WWII Veteran Dies En Route To D-Day Ceremony At 102

Robert Persichitti, a 102-year-old World War II Navy veteran from New York, passed away while traveling to France to attend the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. Persichitti was en route to Normandy with a veteran’s group when he experienced a medical emergency, prompting an airlift to a German hospital, according to NBC News.

Richard Stewart, president of Honor Flight Rochester (HFR), shared that Persichitti died peacefully while listening to Frank Sinatra. Stewart expressed his surprise at Persichitti’s sudden passing, noting that he was active and mentally sharp up to the end. Despite having some heart problems, Persichitti’s doctor had cleared him for the trip.

Persichitti, from Fairport, New York, was known for his humility and vibrant life. Born in the Allegheny Mountains outside Pittsburgh, he lived through the Great Depression and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps before enlisting in the Navy during World War II. He attended radio school in New York City, learning Morse code, and served as a junior radio operator on the USS Eldorado in the Pacific.

One of Persichitti’s most memorable experiences was witnessing the iconic flag-raising at Iwo Jima in February 1945. He revisited Mount Suribachi in 2019 with a veterans program from the National World War II Museum, where he recounted the emotional moment to Stars and Stripes, stating, “When I got on the island today, I just broke down.”

In 2020, Persichitti was inducted into the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame. After the war, he settled in Rochester, New York, and worked as a shop teacher for 40 years, teaching carpentry and technical skills. He was also an active member of Honor Flight Rochester, participating in trips to Washington, D.C., to visit war memorials.
Persichitti published his autobiography, “Building an American Life,” in 2015. He frequently spoke to students in Pittsford, New York, about World War II, and the Pittsford Central School District celebrated his 102nd birthday in April. Despite his age, he continued to volunteer with HFR, attending events in April and May to greet veterans.

Stewart remembered Persichitti’s dedication, saying, “When Bob said he was going to be someplace to do an event to help spread the word with Honor Flight, he was there; he’d be in his orange shirt. He was a great volunteer for us.”

Persichitti’s wife predeceased him, and he had no children.