(Left Photo by Tim Lamoreaux – Right Photo by Kelsey Klont/TCJ: [L to R] John Colizzi, Rich McCrumb Jr., Angel Colizzi-McCrumb, John Potter, Angela Witwer, Monique Colizzi, and Dave Eddy.)
On Friday, January 26, State Representative Angela Witwer and Charlotte resident Tim Lamoreaux, held a ceremony presenting a signed copy of House Bill 4337 to the Greenawalt- Flaherty American Legion Post 42.
Also attending were members of the VFW Post 2406, the community, and family of Don Colizzi. This House Bill allows for the name change of a section of M-50 that serves to honor the bravery of Flaherty and his service; from “Ensign Francis Flaherty Memorial Highway” to “Ensign Francis Flaherty Medal of Honor Recipient Memorial Highway.”
Francis C. Flaherty of Charlotte enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves as an Ensign in the late 1930’s following college, where he attended the University of Michigan.
On December 7, 1941, a fateful day in American history, Ensign Flaherty who was stationed on the U.S.S. Oklahoma, remained on the battleship as it was being attacked by Japanese bombers, holding a flashlight for his fellow shipmates to make it out. With the ship taking on water quickly, Ensign Flaherty put others before himself in a time of crisis and sacrificed himself for his country. He had been among the 390 men unidentified from the bombing of Pearl Harbor for the last 78 years, and was buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.
After his death, Ensign Flaherty was declared a recipient of the highest military decoration, Medal of Honor, for his act of valor sacrificing his own life to save his fellow man.
In 2019, the U.S. Navy identified Ensign Flaherty through DNA analysis and in 2021 he was brought back to be buried in his hometown, where his resting place is in Maple Hill Cemetery.
Don Colizzi, a Marine veteran from Charlotte, first heard about the heroic efforts of Ensign Flaherty in 2000. When Colizzi learned that Ensign Flaherty had been a recipient of the military decoration Medal of Honor, he wanted to honor and commemorate Ensign Flaherty for his service. Colizzi raised $20,000 for the monuments located at the old courthouse that serve to honor Ensign Flaherty and Sergeant Michael Hudson, the only Medal of Honor recipients within the tri-county area.
In 2010, Colizzi also was behind the initial Memorial Highway sign in memory of Ensign Flaherty. Lamoreaux, who was inspired by Colizzi, last year started the process of renaming the sign to truly reflect the legacy of our local war hero, Ensign Flaherty.
At the ceremony, Lamoreaux said, “This is the final piece of the puzzle. It was a necessity to change the sign to best represent Flaherty as a local Medal of Honor Recipient.”
Throughout this long process Lamoreaux has worked alongside House Representative Angela Witwer, an advocate for veterans, who did not bat an eye when Lamoreaux asked, saying, “absolutely yes”.
Ensign Flaherty’s updated Memorial Highway sign will be replacing the first sign, located on the section of M-50 between Sensations Memory Care Residence and Meijer. The framed bill that certifies the corrected sign change for Flaherty is on display at the American Legion in Charlotte.