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Fred Amore Jr., longest-serving commander of Elwood VFW post, dies at 73

Fred Amore Jr., the longest-serving commander of the

Fred Amore Jr., the longest-serving commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9263 of Elwood, died on Feb. 28 of complications from COVID-19. Credit: Irene Ober

Fred Amore Jr. exemplified leadership, loyalty and caring.

A Vietnam War veteran who came home to a bitterly divided nation, Amore — like so many of his fellow soldiers — initially kept silent about his experiences. Only in 1991 did he join in veterans' activities, determined to foster pride in their service.

He rose to become the longest-serving commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9263 of Elwood.

"They (the veterans) respected him as a leader. They knew he would do anything to fight for them," said former Marine Bill Ober, chairman of the Veterans Advisory Board in Huntington.

Fred and his wife Patricia often cheered veterans with cake and ice cream parties at the local hospital, and devoted countless hours to improving the post, which almost became a second home.

And, said Ober, "Fred and Pat’s success at collecting toys for the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots program was inspiring!"

He added: "Attendance and participation grew tremendously under Fred’s leadership."

Amore, of East Northport, died on Feb. 28 of complications from COVID-19. He was 73.

'He's the one'

Born in Brooklyn, Amore and his family moved to East Northport in 1961, his widow recalled. She immediately knew her new neighbor was her future.

"He was the one … I just saw him and I liked him and I said, ‘He’s the one,’ " recalled Patricia Amore.

The two dated as teenagers, and after a five-year break, resumed their romance.

"It was tough, getting out of the service," his widow said. "It took a while, but we managed."

A Northport High School graduate, Amore was studying at Suffolk County Community College when he was drafted in March 1967, according to the Congressional Record.

Amore, who was awarded a Purple Heart, was a helicopter door gunner. That was one of the deadliest and most crucial roles of the war.

He was serving with the 1st Aviation Battalion during the 1968 Tet Offensive when North Vietnamese troops, mainly attacking at night, invaded the south.

‘‘I had to wait for someone to leave or die to get a weapon,’’ Amore told the Record in 2003.

In an interview with the Girl and Boy Scouts for a 2010 Library of Congress project, Amore described waking up to find his Mekong Delta base surrounded by 50 anti-personnel mines.

"These things were everywhere. It was the scariest moment of my life in war," he told the Scouts.

One comfort came from an unlikely source: his high school detention officer, Dorothy Holland, of East Northport, whose letters helped her former students endure the war — and who often greeted Amore from parade sidelines.

‘‘The letters would pick you up,’’ Amore told the Record. ‘‘That would get you to the next mail call. I really figured when I went into the service I wouldn’t hear from her again. She knew how to keep your morale up and keep you going.’’

In his interview with the Scouts, Amore revealed some of what the troops endured and its lasting damage.

A few months after he returned home in 1969, Amore said he was "so embarrassed" to find himself face down on the floor of the local King Kullen.

In Vietnam, he said, "We used to get mortar attacks a lot. They were really loud." So when the local fire department’s noon siren sounded, he said, "I took down for cover."

Amore told the Scouts: "You think, at 19 years old, 'Is this it? Is this the end of my life?' It's sad, but that's what you think about."

The sometimes-hostile welcome he and other soldiers faced, after enduring unimaginable ordeals, meant Amore kept quiet about his service for many years.

"I knew the feeling of the people before I left and I knew the feeling when I came back,’’ Amore told the Record. ‘‘I didn’t want to talk about it.’’

But he later embraced his role as commander of the Elwood post, organizing Poppy Day fundraisers and St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas dinners, Ober said in a testimonial.

Amore also served as vice chairman of the Veterans Advisory Board and on the committee that selects military academy appointees, and he let the Marine Corps League Huntington Detachment 792 use the Elwood post for years.

After working for years as a glazier, Amore moved on to a job with a local water company. He and Patricia Amore were married for 40 years.

"Always, I just miss him so much," she said.

Amore is survived by his father, Frederick Amore Sr. and his wife, Annmarie, of Summerfield, Florida; his sister, Katherine Ingersen of Clayton, New York; and his brothers, Chris and Robert, who both live in California, and Patrick, of Colorado.