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World War II veteran Robert Persichitti dies at 102 while traveling to France for D-Day’s 80th anniversary


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By Dakin Andone, CNN

(CNN) — Robert Persichitti, a 102-year-old World War II US Navy veteran, died last week while on his way to France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, according to Honor Flight Rochester, a veteran’s organization.

Persichitti was a “wonderful, pleasant, humble guy,” who was “easy know, easy to talk to,” said Honor Flight Rochester President and CEO Richard Stewart, who told CNN he learned of his friend’s death last Friday.

“We miss him,” said Stewart.

While Persichitti passed away bound for Normandy — where the Allied forces’ landing on June 6, 1944, laid the foundation for the defeat of Nazi Germany — he served in the Pacific as a radioman aboard the USS Eldorado, Stewart said. His tour of duty included Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Guam, according to Stewart and the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame, into which Persichitti was inducted in 2020.

Persichitti fell ill last week during a stop in Germany while headed for Normandy, Al DeCarlo, a friend who was traveling with Persichitti, told CNN affiliate WHAM. Persichitti was airlifted to the hospital and died soon after, DeCarlo said.

“The doctor was with him. He was not alone, he was at peace and he was comfortable,” DeCarlo said. “She put his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, on her phone and he peacefully left us.”

Persichitti had heart problems in the past, “but for 102, I would say he was in superb health,” Stewart told CNN.

Persichitti was born in a coal mining town outside Pittsburgh, Stewart said, describing his friend Bob’s “humble, poor beginnings.” After the war, Persichitti worked as a carpentry teacher in Rochester, New York, according to the Veterans Hall of Fame, and in 1972 received a degree from SUNY Buffalo.

Persichitti enjoyed traveling and speaking with younger generations about his experiences, often visiting schools to talk with students about World War II, his friend, Pastor William Leone, told WHAM.

“It was a privilege to know him, and I will miss him,” Leone told the station.

Persichitti was one of the few surviving Americans who served in World War II, a population that is rapidly waning. As of 2023, just 119,550 of the 16.4 million who served – less than one percent – were still alive, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. At that time, about 131 World War II veterans were dying each day, the museum said.

US President Joe Biden underscored this point Thursday, telling those gathered at this year’s D-Day commemoration in Normandy that it may be the last to involve living veterans. That fact, he said, should push Americans to continue the fight against tyranny.

“We’re not far off from the time when the last living voices of those who fought and bled on D-Day will no longer be with us,” Biden said. “So we have a special obligation. We cannot let what happened here be lost in the silence of the years to come.”

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