The American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region honored volunteers Shirley Fein Sheriff (Age 95) and Thomas Pillsworth (Age 73) in a ceremony on Thursday, March 7, 2013 at the Beltrone Living Center in Albany, NY. Sheriff and Pillsworth received special recognition as part of the American Red Cross “Service to the Armed Forces: Our Legacy Continues” Project for their work with the Red Cross overseas supporting our military during times of war and conflict.
This was the first public legacy recognition ceremony held in the American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region (ARCNENY). Dianna Rios, Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Specialist for the ARCNENY, nominated Pillsworth and Sheriff for the award.
The ceremony included a Presentation of Colors and a POW/MIA ceremony conducted by the American Legion Joseph E. Zaloga Post 1520, an invocation given by Rabbi Debora Gordon of the Congregation Berith Sholom in Troy, NY, speech from Tom Pillsworth and Gary Ferris, Executive Director of the Adirondack-Saratoga Chapter, presentation of government proclamations by Councilman David C. Rowley on behalf of the Town of Colonie, a video presentation of Sheriff and the presentation of certificates and pins designed solely for Service to Armed Forces legacy recipients.
“Connecting with Shirley and sharing her intriguing story was very important to me,” said Rios. “I felt such a strong bond with her since the first day that I met her in November at the Veterans Recognition Luncheon.” For Rios, meeting Sheriff brought to light the importance of documenting the stories of people from our region as part of the Legacy Project. Even at the age of 95, Sheriff sharply recalls her experiences as a Red Cross volunteer during WWII. “It doesn’t matter where you were born or what your race is, we’re all human beings,” said Sheriff.
Sheriff was honored for her work in France and Germany during World War II. She went through an extensive interview process and vigorous training in order to obtain the position at the Red Cross as a recreational worker in the hospitals. Sheriff worked as a staff aid at a hospital in Paris and following “VE Day” and operated Clubmobiles in Germany, similar to current Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles. (Watch the video of Sheriff discussing her experiences with the Red Cross during WWII).
Today, Sheriff resides in Albany at the Beltrone Living Center and belongs to the American Red Cross Overseas Association which upholds the American Red Cross spirit for service and friendship. Sheriff also received recognition from the U.S. Senate after the Senate Resolution 471 was introduced in 2012, which praises the contribution of American women who volunteered with the American Red Cross overseas during WWII.
Pillsworth was honored for his volunteer work overseas in Iraq. In 2005, Pillsworth deployed to Baghdad, Iraq for six months serving alongside U.S. military troops providing disaster response and emergency communications between service members and their families back home. While in Baghdad, Pillsworth became acquainted with a group of Third Infantry Division soldiers who had received donated lacrosse equipment. After talking for a while, the group of soldiers asked Pillsworth to be their coach upon learning that he had some great lacrosse experience playing for Siena College while an undergrad, then becoming Siena’s lacrosse coach from 1985-1989, and again from 1994-1997. Pillsworth agreed to work with the soldiers and thus became the coach of the “first-ever Baghdad lacrosse team.”
Today, Pillsworth works with the ARCNENY Service to the Armed Forces Program conducting Yellow Ribbon events, specifically pre-deployment, emphasizing the “Get to Know Us Before You Need Us” program. The program informs military families about SAF emergency communication services before their loved ones deploy. Pillsworth uses his stories and experiences to explain what SAF does.
“Tom is invaluable to this program as he has deployed with our troops, served with them in combat; he brings a special compassion to our programming,” said Rios.
The “Service to the Armed Forces: Our Legacy Continues Project” started in 2010 and has received nearly 500 nominations since its inception; all which have been officially entered into the National Red Cross archive data base. The first chapter recognition occurred in Rochester, New York, in April of 2011, honoring 103-year-old WWII Red Cross volunteer Mary Hannick.
About the Legacy Project
The Our Legacy Continues Project honors and recognizes the legacy of Red Cross staff who have served side-by-side with members of the U.S. military in all major wars and conflicts since the American Civil War.