Battle of the Bulge veteran ‘was too young to be scared’

Nick Grossi of Issaquah was wounded when his squad took a direct hit from a German shell during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Picture by Greg Farrar, The Issaquah Press
Nick Grossi of Issaquah was wounded when his squad took a direct hit from a German shell during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Picture by Greg Farrar, The Issaquah Press

Issaquah resident Nick Grossi was 18 years old when he got the call to serve his country.

It was 1943 and Grossi was a student at O’Dea High School. He was drafted to fight for the U.S. Army in World War II and then shipped off to California for training.

“I was too young to be scared,” the 91-year-old Spiritwood at Pine Lake resident said, “but I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t finish high school.”

He would eventually get that diploma, but not before an 18-month service stint that resulted in a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his bravery during the infamous Battle of the Bulge.

The largest battle the U.S. Army ever fought began in December 1944. All appearances suggested that World War II was coming to a close before the German army launched a counteroffensive attack.

Adolf Hitler’s surprise invasion attempted to split the Allied armies in northwest Europe.

“The Germans had made a breakthrough on the front line, that’s why they call it the Battle of the Bulge,” Grossi said.

Grossi, a member of the 80th Infantry Division, worked in a heavy weapons company. He stood about 1,500 yards behind the front lines and manned the 81mm mortar. Someone closer to the action would wire him information on where to shoot the mortar shells.

He was wounded when his squad took a direct hit from a German shell. As Grossi’s lap was bleeding and wracked with shrapnel, he ventured back to headquarters to alert superiors about the attack. It’s one of the reasons he received a Bronze Star.

“Don’t ask me how I did it, because I was hurt pretty bad,” he said.

That was what Grossi called the “bitter end” of his combat career. He was wounded badly enough that the Army sent him back to a hospital in England.

When he thinks back to that time, Grossi remembers the soldiers who lost their lives, the cold and the snow.

“We lost a lot of people in that,” he said. “It was a real severe battle all the way around. We were fighting in the snow, sleeping in the snow and wondering when this horrible war was going to end.”

It ended in 1945. A rehabbed Grossi was back with his 80th Infantry Division in Luxembourg. They were in a theater watching a Bette Davis movie when the news broke.

“They stopped the movie and said that the Germans had given up. The war was over,” he recalled. “Everybody got up from their chairs and yelled and screamed and we all left the movie.”

When Grossi returned home, O’Dea High School basically handed him his diploma after all he’d been through, he said.

He went on to study business at Seattle University and worked for the Boeing Co. for nearly 40 years before retiring. He raised four boys on Mercer Island with his wife Ginny. The couple moved to Spiritwood at Pine Lake in Issaquah about a year ago and recently celebrated their 55th anniversary.

While his medals are proudly displayed on a room in his apartment, Grossi said he wouldn’t wish his wartime experience on anyone.

“I have always been against wars,” he said. “What we went through was awful, awful, awful. It was terrible.”

Memorial Day is a time to remember those that have put their lives on the line for freedom, he said. He still finds it surreal when strangers come up to him and thank him for his service.

“I always thank them,” he said. “I appreciate that. I didn’t realize that I was making history.”

Food Fight food drive brings competition for a good cause

During the holiday season, food banks get tons of donations from the local community looking to give back to those in need. While this outpouring of generosity helps the Edgewood FISH Food Bank greatly, two community activists have taken it upon themselves to give the local food bank a holiday boost this summer. Mill Ridge Village Executive Director Jennifer Reich and April Balsley, Director of Membership Development at the Fife Milton Edgewood Chamber of Commerce, head up competing teams in the annual Fife-Milton-Edgewood Food Fight, a food drive with a competitive twist.

Here’s how it works: Balsley and Reich will have several food barrels representing “Team April” and “Team Jennifer” spread across the three cities, and all that residents have to do is drop non-perishable food into a bin of the team of their choice. The campaign will end on June 17 when the donations will be weighed and a winner will be determined.

Food can also be donated to Mill Ridge Village, Fife Milton Edgewood Chamber of Commerce or the Edgewood Community FISH Food Bank.

“What better way to have community exposure for something that affects us all than to have a healthy competition and see who can raise more food than the other,” Balsley said.

The fight is coming at a good time this year. Reich is hoping the food drive can be a good replacement for the currently absent Albertson’s, which used to be one of the food bank’s biggest supporters.

“Now that Albertson’s is gone, we’re trying to help,” Reich said. “It’s a great way to get the local community involved.”

This summer food drive is more than just a competition, allowing the community to rally behind an organization that does so much around the area.

“[Hunger] should be important for everyone because it affects everyone. The Edgewood FISH Food Bank is a food bank without borders and serves Fife, Milton and Edgewood as well as surrounding cities,” Balsley said.

The bins will be around the three cities until June 17, and can be found at the following locations:

Team April:

  • Milton City Hall
  • Edgewood City Hall
  • Dave’s of Milton
  • Lee’s Martial Arts
  • M.E. Zumba Class
  • Milton Safeway
  • Surprise Lake Middle School
  • The Karate Edge
  • The Meridian at Stone Creek
  • Tyler McClung State Farm
  • Columbia Bank Fife Branch

Team Jennifer:

  • Les Schwab
  • Columbia Bank
  • Billy Bob’s Off Road Shop
  • Rite Aid of Milton
  • Edgemont Juniorr High School
  • VFW
  • Heather Hills

The Right Questions to Ask Before Moving into Assisted Living

Tracy Willis serves as Director of Corporate Development for Village Concepts. She is the founder of Village Concepts University, a lifelong learning program currently operating in several VC communities. An advocate for seniors for over 15 years, she also serves on the PAC Board of Directors for Washington Health Care Association.
Tracy Willis serves as Director of Corporate Development for Village Concepts. She is the founder of Village Concepts University, a lifelong learning program currently operating in several VC communities. An advocate for seniors for over 15 years, she also serves on the PAC Board of Directors for Washington Health Care Association.

My grandparents were healthy active, and extremely independent until the day my grandfather got lost on his daily jog through the park. My grandmother, 83, panicked when he didn’t arrive home at his usual time. A neighbor went out looking and, thankfully, found him safe, sound and very confused. Within a week she and my grandfather made the decision to move to an assisted living community. I sent them the following information, to help them prepare for their search.

“Dear G & G,

Dad says you’ve decided to look for an assisted living community. I think that’s fantastic! You’re both so active, and simplifying life will free you up for the fun stuff! I know it can be a very confusing process and I wanted to give you a few tips to keep in mind as you start checking out places.

Comparing Communities

Just because they’re called assisted living doesn’t mean they’re all the same! Ask the following questions:

  • What level of care do you provide? Ask to see a “Disclosure of Services” document, which outlines the services the community is designed to provide.
  • Will I be charged for care I don’t actually receive? Some companies use ‘care levels’ where you pay for a certain amount even if you don’t use certain services. I prefer the model where you are charged only for services you receive.
  • Do you have a Medicaid contract? This is an important one. You may be able to afford an assisted living community now, but if your needs increase so will your costs. If this happens, or if you simply outlive your savings (let’s hope not!), you don’t want to have to move. If you run out of money and qualify for Medicaid, and your community contracts with Medicaid, you can stay in the same place (as long as they can provide appropriate care). However, if a community does not have a Medicaid contract you may be required to move somewhere else. the problem is that many communities require a private-pay stay before they allow residents to convert to Medicaid; so it’s best if you start out in a place that offers Medicaid, just in case!

Referral Agencies

I heard through the grapevine that you were considering using a referral agency to help you find a place. Just be choosy about who you work with and the advice they give. Some agencies may seem helpful, but many of them earn a high commission from the community you choose, so they benefit from recommending places where they have contracts. I just want to make sure you’re not missing out on a more appropriate place because they don’t contract with whatever referral agency you use. Rather than use the sales people, you could just get someone to print out a list of local places, or I could do it and email it to you!

These are just a few things that came to mind. Hopefully they help you avoid some potential pitfalls. Good luck and congratulations on the new adventure! -Tracy”