Jan 13, 1922 - May 29, 2018
Henry W. Moskal was profoundly affected by the horrors and atrocities he witnessed while serving in the Army during World War II.
During the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944 and early 1945, he saw many friends in his company killed. At prisoner of war and concentration camps that he helped to liberate at the war's end, he was shocked by the sight of "walking skeletons" – Mr. Moskal's description of prisoners who had been starved and horribly mistreated.
"The war … all those things he saw, they changed him for life," recalled his son, Paul M. Moskal. "He came back home after the war and was determined to spend the rest of his life helping people, as a public servant and a volunteer."
Mr. Moskal, a former Sloan mayor and village trustee who was active in many volunteer and veterans organizations, died Tuesday after a short illness in the Atlantic Avenue home he had built in 1953 for his family. He was 96. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m.. Saturday at St. Andrew's Church, 34 Francis Ave., Sloan.
Doing good things for people in Sloan, the little village where he spent almost his entire life, meant a lot to Mr. Moskal, said his daughter, JoAnn Ormond.
"He was very proud that he was involved in the establishment of the first reading center, the first ice rink and first tennis courts in Sloan, and he served four years on the Sloan District School Board," Ormand said. "It was very important to him that kids in Sloan get opportunities for education that he didn’t have."
Mr. Moskal served as a village trustee for 16 years and as Sloan's mayor for eight years. He was proud of his role in establishing Wrazen Park in the village.
He was a former Sloan volunteer firefighter, a 74-year member of the Frank Gierlach American Legion Post No. 1320, and a long-time member and former commander of the Sloan Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 355.
Mr. Moskal was also a co-founder and former president of the New York State 14th Armored Division Association.
"My father was very patriotic and deeply religious," Paul Moskal said. "He flew the American flag in front of his home every day of his life after getting home from World War II, and he went to Mass every single day, sometimes twice in a day."
A sergeant and ordnance specialist in Gen. George S. Patton Jr.’s 3rd Army, Mr. Moskal was with a unit of soldiers who liberated a prisoner of war camp in Moosburg, Germany, after Germany's surrender in 1945.
In a 2015 interview with The News, Mr. Moskal said he could not believe the inhumane conditions he saw in the camp. “There were prisoners there who were walking skeletons. Some of them had prison-striped uniforms, shabby. Others had nothing on,” Mr. Moskal recalled. “They’d come up to us in pairs, supporting one another. They had no strength. No food. And, boy, did we get chewed out by the medics when we gave them food.
“They said, ‘You can’t feed them. No solid foods. You’ll kill them.’ We were told the prisoners could have liquids, but no solid foods.”
He said he later fell to his knees and "gave thanks that I was able to get there and help liberate the camp.”
He said he found similar sickening conditions when he helped to liberate a concentration camp where Jews and Poles had been brutally mistreated.
He said those experiences led him to decide that he would spend the rest of his life helping people after he got back to Sloan.
Mr. Moskal's volunteer work continued into his early 90s. Despite being legally blind, he would visit and deliver Holy Communion to homebound people under the auspices of a Catholic organization called the Legion of Mary.
He also enjoyed rooting for the Buffalo Bills and New York Yankees, baking pies, doing handyman duties and spending time with his nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Mr. Moskal worked for many years as a mechanic with Ryder Truck Rental, retiring at age 70.
His wife of 44 years, the former Natalie Skop, died in 1997. He is survived by his son and daughter.