John Palmentieri, a World War II veteran and Purple Heart recipient from Atlantic City, died early Tuesday at age 92.
Palmentieri died in his sleep at home surrounded by family, according to the Gormley Funeral Home in Atlantic City, who will be handling the funeral arrangements.
Palmentieri, who attended Atlantic City High School, said he was drafted for the Allies’ invasion of Nazi-occuopied France in 1944. After the D-Day invasion, he was on the front lines.
Shortly after Palmentieri’s arrival in France, he was shot in the leg by a German sniper, which earned him a Purple Heart medal.
Palmentieri was lying in a hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower walked by and tossed a Purple Heart Medal on his bed, he told The Press in 2016.
“There was so many of us in (the hospital). The place was full,” said Palmentieri in 2016 to The Press about Atlantic City, where wounded soldiers were treated at Thomas England General Hospital.
Palmentieri was in the Atlantic City Salutes America’s Armed Forces Parade every year that it was held from 2010 to 2016 and was its grand marshal one year.
A street near Palmentieri’s Boston Avenue home was named Purple Heart Way in 2015 because of his service and the service of his three brothers in WWII.
Palmentieri began organizing a ceremony to commemorate Memorial Day in 1950 in O’Donnell Park in Atlantic City with his brothers, Gus, Pompeii and Ralph, all veterans of the war.
Palmentieri was the only brother left, as his brothers died decades ago. He vowed to organize the ceremony every year until he died.
Republican State Sen. Chris Brown of the 2nd Legislative District, who is a Gulf War veteran, spoke last year during the ceremony at O’Donnell Park.
“I will truly miss spending time with Mr. Palmentieri, whose enthusiasm and spirit always brought a smile to my face. His belief in God, love of his family and unwavering commitment and devotion to our great county set a wonderful example of a life well-lived for all of us to follow,” Brown said.
Last year’s ceremony was the last one scheduled to be held at the park, as it was taken over by Stockton University as part of the Gateway Project.
“We used to have hundreds of people at the ceremony, but there are not many of us left,” Palmentieri told The Press last year. “I promised my brothers I would keep this up until I die, and I plan to do that.”
The park featured several war monuments, including the Civil War Soldiers & Sailors Monument, a World War I Memorial, a World War II Memorial, a Purple Heart Memorial and an 87th Infantry Division Monument, among others.
Palmentieri said last year he received assurances from Stockton University the monuments would be well-kept, and he was welcome to continue to hold the memorial ceremony.
Local veterans are supposed to carry on the legacy Palmentieri started.
The viewing for Palmentieri will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday at the Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, 2651 Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City.
Palmentieri’s Mass is scheduled to start at 11 a.m., and his burial takes place afterward at Holy Cross Cemetery in Mays Landing.