night, Shortt, who retired from the police department in 2012, made a presentation before the Park Board, and his recommendation will be forwarded to City Council, said Councilman Steve Bohannon, liaison between the Park Board and City Council.

Since the future of Flemming Park is unknown, Bohannon said City Council will hear a first reading of renaming a section of Reinartz after Kessler on Nov. 6, then a second reading on Nov. 20.

Bohannon said he would hate for the park to be named after Kessler, then have it close.

He called the idea “fantastic” since the city should recognize its “key people” whenever possible.

Deb Morrison, who attended the meeting, said the armory on South Main Street is named after Kessler and there is a plaque in his honor hanging in the American Legion. She thinks renaming a park or street after Kessler will keep “his name out there” and it’s appropriate since Kessler grew up in the area near the park and probably played there as a kid.

Shortt, director of the Veterans Memorial Foundation in Germantown, said after Kessler was presented the medal posthumously on Jan. 4, 1945, it was shown off in local schools and churches.

“That always stuck with me,” Shortt said.

He said World War II veterans “fought to save humanity” and Kessler sacrificed his life for his country.

“Kids today need real role models because of the bullying, violence, drugs, and on and on,” said Shortt, 59. “Not people from Hollywood. But people like Kessler. These are real people.”

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