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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Jan Wenzel, 874-2116

Cramer family donates portrait
to URI’s ROTC Battalion

Famed cartoonist Milton Caniff painted portrait of late soldier

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 29, 2003 -- The University of Rhode Island Reserved Officers Training Corps (ROTC) Cramer’s Saber Battalion now has a face to put with its namesake. The battalion is named after 1st Lt. Parker Dresser Cramer, a graduate of the program, who was killed during an ambush in Ben Cat, Vietnam in 1963.

A reproduction of a portrait of Cramer painted by famed cartoonist Milton Caniff, creator of such popular comic strips as Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, now hangs in the ROTC conference room in Keaney Gymnasium at URI’s Kingston campus.

Nancy Wilson of North Haven, Conn., a 1972 URI alumna and one of Cramer’s four sisters, presented the reproduction to URI’s ROTC program in May. Wilson, who now owns the original, received permission from Caniff’s estate to reproduce the portrait.

Caniff, who died in 1988, painted Cramer in his Army uniform with a map of Vietnam and its surrounding countries behind him. It is believed to be one of only three portraits Caniff painted.

Cramer enrolled at URI in 1955 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1959. While attending URI, he was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity.

When Caniff, a member of Sigma Chi fraternity when he attended Ohio State, learned of Cramer’s death, he wanted to paint his portrait. In 1965, Caniff visited the URI campus and presented the portrait to the University’s Sigma Chi chapter. Fearful that the portrait might get ruined during fraternity high jinks of the ‘70s, the painting was returned to Cramer’s parents and hung in their home until their deaths.

Cramer’s sister, Patricia Cramer Schlick, gave a personalized picture of her brother in a program pamphlet written for the presentation: "As his older sister I defended him against the ire of our parents and did what I could to keep him out of trouble. One notable time, when he was a student at the University of Rhode Island, he called his big sister from Florida during spring break. He was stranded with no money to get home. I lectured him on irresponsibility but telegraphed him the money.

"Parker was many things besides being a soldier. He was funny, he had a self-deprecating humor…He could be weird. He liked to eat peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches, and if it would make his sisters gag he was not above adding ketchup or mustard to those concoctions.

"He was thoughtful in the sense of thinking beneath the surface about issues. You know that he was a ROTC graduate of the University of Rhode Island and you probably know he was a Sigma Chi. Did you know he worked in the library and spent many hours conversing with the head librarian there about literature, philosophy and history? One of the kindest letters we received after his death came from that librarian who told us of his love for Parker’s intellect…"

Each year, a Cramer saber is given to an outstanding cadet of the graduating class. This year, John Chiappone from Marlboro, N.J., a graduating senior from Roger Williams University, was the 2003 recipient of the saber.

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