John LaGrappe Dominicus was an accountant quietly raising his family in Antwerp when Belgium was occupied by the Nazis during World War II.
Even his wife was kept in the dark, but under the cover of night he displayed nerves of steel, becoming a fierce enemy, a thorn in the side of the German forces there. He was a freedom fighter, at all times in danger of certain death.
“He didn’t talk about it much to me over the years,” recalled Dominique Cummings of East Hampton. “I heard the stories from my mom and my grandmother.”
While his family slept, her grandfather went out at night to help rescue downed allied airmen that were shot down and hid them in the chicken coop until they could be moved to a safe place. He fearlessly smuggled Jewish children out of harm’s way right under the noses of their would-be captors.
Cummings eventually met her future husband Bob Cummings when she was an exchange student. At their wedding two flags were flown — an American Flag, and a flag given to the couple by her mother, presented to the grandfather and mother of the Belgium-born village employee for work with the Belgian Resistance. The flag was raised in Antwerp, Belgium in 1945 to celebrate the Allies’ formal acceptance of Nazi Germany unconditional surrender of its armed forces, marking the end of WWII in Europe.
That same flag was unfurled again on Victory in Europe Day — also known as VE Day — Friday, May 8 in East Hampton Village courtesy of the Cummings in honor of her grandfather.
“He was something,” she said. “He worked with the village chief of police. They just decided they had to do something.”
Dominicus had a lot of Jewish clients. He seldom talked about his exploits, but his granddaughter heard some horrific stories. The underground would “paint” German factories by placing smoke rings around them, and the fighter bombers would hit the sites. The rings were set up by pathfinder planes and due to bad weather and high winds, the smoke rings moved and they missed their target. Planes from Great Britain hit four elementary schools instead.
“He took my mother’s ID — he never told her — and used it to smuggle Jewish kids out of Antwerp and into Holland,” Cummings said. “He saved as many as he could. He put his own family at risk.”
“It’s sad so little was done to recognize veterans of VE Day this year,” she lamented. “We lost a lot of them because of the coronavirus. It’s sad nothing could be done — that we were prevented from celebrating.”
Her grandfather soft-keyed his exploits and went about his business after the war.
“He did what he had to do,” Cummings said. “He and the police chief did pretty well.”
This article was updated on May 20.