Alfredo A. Appetito Sr., 99, World War I veteran, welder

December 05, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

It was 1910 when Alfredo Angelo Appetito Sr., then a 12-year-old boy, left his boyhood home of Segni, near Rome, and boarded a ship as a stowaway bound for the New World and a new life.

It was a life that included heroic service as an infantryman during World War I, followed by a 45-year career as a welder at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Key Highway shipyard. It came to a quiet end Nov. 18 when Mr. Appetito died in his sleep at the Veterans Administration Hospital on Loch Raven Boulevard. He was 99.

Landing in New York, the young Mr. Appetito disappeared into the crowds of the city and eventually made his way to Pennsylvania, where he located some cousins.

He went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad for 50 cents a day, carrying water for thirsty railroad workers and later picking rocks out of coal in mines.

He was working at a large munitions plant near Eddystone, Pa., when on April 10, 1917, four days after President Wilson declared war on Germany, the plant exploded. Presumed to be the work of German saboteurs, the blast killed 112 workers.

In the panic that followed, Mr. Appetito found himself pushed onto a bus that took him to Philadelphia. Several days later, he tried to enlist in the Army and was rejected.

"He spoke very little English and, as he walked away, cursed under his breath in Italian. The sergeant, who evidently understood Italian, heard him and called him back. He said, 'I'm giving you a second chance. If you can come back tomorrow and say the alphabet in perfect English, I'll let you enlist,' " his son, Alfredo A. Appetito Jr. of Marriottsville, related.

"After being tutored all night by his friends, Pop came back the next morning and passed the test and was in the Army," he said.

Serving in Company D, 58th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, Private Appetito almost didn't reach France after his ship was torpedoed on the high seas. He survived to participate in some of the war's bloodiest battles.

He was severely wounded at Chateau-Thierry/Soissons while trying to rescue several wounded soldiers under fire. His injuries included a crushed chest, a leg wound and permanent deafness in his right ear. He was decorated with the Purple Heart.

After being hospitalized in Vichy, he was sent to a military hospital at Fort McHenry where he completed his recuperation and met Blanche Vogel, a nurse. They married in 1920. She died in 1929.

His decorations in addition to the Purple Heart included the Victory Medal, with three bars from three campaigns: Meuse-Argonne, Aisne-Marne and Defensive Sector.

He was awarded the 75th anniversary medal in 1993.

"He never bragged about his service and was so proud to be an American. Every day he flew the flag," his son said.

Mr. Appetito went to work as a welder in the Key Highway shipyard in 1920 and retired in 1965.

He married two more times; his third wife, the former Alice Moss, died in 1995. He lived in South Baltimore and Linthicum Heights, where he raised a family. At the time of his death, he was living in Glen Burnie.

In 1967, Mr. Appetito risked his life when he raced into St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church, where the roof had collapsed and trapped 100 and injured 48.

"Pop was one of the first on the scene," said his son. "Later, he took home all of the damaged statues and carefully restored them."

A self-sufficient and independent man, Mr. Appetito, at 98, maintained his own vegetable garden and rose at 4 a.m. to make his own tomato sauce and meatballs.

He was a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 434 and grand marshal of their Veterans Day Parade in 1994.

Services were Nov. 21.

In addition to his son, he is survived by five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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