102-year-old Fairport D-Day veteran dies on pilgrimage to Normandy, efforts underway to bring his body home

WWII Vet Dies on Way to Normandy

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FAIRPORT, N.Y. – A 102-year-old veteran from Fairport died en route to Normandy, France for the 80th remembrance of D-Day.

Robert “Al” Persichitti was airlifted off a ship in the North Sea last week when he started to get sick. He died Friday at a hospital in Germany.

Persichitti was a sailor on the USS Eldorado, the command ship for the invasion of Iwo Jima. He watched the marines raise the flag on Mount Suribachi, twice. In 2019, when he was 97, he returned to the island.

After the war, he was a carpenter and taught at Edison Tech. He would return to schools his entire life telling stories about heroes in the war and the lessons learned.

Last week he flew overnight to Hamburg, Germany, rested for a day, and boarded a ship to Normandy.

After Persichitti was airlifted from the ship and the ship docked in Amsterdam, his guardian Al DeCarlo, a retired teacher from Pittsford, got off the ship and drove six hours to be with his friend. Persichitti died in the German hospital before DeCarlo could reach him.

“I don’t associate him with where I am right now,” DeCarlo said on a Zoom call from Germany. “But when I get home and it’s time to go out to breakfast and take him to Walmart or Aldi it’s going to be a bit of an adjustment for me. But no regrets. He taught us how to live every day to the fullest and he left his tank empty.”

Persichitti was 102 so the year of his birth was 1922. It led to a funny situation when he and DeCarlo checked into their flight.

“I had trouble checking him in at the airport because they thought he was an unaccompanied minor because his birth date is 1922 and they thought he was two years old,” DeCarlo said. “I go – no he’s good. He’s good. Look at him. 1922!”

Joe Barbero met Persichitti through the East Rochester American Legion. Barbero would often drive Persichitti to the gym to exercise.

“What a character. He went for socializing really,” Barbero said. “And the day he left I said when you get back we’re going to start going to the gym again. And his eyes lit up. And the rest is history.”

Barbero said Persichitti reminded him of his own father.

“Well one of the first things I noticed about him is that he was a decent man. Very religious,” he said.

Al DeCarlo contacted the American Embassy and Consulate in Germany. He found a funeral home in Germany to prepare the body and arrange a flight back to the U.S. It’s going to take a couple of weeks.

Persichitti’s body will first go to family in Cleveland then back to Rochester for a funeral Mass at St. Jerome’s in East Rochester and a burial next to his wife at Whitehaven cemetery.