Bob Tulipani, a U.S. Army veteran and retired teacher who led Ridgefield’s American Legion Post 78 for 18 years, will be the featured speaker at Ridgefield’s Veterans Day ceremonies Sunday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. at the Lounsbury House on Main Street.

“The American Legion along with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Marine Corps League Detachment will hold a ceremony to honor not only Ridgefield’s veterans, but all of America’s 21,800,000 veterans,” said American Legion Commander George Besse.

The ceremony, which will mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, will include patriotic songs sung by Evelyn Carr, with short readings by veterans and local officials. Cub Scout Pack 74 will assist in the ceremony by laying a wreath on the memorial monument, followed by Military Honors with the playing of Taps.

Afterwards, refreshments will be provided by the friends of the American Legion.

“All are invited to attend this ceremony as a tribute to our veterans for their service,” Besse said.

Tulipani, the keynote speaker, is a Korean War era Army veteran and a lifelong Ridgefielder.

“Bob served as Commander of the American Legion Post 78, an organization of Veterans still serving America, a position he held for 18 years,” Besse wrote of his predecessor.

Tulipani taught at Veterans Park Elementary School, just behind Lounsbury House, for 25 years, retiring in 1988. He taught mostly fourth grade, but he also taught a few years of sixth grade.

“I’m going to talk about how the American Legion got started,” Tulipani said of the Veterans Day address he’s working on. “I’m talking about how it got started back in 1919.”

The national veterans organization was founded the year after the First World War ended, and the following year Ridgefield’s American Legion Post 78 was formed, bearing the name of Everett Ray Seymour, the first Ridgefielder killed in World War I’s combat.

“The Ridgefield American Legion started in 1920,” Tulipani said. “There were about 21 men.”

A Korean War veteran, Tulipani served in the Army’s armored division as a section chief directing the crew of an 8-inch Howitzer in Germany where Americans faced Eastern Bloc forces led by the Soviet Union in a Cold War standoff.

Teaching, service

After his service, Tulipani attended Western Connecticut State College. He graduated with bachelor and master degrees in education.

“Not only has he served his country but his community as well,” Besse said. “As a consummate volunteer, Bob has served Ridgefield in a myriad of roles.”

Tulipani served on the board of directors of the Ridgefield Boys and Girls Club, was commissioner of Ridgefield Townies Basketball, coached St. Mary’s softball and basketball teams. A charter member of the Ridgefield Old Timers Association, he received its Civic Award.

He served on the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Kiwanis Club board, chaired the Graveyard Committee and Ridgefield’s 300th anniversary parade in 2008.

An Italian American Mutual Aid Society members for 71 years, Tulipani earned a place in the Red Cross’s 27 gallon blood donors club. He’s received many awards for volunteer service: Rotary Club Citizen of the Year, the Secretary of the State’s Public Service award, Boys Club Dedication Award, Kiwanis Community Service Award, grand marshal of the Memorial Day Parade.

Revival

Tulipani gives credit for the American Legion’s revival years back to another longtime Ridgefielder.

“Frank Lancaster got us together — they were having five or six guys going to meetings,” he said.

After nearly two decades as Legion commander, Tulipani praises George Besse’s leadership since he’s stepped down.

“He’s done a great job,” Tulipani said.

The organization’s activities range from supporting two American Legion baseball teams and a Cub Scout pack, to annually sending RHS juniors to Boys State and Girls State.

The Legion helps put holiday decorations on village lampposts, and for Memorial Day puts American flags along Main Street on veterans graves.

“Because of people supporting us, buying poppies from us, we’re able to help some women vets over in the Bridgeport area,” he added.

Tulipani admits to some disappointment in the level of public patriotism displayed these days.

“You should salute when the American flag passes by, or when they play the National Anthem, you should be standing at attention — and now you see very few people do it.”

Policy change

Nearly two decades ago, the Board of Education scheduled school on Veterans Day. Tulipani organized veterans’ protests — the policy was changed.

That controversy prompted East Ridge Middle School teacher Mike Settani to invite veterans to a school assembly where students honored them.

“They gave speeches, sang songs. They gave them a medal. They called us heroes — a couple of guys were crying,” Tulipani said. “After that, they gave us breakfast.”

A similar program was started at Scotts Ridge Middle School.

“Now all the schools have a Veterans Day program, either the day before or the day after,” Tulipani said.

And townspeople turn out for the Veterans Day ceremony at Lounsbury House — Sunday at 11 this year.

“I think we had a couple of hundred last year,” Tulipani said. “But, for a town of 25,000…”