The Valley Forge Chapter of Freedoms Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, honors outstanding individuals and other nonprofit organizations who exemplify what Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge tries to instill in our younger generation. Its Local Heroes of 2020 have shown acts of heroism, kindness and respect for others by going above and beyond their civic duties.
Mae Krier, David Tuck and David Wisnia, all of Levittown, will be honored during the Fourth Annual Local Heroes Awards Gala, set for Saturday, Feb. 29, from 6 to 10 p.m., at Freedoms Foundation Main Campus, Martha Washington Building, 1601 Valley Forge Road, Phoenixville.
Krier, 93, is the recipient of the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award. She is one of the original Rosie the Riveters. Krier was one of the roughly 16 million women at age 17 and 18 who went to work back home in support of the WWII effort. She stayed behind and worked in the factories to build the planes and ships that the men needed for war.
Krier built B-17s and B-29s and was one of the many women who drilled some of the one million rivets from the nose to tail of the 99-foot-long B-29 aerial giant.
“Hitler said that America would be easy to beat because American women were frivolous, concerned with makeup and stockings,” she said. “I guess we showed Hitler what American women are made of.”
She is one of the nine surviving Rosies who raised $30,000 to travel to Normandy in June 2019 for the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
“You know, until 1941, it was a man’s world. They didn’t know how capable American women were,” Krier said. “And as I look back, I’m just amazed. I’m so proud to have been a part of it.”
“Mae exemplifies and models what it means to be an American woman,” said Valley Forge Chapter President Amy Russell-Braccia. “She is an example of true patriotism, strength and dedication to our country. Mae has proved that the women of America are a force to be reckoned with and has set the stage for generations to come. Our young women are fortunate to have such a role model as Mae to propel them toward their own hopes, dreams and goals in life.”
The first-ever Courage Award is going to Wisnia, 93, and Tuck, 90, for courage shown during World War II as survivors of the Holocaust. Both men, natives of Poland, were held prisoner at the age of 13 at the Auschwitz Annihilation Camp. When the Germans invaded their country in 1939, Wisnia was incarcerated for almost three years and Tuck for five and a half years.
Wisnia’s life was spared by singing to entertain the Nazi SS and cell block leaders. He composed two songs while in the camp, and the guards sometimes threw him an extra piece of bread so he could perform. Wisnia escaped after three years, and was found and rescued by the American 101st Airborne Division’s 506 Parachute Infantry, who gave him a uniform and used his language skills to have German soldiers surrender.
Tuck describes himself as one of the lucky ones. He stated that 3,200,000 people did not make it back. He recalls waking up at 4 a.m. every day without having a shower and only receiving two slices of bread and coffee for breakfast. When the war was over, Tuck received his freedom at 15 years old and weighed 78 pounds.
Both men will tell their stories to approximately 200 guests.
“The courage and strength that they showed at such a young age is extraordinary and inspirational,” said Russell-Braccia. “What they have to offer our youth is beyond textbook reading. They bring history to life through the words they speak while sharing their experiences during World War II. Hearing Mr. Tuck and Mr. Wisnia speak of America and what it means to them makes us realize how very lucky we are to be free.”
Visit freedomsfoundation.org/pennsylvania/valley-forge-chapter for more information.