Honored Veterans

In recognition of their service, the Citizen of the Year event honors veterans by awarding scholarships to high school seniors in the names of Stamford veterans who have selflessly served our country and our community.

Since 2005, 95 Stamford veterans have been honored by awarding annual scholarships in the name of Stamford veterans who have selflessly served our country and our community.

2023 Honored Veterans

James L. Dudley, Jr.

U.S. Navy

James was born on December 29, 1951, in Stamford Connecticut. Where he was a cadet in the Young Marines program at Naval Reserve and Training Center on Magee Avenue. He graduated from Stamford High School in 1970 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy at Stamford’s military recruiting station on Atlantic Street. His draft notice arrived on the same day he took his oath of enlistment and began active service on November 19, 1971. Upon graduation from boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois he attended Aviation Fleet Prep school in Millington, Tennessee to earn his Airman designation. He was then ordered to serve in USS Saratoga (CV- 60) which was stationed at Naval Station Mayport Florida.

During his time in the Navy, James visited Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, and Cuba. Upon discharge, he attained a rating of Ship’s Serviceman Petty Officer Third Class (E-4). After his honorable discharge from the Navy on August 8, 1975, he attended Norwalk Community College and earned an associate degree in mass communications.

James went on to have a professional career as well as an exemplary career in community service in Stamford. He was a member of the Stamford Board of Representatives for 3 terms (6 years) and a member of the Stamford Auxiliary Fire Department. He served as a board member for Catholic Family Services and Stamford American Little League. He is a life member of the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars where he currently serves as Junior Vice Commander of Springdale Post 9617.

Jim married Deborah LaMotta in 1977. They have three children, Melissa, Christina, and Sean, one granddaughter, and a grandson on the way. James still lives in Stamford with his wife Deborah, and he continues to serve the city and veteran causes every day.

William J. Hennessey, Sr.

U.S. Army

William J. Hennessey Sr. was born to Edward Aloysius and Marie (Knox) Hennessey on December 25, 1927, in Danbury, CT, where he grew up with his brothers Edward and George.

He enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 18 and after basic training was assigned to Fort Sill in Oklahoma where he was part of its Field Artillery Brigade and became part of a tank crew.

After the war, William married Effie Salem and together they made their home in Brookfield, Connecticut with their children William, Jr. and Nanci. “Bill” as he was known by all, became a successful real estate broker and investor in the Danbury area, eventually founding his own firm where he specialized in commercial and industrial properties, which he ran until his death in 1986.

Like many of his generation, Bill did not have the opportunity to pursue higher education, but he extolled its benefits and encouraged his loved ones to pursue it. Being a part of the JWV scholarship program would have made him immensely proud, resulting in a big beaming Irish smile.

Rev. Winton M. Hill

U.S. Army

The Reverend Winton M. Hill III was born December 29, 1947, in Creswell, NC. Raised in Newark, New Jersey he joined his family church (Israel Memorial) at the age of six under the pastoral ministry of the Reverend John W. P. Collier Jr. He was called to preach at the age of 17 and licensed by Presiding Elder D. M. Owens, under the pastoral ministry of Reverend B. Coolidge Burton. He is a graduate of Wilberforce University with a B.A. in Philosophy & Religion and Payne Theological Seminary with a M.Div. in Clinical Pastoral Care.

Reverend Hill has a richly diverse ministry, in addition to pastoring AME churches; he has been a University Pastor, VA Hospital Chaplain and a Chaplain in the U S Army, having earned the Army Achievement medal & the Bronze Star medal. During his pastoral ministry he has led congregations to build or purchase almost $2M of real property. Reverend Hill was an active member of the community; his church collaborated with Person to Person of Darien to provide summer enrichment programs for at risk children. He served on the board of CTE (Stamford’s Anti-poverty Agency) as chairman of the nominating committee and volunteer coordinator of Faith Based Initiatives. He served in many volunteer capacities, both in capital drive and allocations with the United Way and as a past board president. He was appointed co-chairperson of the Mayor’s Multi-Cultural Council for the City of Stamford Connecticut (1992-1996) and was also appointed to the city’s Police Commission, serving from 1996 to 2004. In 2001, while pastoring in Stamford, Connecticut, he was selected “Volunteer of the Year” by the Stamford Advocate and in 2002 was elected “Citizen of the Year” by the Jewish War Veterans (Stamford’s highest public recognition).

Reverend Hill has served as Presiding Elder of the New Brunswick, Philadelphia, and Dover Districts; he has recently retired as Presiding Elder of the Newark District. He has formerly served on the board of directors for Self Help Inc., First Episcopal District Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. In addition, he is an active member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. Reverend Hill is married to Janis B. Hill, they have five children and eight grandchildren.

David M. Kaplan

U.S. Army

David M. Kaplan attended the United States Military Academy in West Point, NY, and went on to serve in the U.S. Army Signal Corps for twenty-one years. David retired with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After retirement, David completed two follow-on careers where he continued to apply his leadership and management skills as a project manager at a major not-for- profit center and managing the implementation of the company’s security products within the U.S. Federal Sector for a major software company.

He continues to devote a great deal of his efforts to Veterans Affairs and community involvement. David is an active member of The Stamford Veterans Council, The Jewish War Veterans Fred Robbins Post #142, and The Senior Men’s Association of Stamford. He also works with Congressman Jim Himes on his Veterans Affairs Advisory Board and Service Academy Selection Panel. David and his wife Elissa have raised two children and a granddaughter. They are proud of their Jewish heritage and enjoy celebrating Jewish holidays with special deliveries of small gifts to dozens of our closest friends of all faiths.

Joseph Mitchell Kaye

U.S. Army Air Corps

Joseph Mitchell Kaye was born on January 28, 1920, in Kaunas, Lithuania. He immigrated to the U.S. at about three years old and became a U.S. citizen at the age of nine. He attended A.B. Davis High School in Mount Vernon, New York, and graduated from City College of New York. He served in the Army beginning in February 1942 after being turned down the day after Pearl Harbor Day due to imperfect vision. He was assigned to the Signal Corps in the United States Army Air Forces. He earned the rank of Master Sargent and served in France and England. After the war, he served in the New York National Guard. Joe married and attended Yale Law School. After graduation, Joe and Miriam (Mimi) moved to Riverside. Joe practiced law in Greenwich for his entire career at the firm of Hirschberg, Pettingill, Strong, and Nagle (later known as Whitman and Ransom). He and Miriam, both of whom were only children, raised a family of nine children (six of whom became attorneys). Joe passed away on December 2, 1994, at the age of 74.

John Robert O’Brien

U.S. Navy

John Robert O’Brien was born in Stamford on January 24, 1922, to George F. And Isabelle Finn O’Brien, John was the youngest of seven and attended Stamford High. He loved sailing and while at Stamford High, he would leave school to go down to the Stamford Navy recruiting office and try to enlist. Underage, the officers would call his mother and ask her to please come pick him up. He ultimately forged her signature and enlisted at the Norwalk recruiting station. On active duty during WWII from April 30, 1940, to April 27, 1946, “Red” served on Navy destroyers (USS Plunkett and USS Frank Knox) and was the Navy’s first-ever Chief Radarman. He saw action on Omaha Beach on D-Day in Normandy, as well as in Anzio Italy, Oran Africa, and Japan, earning a star in the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, and five stars in the European-African Campaign.

John then went on to attend Columbia on the GI Bill and ultimately became the owner of Moody & O’Brien Land Surveyors in New Canaan.

He met his wife, Brigid, and they married on May 4, 1958. He and Brigid adopted two children through Catholic Family Services: John Patrick and Polly (Morrow). John was very involved in Stamford civic life, where he served on the Democratic City Committee and Board of Representatives and served twice as Commissioner of Public Works.

He passed away peacefully on July 27, 1998. He left Stamford, and the world, a better place, and continues to do so through his children, Patrick, and Polly), and his grandchildren, Kass, Alex, and Sophia

©2023 City of Stamford Citizen of the Year | 22 First Street, Stamford, CT 06905