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Weirton vet saved life of heavyweight champ’s cousin

REMEMBERING FRIEND — , Duke Horstemeyer of Weirton said he misses his friend, the late Dominic Schell, and thinks of him often, especially on Veterans Day. Horstemeyer said Schell, an Army veteran of World War II, had shared the story with him of having saved the life of the cousin of heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano, who would later pay a surprise visit and thank him for doing so. -- Janice Kiaski

WEIRTON — Duke Horstemeyer of Weirton often thinks of his friend, the late Dr. Dominic Schell, but especially today being Veterans Day.

Horstemeyer visited the newspaper offices recently to say so and to talk about Schell, who was 98 when he died earlier this year on July 18.

Schell graduated from Weir High in 1939 and enlisted in the Army on Dec. 10, 1941 — three days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He fought in the Pacific Theater in the Battles of Wadke and Sarmi, was wounded by a Japanese sniper and awarded the Purple Heart and numerous other medals. Discharged on July 3, 1945, Schell pursued a medical career, becoming one of the first physical therapists in the Ohio Valley. He retired in 1985 after 30 years in practice.

In February 2017, Weirton Mayor Harold Miller recognized Schell for his military service, presenting him with a proclamation.

What follows is a story that Horstemeyer shared about Schell.

There was a loud knock on his door and when he opened it, it was the “surprise of a lifetime.” There stood the great Rocky Marciano, the heavyweight champion of the world.

During World War II, Schell was serving in the U.S. Army in New Guinea in 1943 with his foxhole buddy Philip Marciano.

Schell was eating a can of beans in the foxhole when he heard an incoming shell and immediately grabbed Philip, who was sitting at a nearby huge tree, cleaning his rifle.

The incoming shell hit the tree, shattering it, and the impact damaged the ears and eyes of both men. Both received the Purple Heart medal.

For his quick action and saving the life of Philip, Schell was awarded the Purple Heart and other medals and ribbons with combat stars. These medals were awarded to infantry soldiers fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific and elsewhere.

After returning from the war, Philip told his cousin, Rocky, about Schell saving his life and that if he was ever in Pittsburgh, take Route 22 to the small town of Weirton and look Schell up.

Rocky Marciano was the heavyweight champion of the world from 1947 to 1956, and he was undefeated in 49 boxing matches, retiring as the heavyweight champion. He died in 1969 in a plane crash.

Schell had said it was “a pleasant surprise meeting and talking with Marciano” and he thanked him for his visit. Rocky, meanwhile, thanked Schell for saving his cousin’s life and for his service in the Army.

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