Husband, wife honored together at Rensselaer County Honor-a-Deceased-Veteran ceremony

September 09, 2019 04:34 PM

TROY – For the first time, a husband and wife are honored together in the Rensselaer County Honor-a-Deceased-Veteran monthly ceremony. It's a story that could be turned into a movie.

Andy Dolan, who served in the U.S. Navy and later the U.S. Army in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and later was police officer in Troy, and his wife Gloria L. Steeves Dolan, who joined the Women's Army Corps. with her sister, Arlene, in 1953, were honored by the county, state and nation.

"It was a military upbringing, a military experience for all of us," said eldest son Andy Dolan during the Monday morning ceremony. He and brothers Peter and Bret and sister Dorinda were on hand for the ceremony. Bret and Dorinda are twins.

"I was proud," said Peter. "You kind of forget as you go on because you just grew up like that. You didn't understand because you're just a little kid. And now he's telling stories, this is pretty impressive. Our parents were pretty cool."

They were honored by Mike Stammel, Chairman of the Rensselaer County Legislature, who detailed the "Hollywood" story.
Andy Dolan was born in Lansingburgh on July 30, 1927. He was the oldest of what would be five children born to Andrew and Elsie Dolan. Andy attended Troy Schools before his family moved to Albany and settled into a home across the street from the Albany Police Station where two of his brothers would later work as police officers.

At age 16, Andy quit school and thought by enlisting, he would take the burden off his struggling parents so he joined the U.S. Navy, lying about his age. On October 1, 1943 Andy was sent to Sampson New York for Naval training. He was assigned to USS PC-576, the USS New York, and later the USS LST-700 which was heavily damaged by Japanese Zero Kamikaze fighter planes. After his damaged tank landing ship was towed to the Philippines, he was assigned to the LST-992 where he drove landing craft vehicles onto beaches in the Asiatic-Pacific Theater and participated in the assault and occupation of Okinawa Gunto in June 1945. This massive 80-day operation resulted in over 100,000 Japanese casualties and 50,000 Allied casualties.

On March 21, 1946, Seaman First Class Dolan was honorably discharged at Lido Beach, Long Island. He was awarded the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, and the World War II Victory Medal.

Andy returned to Albany but couldn't steady find work. The Albany Police Dept. would not hire a third Dolan brother, his son said. So in 1948, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and sent to Schofield Barracks in Honolulu before being sent to Korea in 1950 where he served with the 59th Military Police Company. Later he was stationed at Governor's Island, New York where he would meet Gloria.

Gloria Steeves was born on August 8, 1930 in Moscow, Maine. When she was four-years old, Gloria and her four sisters and five brothers moved to a farm in New Brunswick, Canada. Gloria attended a small one-room schoolhouse and went on to graduate Hillsborough High School in 1947.

In 1950, Gloria and her sisters Shirley and Arlene moved to Portland, ME. Three years later, Gloria and Arlene joined the Women's Army Corps, and in October, Gloria began active service in the U.S. Army at Fort Williams, ME, completing basic training at Fort Lee, VA. Private Gloria Steeves became a company clerk and was stationed at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

An aside, she had a brush with fame in California when "Singin' in the Rain" movie star Donald O'Connor showed up on her base to film the movie "Frances Joins the WACS." Gloria and her unit marched in one of the scenes in the movie and she felt like a movie star when she met O'Connor, the Golden Globe winning actor.

She would also be moved to Governor's Island with her sister Arlene. One day they were walking out of the PX commissary with arms full of groceries when a Sergeant approached the sisters and saluted them. Shocked that a higher-ranking Sgt. would salute them, the ladies dropped their groceries and saluted back. Sgt. Andy Dolan walked away laughing while Gloria grumbled as she picked up her groceries.

Specialist Third Class Gloria Steeves was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on October 25, 1955 and received the National Defense Service Medal. She returned home only to re-enlist in the Army at Fort Williams, ME. While Gloria was visiting her family on their farm in New Brunswick, Canada, her mother Goldie received a phone call from a man looking for her daughter. Gloria took the phone and spoke to Andy Dolan who asked for directions to the farm because he wanted to come see her. Gloria gave him the directions but thought nothing of it because she believed that he was drunk and playing a joke on her. Well, Andy Dolan was home on leave in Troy. He hopped in his car and drove all night, over 15 hours, to New Brunswick. When he got there, he proposed and they drove to Gorham, ME and were married on June 26, 1956.

"It's a great love story that they penned on behalf of their nation and that they wrote as a couple," said Rep. Paul Tonko, who presented two flags flown over the U.S. Capitol for the Dolans. "And for that we say thank you."

The love story continued in 1957 in Okinawa Japan at Fort Buckner. Andy was stationed there and Gloria was sent there three months later. A few months later, the now pregnant Gloria Dolan was discharged from the Army. Gloria and Andrew remained in Okinawa with new son Andrew until they were sent to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn in 1959. Once there, the family grew with son Peter in 1959 and twins Bret and Dorinda in 1962.

Mom "prayed and prayed for a little girl," said Dorinda. "She got me and she told everybody I'm worse than the three boys put together. I told her I'm here to keep you young mom."

In 1965 Andy was sent to Vietnam for five months where he served as a Military Police trainer. After he returned to Fort Devens in Massachusetts, Sgt. First Class Dolan retired from the U.S. Army on January 31, 1965. For his honorable service, Andy was additionally awarded the Armed Forced Expeditionary Medal (Vietnam), the Army Good Conduct Medal with four Bronze Knots, the Korean Service Medal with three Bronze Service Stars, the Meritorious Unit Citation, the Army Commendation Medal, the Sharpshooter Badge with Carbine Bar, and the Sharpshooter Badge with Pistol Bar.

Andy retired from the service in 1965 and returned home to his family in Troy. Gloria raised the family and worked at Garden Way. Andy joined the Troy Police Department and served for 20 years.

"Your mom working at Garden Way, a quintessential Troy company, and your dad serving the Troy Police Dept. and all of us for those years," said Rensselaer County Exec. Steve McLaughlin during the ceremony. "Just a fantastic legacy of service that continues with the family here today."

Gloria enjoyed cooking, baking, gardening, knitting, and most of all, her grandchildren. She and Andy were married for 36 years before she died on April 13, 1992.

Andy was involved in many community events and the Troy PBA. He enjoyed gardening, playing the ponies, and watching his grandchildren grow. He died on March 29, 2003.

"The rule with the policemen back then was you didn't speak about war," said Bret. "You just did your job and that was your job. I'm proud of him."

Besides their four kids, they had seven grandchildren: Andrew, Kristina, Bryan, Peter, Zachary, Bret, and Britney. Andy is survived by two sisters, Molly and Elsie, two brothers, William and Francis, his three daughters in law Kathy, Jane, and Lynn; and several nieces and nephews. Gloria is survived by her three sisters, Arlene, Eleanor and Shirley, her brothers Carl, Merle, and Ray. Both Andy and Gloria are buried at Elmwood Hill Cemetery in Troy.

"I'm kind of awestruck by that," said Assemblyman Jake Ashby. "The fact that what they all went through what you all went through and maintaining the integrity of your family."


WNYT Staff

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