Job - Structural mechanic military war aircraft and all new military test aircraft
Duties - Build, repair, inspect everything behind the firewall of a military aircraft, except for the electronics. This also included the elevator, flaps and rudders.
Rank - 3rd Class Petty Officer
Edmund Paul Van Den Vouver, U.S. Navy
Married - Sept. 29, 1962, to Virginia (Washburn) Van Den Vouver
Children - Kristine, Paul, Gretchen
Grandchildren - Alix and Marc
Edmund Paul Van Den Vouver was born May 13, 1930, to Norman and Irene (Fessler) Van Den Vouver in Dunkirk. Ed attended St. Mary's grade school and went on to graduate from the St. Mary's Academy.
While in high school he worked as a clerk at the local Loblaws grocery store. In his junior year Ed joined the local Naval reserve militia here in Dunkirk. After graduation in 1950 Ed was sitting on a park bench when friend Sal Vacanti passed by and asked what he was up to. Ed's reply was "not much." Sal then replied why don't we go down and see the navy recruiter and enlist. After thinking about becoming a full-time sailor Ed knew that any day he may be getting a call from Uncle Sam and the U.S. Army. Ed immediately told Sal, "Let's do it!" Without any notice to anyone Ed and Sal immediately became the property of the U.S. Navy. In order to become regular Navy, Ed had to be discharged from the reserves and then enlist and go to active duty.
It's now July 17, 1950 and Ed was starting his boot camp training at the Great Lakes training station. Ed not having a clue on what the Navy had in its plan for him, finally found out toward the end of his training that the Navy felt that Ed would serve our Navy as a aviation metalsmith. After his boot camp, Ed would be heading for aviation metalsmith school in Memphis, Tenn.
While in metalsmith school, Ed would be trained and be required to work on all military war aircraft from behind the firewall. This job required that all maintenance repairs and inspections would be done on over 28 different military aircraft of that era.
After graduation from school, the Navy put Ed right to work at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland.
Ed recalls the different types of repairs that were required to keep our Naval planes in the air and performing work on Naval test pilot's aircraft brought out the best in these mechanics skills while never knowing the next repair needs after these Naval test pilots pushed these aircrafts to its full package limits.
Advancing to the rank of 3rd Class Petty Officer, Ed had the responsibility of performing and overseeing the Navy's 120-hour, 140-hour and 240-hour test that was required on all our Naval aircrafts before it could be called on for duty.
After two years of being land locked the Navy sent Ed out to sea. He had the privilege of being assigned to the USS Selerno CVE110 escort carrier. The Selerno would cruise from its home base of Boston to Trinidad with occasional stops in Norfolk, Va. Along with transporting Naval aircraft Ed recalled the Selerno also at times would transport U.S. Marines.
In 1954 his military obligations were completed. Ed then returned back home to Dunkirk with his honorable discharge in his hand. Ed returned back to his old employer Loblaws and picked up where he left off. One day while working at Loblaws the local assistant Post Master Lucas Palmer told Ed there was a temporary sub position opening at the Dunkirk Post Office. After applying Ed was given a part-time position which led to 39 years of dedicated postal service to our local post office.
Being active in our community Ed has been an active member in the following organizations including: Elks, 922 past commander of American Legion Post 62, exempt fireman, pioneer hook and ladder past president, Moniuszko Club, First Ward Falcons, Lakeside and Kosciuszko Clubs.
You can see a person for all these years and you really have no idea what they have done or seen in life. All those years I would walk into the Dunkirk Post Office and see Big Ed smiling behind the window, knowing I would be hammered if my Oakland Raiders got beat or his Buffalo Bills had won. You still wanted to let him wait on you. Never in my life would I have thought that this man behind that post office window, at one time in his life, was at times possibly in harms way. This is why I am so honored to do this story.
We sit here and enjoy our freedom and wonder about those dedicated men and women who just said yes. Just say, I'll do it. I'll join. I'll do my part.
As Ed did when he was sitting when Sal passed by and said yes "Let's do it!" Thank you Ed! Thanks for your service. Those servicemen that landed safely because of that grocery clerk from Dunkirk who just said yes.
Thanks, Ed. That's why you are our local hero.