Golden Kielbasa Veterans Open

2024 Angelo Tomasso, Sr. and Angelo Tomasso, Jr. Veteran of Distinction Award Honorees

Sal Sena, Sr., U.S. Marines

Sal Sena, Sr. of Newington, a member of the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame who has spent a lifetime serving his nation and serving and honoring his fellow Veterans, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1965-1969. He spent much of that time serving in Morocco in a security capacity at the Port Lyautey Naval Training Command, where the Marines he met and served with would become some of his closest friends over the next half century.

Following his 1969 honorable discharge, Sal became a welder working for his father who was in charge of all steel work at Tomasso Company construction in Plainville. He worked for Tomasso until 1985, when a serious spinal cord injury essentially ended his days as a welder. Following two years of recovery, Sal entered Central Connecticut State University to study Construction Management & Construction Engineering Technology and he would go on to work for the Connecticut Department of Transportation. Over seven years with the DOT, Sal quickly rose from intern to Project Chief, supervising various highway and bridge projects. A 1995 stroke and heart attack moved Sal to a clerical position, and he took early retirement in 1999.

Bored in retirement with home crafts and gardening, in 2003 Sal joined the Marine Corps League, Hardware City Detachment 781 in New Britain. By 2009 he had risen through the ranks to become Detachment Commandant. Working with the Detachment’s Funeral Honors Detail, he played an instrumental role in expanding the Detail from seven to 32 men and the Detail’s number of Veteran funerals per year from 80 to more than 300. Sal modestly calls his role with the Funeral Honors Detail that of a “pencil pusher,” but in fact he spent many hours, every day, growing the Detail’s impact, import and pristine reputation by visiting with countless family members of the deceased, offering hours of caring support and a reliable helping hand.

Sal’s work for Veterans, active duty military and their families over the years has also included sponsoring a clothing drive for homeless and needy Veterans; collecting toys for the Marines’ Toys for Tots annual drive; and distributing blankets and other items to Veteran residents at the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Home and Hospital in Rocky Hill. Sal’s many honors include Marine Corps League Department of Connecticut Veteran of the Year (2012); Chapel of Four Chaplains Humanitarian of the Year (2014); Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame (2016); and Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs Veteran of the Year (2017) among many others.

Sal is quick to say his life of service could not have been accomplished without the support of others. “There is no I in team,” says Sal. “I could not have accomplished anything without the help of my fellow Marines and Veterans across the state. To them I say Thank You.”

Robert Dornfried, Sr., U. S. Army, Korea (posthumous)

The late Robert “Bob” Dornfried, Sr., grew up in Kensington at his family’s farm on Edgewood Road. The youngest child of Austrian immigrants, he and his six brothers and one sister learned the value of hard work at an early age. The family was poor, but worked hard, had fun, laughed abundantly, built a strong work ethic and learned the importance of teamwork and family unity. Helping others was an important lesson they learned along the way.

In 1952 Bob enlisted in the U.S. Army and was assigned to combat duty in Korea with the 3rd Infantry Division as a machine gunner and Machine Gun Squad Leader, seeing action at Outpost Harry in Chorwon Valley. The Outpost was a strategic position that was highly desired by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. In June 1953 the battle for Outpost Harry between the U.S. and Chinese armies ensued, worsening into intense hand-to-hand combat that lasted two days.

For his service at Outpost Harry, Bob was honored with the Bronze Star, awarded to “individuals who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States in a combat theater, distinguish themselves by heroism, outstanding achievement, or by meritorious service not involving aerial flight.” Bob also was awarded the United Nations Service Medal, Korean Service Medal with two stars, Combat Infantry Badge and Good Conduct Medal. Bob was later a member of the Outpost Harry Survivors Association and attended many reunions with his former brothers in arms.

Bob was honorably discharged in 1955 and soon after returning home, started his own business as a carpenter, establishing Dornfried Builders where he was highly regarded for his hard work and integrity. While he possessed a strict work ethic, Bob also enjoyed having fun; he and his best friend, Louis DeVivo, regularly traveled to New Haven to attend square dances, and it was at one of these dances that Bob met the love of his love, Margaret (Peggy). Bob and Peggy married and settled a short distance from the family farm to begin their own family, raising four children: Diane, Robert, Jr., Joseph and James.

A true patriot, Bob was a charter member of VFW Post #10732 in Berlin, serving as Quartermaster and Commander for nine years. In October 2018, the Post was renamed the Robert B. Dornfried, Sr. VFW Post #10732. While extremely proud of being a Veteran, Bob was also a very committed community volunteer. He served on the Berlin Veterans’ Commission and the Selective Service Board; was a regular blood donor, donating 17 gallons of blood over his lifetime; and volunteered for the American Red Cross and Hospital of Central Connecticut. In 2011 he was the hospital’s Volunteer of the Year.

Bob was also a proud member of the Berlin Lions Club for 44 years and served as Club President, Berlin Fair Chairman and Memorial Pool President. One of his greatest joys was being Superintendent of the Cattle Barn at the Berlin Fair. He was named a Knight of the Blind, and received the highest recognition awarded to Lions members, The Melvin Jones Award.

Though not Italian, Bob was an active member of the Berlin Italian Political Independent Club. He served on the Club’s Board of Directors and in 1996 was named Man of the Year.

In 2016 Bob was diagnosed with ALS, an affliction deemed related to his service in the military. Though the cruel disease robbed him of his ability to speak, he never lost his spirit and his love of helping people. In September 2017, Bob was recognized by the Town of Berlin with the creation of the Robert B. Dornfried, Sr. Lifetime Volunteerism Award. The award is given regularly to individuals who demonstrate the same commitment to giving back that Bob did throughout his life.

Bob passed away on January 6, 2018 and just three short days later was joined by his beloved wife Peggy. There is no doubt that Bob would want to be remembered for his service to his country and for his commitment to making his community a better place for others.

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