Road dedication honors six brothers from Caledonia who fought in WWII

CALEDONIA, N.Y. The Rapone family name carries a lot of history and sacrifice for our country.

All six Rapone brothers grew up in Caledonia and served our nation during World War II. Only one brother is still alive. Lawmakers and community members gathered on Friday to celebrate a new memorial for the family.

The portion of State Route 36 in the Town of Caledonia will honor all six brothers. It’s called the WWII Rapone Brothers Memorial Highway. This portion of Route 36 sits near the original Rapone homestead. Officials said it will remind people driving by of the Rapone family’s bravery and commitment to duty.

“It was a great family,” said Robert Rapone. “My grandmother I never knew, she died. She had 16 kids.”

His father Joseph isn’t alive today. But he’s excited to carry on his legacy, and that of his five other uncles. Robert’s Uncle Louis is still alive, at 97 years old, and attended the ceremony. And now, the Rapone legacy continues.

“I served,” said Robert. “My brother Joey is a retired full-blown colonel, West Pointer, his son is now serving in Fort Carson, Colorado.”

The idea to create a memorial has always been in the back of his mind. He turned to Sarah Santora and some local New York state senators for help.

“Robert Rapone is a family friend,” Santora said.

Santora knows all about his family history. The two advocated moving this project along, with the help of state senators Pam Helming and Patrick Gallivan.

“It was so fitting because the Rapone brothers owned racehorses, and they themselves raced,” said Santora. “They were successful for decades. This is their stables right here, so it was a completely appropriate location to have the highway.”

It took 18 months for the project to be signed into law. But it means so much more than that.

“Last night I was thinking about what it would’ve been like for the family to come over from Italy on one of those boats, to have 16 children, 13 of them lived, and then to give six of them to service for this country,” Santora said.

“Right now I feel like the proudest veteran in the world,” said Robert. “That’s how I feel right now. It almost makes me want to cry.”