Friday, October 17, 2008

John Gromosiak's Battle To Restore Name To USS Indianapolis Plaque

If you're a downtown resident and you patronize the Marsh grocery store (formerly O'Malias), you no doubt know who John Gromosiak is. He's the guy who has been peddling U.S.S. Indianapolis books and other memorabilia of the sunken World War II ship near the store's exit door for what seems like the past decade. The Star's Kevin O'Neal has a story today about Gromosiak's efforts to get his name restored to a portion of the U.S.S. Indianapolis memorial on the canal where the names of those who paid for the memorial are listed. Gromosiak's name made it on an original plaque of contributors; however, as O'Neal explains, his name was removed after several U.S.S. Indianapolis survivors complained. O'Neal writes:

"His name doesn't belong there -- just the people who paid for that memorial," said Mike Kurya, 83, Bartlett, Ill., who served for two years on the Indianapolis and was 19 when it was sunk. "I'm upset that in our golden years, we have to put up with that." . . . .

The controversy started several years after the memorial was finished. According to Goodwin, some of the Indianapolis survivors went to Bill Sweeney, who was executive director of the monument commission at the time, and persuaded him to add Gromosiak's name to the donor's plaque. Goodwin said that led to complaints, and Sweeney later said he had made a mistake, and he had Gromosiak's name removed from the plaque.

Twice, the War Memorial Commission heard Gromosiak's appeals to have his name restored to the plaque, and twice the commission turned him down, Goodwin said.

Although Gromosiak has raised money for the survivors' organization and helped fund reunions, he was not part of the group that paid for the memorial and his name should not be on the original donors' plaque, Goodwin said in explaining the commission's reasoning.

"He never was qualified to be on that plaque," said Pat Finneran, 73, an Indianapolis naval pilot who flew in Korea and Vietnam. He is the former executive director of the USS Indianapolis Survivors Memorial Organization.

O'Neal's story notes that Gromosiak describes himself as a "honorary survivor" of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. That is partly the rub as I see it. That "honorary" status has seemingly morphed into actual survivor status over the years. Gromosiak has raised a lot of money in subsequent years, but he wasn't one of the original contributors who are listed on the plaque. Stewart Goodwin tells O'Neal the situation is sad. "One of our core values is service before self," he said. "I'm not sure he has grasped that." So Gromosiak is leading a protest this weekend on his own behalf to have his name restored. I don't know about other Marsh patrons, but I feel that Gromosiak has become an unwelcome pest. Apparently, that's how a lot of people surrounding this issue at the memorial have come to feel about him as well. He was being a pest when his name got added to the plaque, and he's become an even worse pest since his name was removed from it.


Eclecticvibe said...

He obviously identifies very strongly with the U.S.S. Indianapolis. I don't blaming for wanting to leave his mark on something he cares deeply about. While I don't identify with his cause, I see him as a sincere person who's eager to talk to anyone who will listen about something important to him. While his message doesn't resonate with me, I respect his perseverance in representing his cause.

ReNEWIndiana said...

Apparently, Kevin O'Neal's article contained some misinformation. Gen. Goodwin is quoted as saying that John " was not part of the group that paid for the memorial." This is totally false. John worked with the Commission who built it. He moved here to do so, at the Commission's request. As a volunteer, he had an office with them for several years in the Naval Armory. He created and donated 2 paintings which became the cornerstone of the fund raising effort.

Pat Finneran is quoted as saying " he was never qualified to be on that plaque." This could not be farther from the truth. He wrote John a letter which accompanied his Certificate of Appreciation in June, 1995 . The letter
acknowledges John's $ 30,000 contribution and states the Memorial could not have been built without John's help.

The article seems to suggest that John told Mr. O'Neal that survivors complained. In fact, John has not been told who complained. He would never suggest that survivors complained. Today's most vocal opponents are the children of survivors. At the hearing before the War Memorial Commission
( 2005),
John was told that the Commission would never reveal to him the names of those who complained.

October Smith Kniess, JD

AfterFurtherReview said...

Mr. Gromosiak may indeed have donated money to the memorial, but he has also reaped countless dollars from peddling U.S.S. Indianapolis memorabilia ... probably creating the impression in some people's minds that he was an actual survivor or had an official connection with the memorial or the survivors' group.

Yet as far as I know, Mr. Gromosiak has never opened his books to show how much money he has personally pocketed from selling U.S.S. Indianapolis items, and as far as I'm concerned, if he wants to be regarded as a legitimate supporter of the memorial and the survivors, he should be willing to prove how much money he's made from the ill-fated ship.

It's not enough to prove that he's donated $30,000 or whatever. There are plenty of charities around that do indeed donate lots of money to good causes -- the question is, what percentage of the donations did they keep for themselves?

Before I feel sorry for Mr. Gromosiak, accord him "honorary survivor" status, or trust that he has a sincere interest in the U.S.S. Indianapolis, I'd like some certainty that he's not a survivor wanna-be or, worse yet, a knockoff merchant.

Hoosier8 said...

Seeing how artist make so much money...

John did more for the U.S.S. Indianaplis survivors than anyone else ever has which can be attested by someone like McDONALD, Franklin G. Jr., F2 who now has a statue dedicated to him downtown and who signed many of his prints and paintings during the reunions that John was instrumental in. I doubt that any of the survivors would begrudge someone that was as industrious as John a living.

Fact is he donated 30K to the monument by selling his paintings but was not a "legitimate" donor in the eyes of some other donors.

I have two letters from survivors to John showing the continued correspondence, one from Hershberger 2009 and one from McGinnis 2010.

John passed away Dec 15th, 2012.

Hiram said...

I met John Gromosiak around 2010, in Indianapolis when he was selling books and posters about the USS Indianapolis. I felt that he was a survivor of the ill fated USS Indianapolis. I later learned differently. As a Veteran, I detest that this person was making money for something that he is not part of. I made some purchases because I thought John Gromosiak was as a survivor of the USS Indianapolis. He wasn't and this is a definition of fraud. I sympathize with the real survivors of the USS Indianapolis who have shunned this person. I a sure he is having to answer to the departed crewmembers of the USS Indianapolis because he has since passed away.

Anonymous said...

Mr. John Gromosiak was the most compassionate and "gave it his all" in educating people and supporting the USS Indianapolis survivors. Reading these opinions of veterans is very disturbing. I am shocked to read who fought to remove his name of donators.