Peter Horbick Sr.
PVT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D, 1st Platoon
Born 1921 in CT, Died 2008
County of residence at enlistment: New Haven County, CT
Other residence(s): New Haven, CT; Bethany, CT; Hamden, CT
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: artists, sculptors, and teachers of art
Pete Horbick was born on March 19, 1921 in New Haven, CT, the oldest of three children. His father, who worked as a molder in a tire factory, had been born in Russia and his mother in Ukraine.
During his childhood his parents divorced and his mother Millie married another Ukrainian and had a fourth child. (Amazingly, Millie would live to be 105 years old. She lived independently almost until the end—still cooking and cleaning and entertaining family and friends at 103!)
Pete graduated from Hillhouse High School in New Haven in 1939; his yearbook caption stated that he planned to attend Pratt Institute to study art and that his hobby was swimming.
He married Ellen Petersen on September 26, 1941 and registered for the draft on February 16, 1942. At that time he was working at General Welding Company in New Haven as a welder. But when he enlisted, on November 11, 1942, he stated that his profession was "artist" and that he was a high school graduate. (So apparently he never fulfilled his dream of attending Pratt.)
He was assigned to the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, and saw service in Europe with the unit. He was discharged on October 24, 1945 and returned to New Haven. Many years later, he said of his wartime experience: "It's important that people know what we all did. We didn't know it then, but now I know we made a difference."
Somewhere in those years he acquired significant granite carving and sculpting skills; by 1948 he was working as VP of Saviteer Memorial Works (of Meriden and Wallingford CT) and was the firm's sculptor. A 1948 newspaper article describes a Lincoln Memorial plaque of Westerly granite, featuring a bas-relief of Lincoln's head, that was being installed at Meriden City Hall. The article stated that Pete had "worked for many granite quarries, and memorials he's executed are in cemeteries and public parks throughout New England."
Pete and Ellen had two children: Peter Jr. and Marie. Sometime in the 1950s they settled in Bethany, CT where they would live for more than 50 years.
Throughout his long career as a monumental and architectural sculptor and master carver he created numerous works. These included the 1950 Gold Star Eternal Light Memorial in Meriden CT, many contributions in Veteran's Memorial Park in Bethany, a 1990 Veterans' monument outside Bethany Town Hall, a 2000 monument to Quinnipiac Indians in New Haven’s Fort Wooster Park, numerous carvings at and around Yale University, and the 2007 War Dog Memorial in Bethany (his last work). This was inspired by "Tommy," a German Shepard puppy he had adopted when he was in the Army. He wanted to take the dog home with him when the war ended, but his request was denied.
His son, Peter Jr., joined him as a carver and they worked together on a number of projects. Sadly, Peter Jr. died of a heart attack in 2003.
Pete was intensely involved in his community in Bethany. He served as Post Commander of VFW Post 2448, helped to rebuild a home of a family friend when it burned, mentored other stone carvers, helped to plan the Memorial Day Parade, and worked on reviving the town cemeteries.
In a 2016 interview in a Concord NH newspaper, his daughter Marie says that in the last years of his life "all he talked about was his service in the Army. He had drawings, sketches—the art was a part of the war experience, for him.”
During his career, Horbick sculpted a number of veteran memorials, sometimes for free.
“Even if he played a small part overall, his whole life was dedicated to doing art,” Marie said. “The fact that he used it in the war and to honor veterans. I know that’s special to him.”
In another interview, shortly after his death, Marie said: "I can drive all over the state and in New Haven and show people the beauty that my father created. If I had to go to the store and buy a dad, he's the one I would have picked."
When they were in their 80s, Pete and Ellen sold their home in Bethany and moved to an apartment in nearby Hamden.
Pete's last day is described in a moving article in the Amity Observer the week after his death. He had dropped his wife off "at the front door of the Woodbridge Senior Center, and then parked the car. On the way in, a town employee saw him walking through the parking lot in the rain, and ran over with an umbrella. Horbick came inside, said, 'Boy, that was a long walk,' and then collapsed from a heart attack." He never regained consciousness, but his family was able to make it to his bedside before his death. He died on October 29, 2008 and is buried at Beaverdale Memorial Park in New Haven. His obituary says that he was one of the last master carvers in the state of Connecticut.
1939 high school yearbook (see below)
1939 high school yearbook
1941 marriage record
1942 draft card
1942 enlistment record
1948 article in The Journal (Meriden CT) re his work
1950 article in The Record-Journal (Meriden CT) re his work
1952 New Haven city directory
1996 article in The Record-Journal (Meriden CT) re his work
2003 article in The Record-Journal (Meriden CT) re his mother
2008 VA death record
2008 Find a Grave record
2008 Connecticut death index
2008 obituary in New Haven Register (CT)
2008 obituary in Amity Observer (Bethany-Orange-Woodbridge, CT) - chatty and anecdotal
2008 another obituary from Amity Observer (Bethany-Orange-Woodbridge, CT) - personal recollection
2016 article in the Concord Monitor (NH) re his involvement with the Ghost Army (quotes his daughter)