By DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer
Families of the late Sylvester Puccio of Rome and Leo Cross of Lee, local Pearl Harbor attack survivors who passed away last summer, plan to be among the attendees at a 72nd anniversary Pearl Harbor memorial observance Saturday in Camden.
The luncheon event at the Arthur S. Moran Post of the American Legion, planned for a 23rd consecutive year, will include a 12:55 p.m. ceremony marking the Eastern time when the Japanese aerial attack began against the U.S. Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
A speaker at the event is scheduled to be Pearl survivor Larry Parry of Baldwinsville, said John F. Smith, one of the luncheon event organizers along with Shelby Sobolowski. He said Parry is one of just three remaining area survivors known to the Pearl Harbors Survivors Association Central New York chapter, which includes several counties. The others are Ed Stone of the Syracuse area and Harry Kilpatrick of North Syracuse, said Smith, adding he is not sure whether all will be at the event.
Because of veterans passing away as they reach advanced ages, the survivors association is seeking to "get families of survivors to continue the organization," said Smith, noting that families are invited to the annual Camden observance.
Puccio, 92, died July 6 while Cross, 89, died Aug. 15. Both had been regular attendees of the Camden observance.
The event will be "really different this year" without Sylvester Puccio, said his daughter Pat Trophia of Rome today, adding "I’ll be there." She noted that the survivors association at one time had well over 100 members, and "we were fortunate to have had them this long." The Central New York survivors chapter had about 184 members when it was chartered in 1969, said Kathy Schwarz, the chapter’s former treasurer and daughter of the late Bernard Schoen of Syracuse, a Pearl Harbor veteran who passed away in 2000.
Also planning to be at Saturday’s event is Puccio’s son John Puccio, who lives in Georgia, and will be attending with his 12-year-old son John.
From the Cross family, his son-in-law Kevin Barry said today that he and his wife Chris, the daughter of Cross, plan to attend the observance.
Sylvester Puccio was a decorated Pearl Harbor survivor who was a 20-year-old Navy 3rd class shipfitter on the battleship USS West Virginia when the 1941 Japanese attack began, inflicting heavy damage to the ship. He played a key part in helping to counterflood the stricken vessel to keep it from tipping over and from trapping many men below decks to perish.
Cross, 18 at the time of the attack, was a seaman first class on the heavy cruiser USS New Orleans and manned an anti-aircraft gun during the Japanese raid. His service later included the USS Indiana, where he was wounded in 1942 during a battle with Japanese naval and air units; he was aboard the Indiana in Tokyo Bay during the 1945 signing of the Japanese surrender.
Smith and Schwarz emphasized the importance of families overall continuing to help with the survivors association in order to maintain it.