Soldier’s a work of art in MFA uniform exhibit

More than 60 years after World War II veteran Arthur Fishtine returned home from fighting in Europe, the 87-year-old can still fit into his Class A Army uniform.

He’s proud of that fact — even if the uniform is “very tight” — but prouder still that the dress suiting has found a permanent home at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where it is currently on display as part of “Beauty as Duty: Textiles on the Home Front in WWII Britain.”

The exhibit features British propaganda scarves and flags from museum benefactors Frederic and Jean Sharf. And it was a connection to Fred Sharf — Fishtine’s cousin works for the art patron — that earned the Natick resident’s uniform a place of prominence in the exhibit.

“I happened to mention that I had a World War II uniform hanging up and doing nothing, so I donated it,” Fishtine said. “I never looked so good in it, but it looks good on the mannequin.”

Fishtine wore his Class A only for parades and special occasions. His tour of duty from February 1944 to December 1945 was spent in army fatigues battling across seven European countries.

“It was exciting and a lot of history and a lot of memories, which I seem to remember very vividly,” said Fishtine, who has spent the past week sharing his stories with schoolchildren around Greater Boston. “I wasn’t a gung-ho soldier. I just did my job.”

After he left the Army at 21, Fishtine attended Massachusetts College of Art, where he studied graphic design and minored in architecture. It was at MassArt that he also met Charlotte, his wife of 61 years.

The Dorchester-born Fishtine became an architectural designer for the federal government in Boston, designing courtroom interiors and congressional offices. He later worked in the private sector.

But it’s his service, especially at the war’s end, that he remembers as particularly poignant.

“We met survivors of the concentration camps. That was something else,” he said. “It was something I’ll never forget.”

“Beauty as Duty” runs through May 28, 2012. For information, visit

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