Maury Hassett – Bon Vivant, WWII Hero
It is Friday, May 8 2015. The big screen is blaring and the Friday friend’s lunch group is just getting started at The Shamrock gabbing about the events of the day, mostly about local events and most assuredly about politics of all sorts. The chatter was in fun, from experience and comradery, better than I’ve ever experienced.
The news presenters on the screen were talking about events of 70 years past and the old news film saw Britain’s King George VI, the queen mother, then Princess Elizabeth (now QE2) and Princess Margaret Rose on the balcony of Buckingham Palace with who else but Winston Churchill, not yet knighted.
As the banter grew one participant said: “I remember that day well.” Amid the throng of Britishers celebrating VE Day was a 25-year-old – Maury Hassett – at the Palace Gate.
Excitement that day around the Palace was ecstatic, historic and one for the ages, of course. Maury, in his calm demeanor, recalled how he and a buddy were given leave from their Army Air Corps bomber squadron. At the time Maury was a tail gunner and had seen lots of action out of England and previously in North Africa with the 358th Bomber Squadron and the 303rd Bomb Group (H) of the Army Air Corps.
I was fascinated at his recall of events. Just that day the world was rejoicing and remembering all over. Maury’s recollection was electrifying.
Last Thursday, January 14, at age 96, this member of the Greatest Generation, businessman, newspaper publisher and grand story teller died in Frederick. He always brushed off my efforts to write a feature story about him with “I’ve had my day.” Our loss. This gentleman and bon vivant was a joy to know and be around. He attended his last Friday luncheon on January 8 and threw out some witticisms and shook hands with several of his table mates.
It can be noted here his beloved wife of 67 years Mary died just 15 weeks before him on October 1, 2015.
He was a devoted family man. He is survived by six children, three others predeceased him as did Mary. He was a devoted churchman, served the entire county and loved the community.
What I learned from our Fridays was his work as founding publisher of the Frederick County Gazette and Publisher Emeritus. That was an eye-opener for me. I also discovered that following WWII he spent 60 years as a successful entrepreneur and was involved in department stores and wholesale companies. He was quite a man, his wit and humor was wonderful.
I wish I had gotten to known him better. Other lunch friends were privileged and said so. Last Friday’s group was just getting started when word arrived of Maury’s Heavenly Trip. John Ashbury, major domo of the Thurmont festivities, read the sad announcement.
Maury was known for his driving experiences up and down Route 15. The state of Maryland two years extended his driver’s license to 2021. He would have been 102.
Tim Wesolek, a Frederick personage of note, wrote this warm and delightful remembrance of Maurice Martin “Maury” Hassett:
“For the past 15+ years, I have had the great privilege and honor to spend lunch on Fridays with a group of men composed of the Greatest Generation. (Tom Brokaw wrote of this generation in his book of the same name.) They fought in WWII and Korea, came home, married and continued to serve both their country and their families by starting careers. Over the past few years, we have lost a few from this esteemed bunch: Jim Trout, Col. Mark Hoke, Calvin Saylor, and Sterling Bollinger Sr. Now Maury Hassett.
“As we gather weekly around 11:15 A.M., we discuss and solve all of the country’s, state’s and county’s problems, and all before our food order is taken at noon. Many times, Maury has contributed with a simple remark, delivered with perfect timing, which would bring the entire table to a good, hard, belly laugh. Then, when it was time to order, Maury would always get the same thing – shrimp cocktail. I will never see a shrimp cocktail again that I will not think of Maury Hassett. He told us many stories about his time in London on D-day, as well as in North Africa. Maury loved his country, but the true love of his life was his wife, Mary, and his family. Many Fridays, even as he came to lunch, one could see in his face, that he was more concerned about his beloved wife, Mary, and her current medical condition. I hoped during those times, that the fellowship at the table, took his mind off of the sadness for just a few minutes.
“At 96, Maury still drove, rather quickly at times, as many at the table have reported, but the thing that I will remember most about Maury was his uncommon kindness. He would always say “Thank you,” whenever anyone asked how he or Mary were doing. He expressed genuine appreciation when I showed up at the viewing when Mary passed away.
“His seat at the table, and his wit, will be very much missed each Friday. I hope, if it is in God’s plan, that I live to be 96, still drive with “determination,” and can have a mind that still analyzes the issues of the day with Maury’s succinct wit.” --Tim Wesolek