TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, October 9
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
After serving in the United States Navy more than 70 years ago, Pasquale Joseph Papa of East Northport died in November of 2013 at the age of 90. The World War II veteran, a longtime employee at Estée Lauder in Melville, was a part of the Invasion of Normandy in ’44, but when his ship hit a mine, Pasquale was hospitalized for 18 months in St. Albans Naval Hospital. When he could no longer serve, Pasquale was given an honorable discharge; along with seven medals that he should have been awarded, but never received.
Seventy years passed, and Pasquale never once complained.
“Pasquale didn’t ask for anything. He never said, ‘I never got my medals, where are my medals?’” Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said on Oct. 2 during a ceremony at which he awarded all seven of Pasquale’s medals to his widow, Joan. “This should have been done 70 years ago, so when [Pasquale’s] family was saying, ‘Thank you for the quick turnaround,’ my response was, ‘70 years is not a quick turnaround.’”
The overdue honors awarded to the Papa family were: the Purple Heart Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, Combat Action Ribbon and Honorable Discharge button.
Joan, along with her children Richard and Laura, and Laura’s husband Chuck Payne, attended the ceremony at the Northport Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) on Woodside Avenue – the couple’s second son, James, did not attend the ceremony. Despite the medals being decades overdue, the family was nothing but appreciative for Israel’s time and help to get them where they belong.
“When [Chuck] told me yesterday that we were going to get the medals, I just couldn’t believe it… I was so happy,” Laura said. “[Chuck] met with the congressman a couple of weeks ago and he helped to get the medals and invited us to this beautiful ceremony… This will just enhance our memories of [my father].”
Once Pasquale was discharged from the Navy, he attended college at Adelphi University in Garden City, from which he would graduate with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. From there, Pasquale landed a job with Estée Lauder, where he worked for 25 years. In between all of that, Pasquale met Joan, his wife of 62 years.
“This is something that my children and I will treasure… [Pasquale] was a wonderful man,” Joan said. “I was having trouble trying to get [the medals, but] when we went to the congressman he just pulled the right strings.”
Richard also appreciated the “[celebration of] the life and service of [his] father,” and said the medals will be something he plans on keeping in the family.
“We want to be able to pass them down to his grandsons,” Richard said.
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, October 9, 2014; Front page)