A beloved Morris Park World War II veteran who fought to have his community never forget our nation’s heroes was remembered this week.
Local WWII veteran and Bronx Veterans Museum founder and curator, Joseph Garofalo passed away last Sunday, March 13. He was 95-years-old.
Born on November 15, 1920, Garofalo grew up in the south Bronx near Prospect Avenue before enlisting into the armed forces.
From 1942 to 1945, Garofalo, then 22-years-old, served as a petty officer second class for the Navy’s Seabees 121st Naval Construction Battalion attached to the fourth Marine division.
During his tour, the Navy veteran fought and participated in three invasions in the South Pacific theater including the battles of Saipan and Tinian in the Mariana Islands and the Battle of Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.
Garofalo and his family moved to Morris Park in 1955 where they continue to reside.
An active community and American Legion member, Garofalo served on the Morris Park Community Association and the Knights of Columbus.
Many years after the war, Garofalo felt his community was not doing enough to remember our nation’s veterans and set out with his friend of 43 years, Angelo Pinto, a war historian and collector, to create the Bronx Veterans Museum.
Their efforts to find a home for the museum were rejected by many businesses until John Dormi and Sons Funeral Home stepped up and graciously provided the space in 1999.
The Theodore Korony American Legion Post 253 and Christopher DiCostanzo, the funeral home’s director provided the funds for the museum’s build out.
Located at 1121 Morris Park Avenue, Dormi’s lobby houses a room-sized museum showcasing many WWII military artifacts donated by Garofalo, Pinto and other veterans and has since become a focal point in teaching P.S. 108 students about their nation’s history.
“Joe wanted this museum to teach people about their history,” said Tony Salimbene, Community Board 10 second vice chairman.
Garofalo’s mission to establish the museum was chronicled in the Erik Spink-directed documentary, ‘The Scavenger’ which is shown every year at P.S. 108’s Veterans Appreciation Day Celebrations held in November.
This film was also featured in the 2010 Bronx International Film Festival at Lehman College, Spink noted.
Charles Sperrazza, P.S. 108 principal, and Michael Tierney, custodian engineer of P.S. 157 and formerly of P.S. 108, were notified of their longtime friend and collaborator’s passing.
Sperrazza said he met Garofalo seven years ago when Tierney, a WWII historian, established a program connecting young students with local veterans to learn about history from those who experienced it firsthand.
“We feel blessed that we had the opportunity to have a friend like Joe. He was a fighter and even at 95-years-old he always kept pushing no matter what,” Sperrazza said.
Sperrazza said P.S. 108 plans to honor Garofalo’s memory at this November’s 8th Annual Veterans Appreciation Day Celebration.
In a fitting tribute, Garofalo was waked on Tuesday, March 15 at Dormi and Sons Funeral Home and a Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church was held for him the next day.
The local WWII hero was laid to rest at St. Raymond’s Cemetery.
Garofalo is survived by his wife, Lillian; his sons, Joseph, Jr. and James and his four grandchildren, Janine, Lisa, Leah and Ruby.
An effort to name the corner of Tomlinson and Morris Park avenues in his honor is underway.