Douglas A. DiCenzo —August 2006 Shipment Honoree
Road bomb in Iraq kills principal’s sonBY DIANE KNICH
The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC)
Army Capt. Douglas DiCenzo, son of popular Orange Grove Elementary School Principal Larry DiCenzo, was killed Thursday in Iraq when his Humvee drove over a roadside bomb. DiCenzo, who was 30 years old, was “a born leader,” his father said. “He knew what he wanted to do in life and went after it.”
Doug DiCenzo & familyA company commander in the 1st Armored Division, DiCenzo went to Iraq in November. He had been stationed in Germany. He was married to Nicole DiCenzo. The couple had a 16-month-old son, Dakin or “Dak.”
DiCenzo graduated from Plymouth High School in Plymouth, N.H., in 1995 and from West Point in 1999. He ranked fifth in his class at Plymouth and was an all-state offensive guard for the state-champion Bobcat football team, according to the Manchester (N.H.) Union-Leader.
Larry DiCenzo said his son decided when he was a sophomore in high school that he wanted to pursue a military career and never wavered from that decision.
The news of DiCenzo’s death stunned and saddened the staff Friday at Orange Grove Elementary. Curt Norman, the West Ashley school’s assistant principal, called a meeting at the end of the school day so the staff could try to make some sense of the news. First, with the efficiency of teachers, staffers briefly discussed managing the rest of the school year without their leader. Then, with the hearts of parents, sons and daughters, they talked about how they could help their principal, his family, the school and each other.
Larry DiCenzo recently married Anne DiCenzo, principal at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston. “We are family and this is a family loss,” said Tish Carter, a teaching assistant at Orange Grove.
The meeting Friday felt like a gathering of family pulling together to do its best at a time when everyone was feeling their worst. Tears rolled, and some who had suffered losses shared what helped them most. Patty Kay, a kindergarten teacher, said she’s deeply concerned about Larry DiCenzo. “Larry is a passionate, demonstrative person,” she said. “When he feels something, he feels it deeply. So, when he’s sad, he’s very, very sad.” But, she said, he can count on the staff to take care of the school. “We’ll keep doing what we have to do here. We share his pain, and we’ll pull him back up.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or firstname.lastname@example.org. It was printed via the web on 5/27/2006 10:50:39 PM . This article appeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at Charleston.net on Saturday, May 27, 2006.
NH’s DiCenzo remembered as true leaderBy PAULA TRACY
Union Leader Staff (Manchester, NH)
Plymouth – Army Capt. Douglas Andrew DiCenzo was remembered in his hometown yesterday as an extremely intelligent and caring young man, who was fearless and driven to lead. Family said the 30-year-old West Point graduate died when the Humvee he was in hit a roadside bomb about 2 p.m. Thursday in the streets of southern Baghdad.
In Plymouth, where graves of fallen soldiers were being decorated yesterday for Memorial Day, the news came as a harsh reminder of the war in Iraq. DiCenzo was company commander for C Company in the 1st Armored Division 2nd Brigade based in Baumholder, Germany. He lived with his wife, Nichole, and toddler son, Dakin, in Germany. But according to his stepfather, Mark Burzynski, DiCenzo said if he were killed in action, he wanted to be buried in Plymouth.
DiCenzo’s death marked the third New Hampshire soldier to die in Iraq this month. Burzynski, of Plymouth, said a funeral service will be held here, likely sometime next week. He said yesterday the family was continuing to get information in bits and pieces about what happened and when the body would be returned.
Flags flew at half-staff at Plymouth Regional High School yesterday. Principal Bruce Parsons called DiCenzo “a true, all-American.” Graduating in the top five of his class, with a 94.6 academic average, DiCenzo was president of the Plymouth Class of 1995, captain of the football and wrestling teams. He led the Bobcat gridders to the state championship in his senior year. He also was a school board representative from the high school and was a member of the National Honor Society.
He considered only military academies for college and was accepted by the U.S. Military Academy, graduating in 1999. He was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq in November but had trained the past few years at Fort Benning, Ga., and in Fairbanks, Alaska, friends said.
On Main Street in Plymouth, DiCenzo was remembered for his caring nature, a man devoid of ego, fearless and a leader by example who saw in the military a way to hone his strengths and interest in leadership. “Probably the reason he was drawn to this was his outgoing and caring personality,” said Scott Biederman of Holderness. “He was an enthusiastic type who had no fear . . . There was no middle ground. “He obviously knew what he was getting himself into,” Biederman said. “His leadership skills were his strength.”
Prayers for his family and the military were said at an 8 a.m. Mass at St. Matthew Catholic Church. At Plymouth Elementary School, where DiCenzo’s mother, Cathy Crane, is a fifth-grade teacher, efforts were being put in motion to create a scholarship in his name. The family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made payable to the DiCenzo Fund and sent to Plymouth Elementary School, 43 Old Ward Bridge Road, Plymouth NH 03264. Burzynski urged people not to send flowers but to consider instead a scholarship gift. “Flowers will be donated to local nursing homes,” if they arrive, he said.
Friends were rallying around the family and trying to do what they could to ease the blow. Patti Biederman recalled DiCenzo as a small boy and how she watched him and his brother Daniel grow. She said she became good friends with his family when they were in the same babysitting cooperative.
Larry DiCenzo, the soldier’s father, was principal of Plymouth and Campton elementary schools. Crane has been a teacher for many years. When the boys were about 2 and 5, Biederman said, their parents divorced. Larry DiCenzo now lives in Charleston, S.C., and has remarried. Mark Burzynski and Cathy Crane live in Plymouth.
Norm LeBlanc, a guidance counselor at Plymouth Regional High School and DiCenzo’s Little League coach, said DiCenzo was among the finest people the community has produced in his 37 years in education. “The parents did a fantastic job with them, and they did not skip a beat,” LeBlanc said. Had DiCenzo lived a full life, LeBlanc would not have been surprised to see him become a U.S. senator, he said. “He would always say the right thing. He was very thoughtful and caring,” LeBlanc said. “A true leader.”
The members of Landstuhl Hospital Care Project were honored to remember Douglas during the month of August 2006 with our shipments to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, and U.S. military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Douglas’s family and friends today and in the years to come.