Angelo C. Barnello Sr, 99, is among the 1 percent of Americans alive who served in World War II.

Angelo C. Barnello Sr. is among the 1 percent of Americans alive who served in World War II. Angelo served four years in the Marine Corps, from 1940-1944, all during WWII. Born on August 4, 1924, Angelo loves to share stories from his 99 years. He is legally blind, but he has a clear memory. Angelo readily recalls choosing to enlist in the Marines at 17 years old.

“You don’t want to go to school no more? Get a job or go into the service. So, I went into the service,” Angelo said.

Joining the Marines at 17 required the signatures of his parents, who were immigrants from Campobasso, Italy. His mom didn’t speak much English and he knew she didn’t understand what she was signing.

“I was in boot camp when the war broke out. It took them five minutes to ship me out. I will never forget. We had a formation, and the guy says, ‘We’re leaving for overseas. They just bombed Pearl Harbor.’ I says, ‘Who’s Pearl Harbor?’ That’s how young I was,” Angelo said.

Angelo has dedicated his life to his family and serving others. He is a lifetime member of American Legion Post #1650, where he was post commander several times. After the service, he held several jobs to support his family. He worked for a sign company hanging neon signs for 17 years and then worked as an electrician at a VA hospital in New York until he retired in 1983. If you ask Angelo the best thing he did in his life, he’s quick to answer: “Best thing I did? Got married!”

At 21, just after he got out of the service, Angelo married his high school sweetheart, Gloria. He recalls planning to run away to get married if Gloria’s dad didn’t give them his blessing. They were married from 1944 until Gloria passed away in 2012.

Angelo lived on his own until two years ago when he moved from New York to Florida to live with his daughter, Angela Barnello. Angela said her parents’ marriage and love of family is inspiring.

“They adored each other, and you could see it in their eyes,” Angela said.

Angelo and Gloria had six children, 15 grandchildren, 34 great grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

Angelo loves to spend time talking to people, and his granddaughter, Melanie deVilliers, said spending time with him is a true pleasure.

“We have looked to him for words of wisdom, guidance and for approval. His sacrifices and experiences are beyond incredible. He asks for very little and yet still appreciates routines. He is a simple man; kind, with strong values such as being on time, being present and for standing up for what he believes in,” deVilliers said.

“I led a good life. I like things that I did.” Angelo said. “I tell you the truth, I’d like to make it to 100. I don’t know if I will or not, but I hope so. I feel alright.”

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