Vincent Cardinale

[ Age 82 ] A letter carrier, he enlisted in the Army at age 17 and survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

February 10, 2007|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,sun reporter

Vincent L. Cardinale Sr., a retired letter carrier who survived the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor and was later active in Italian-American organizations, died Feb. 3 of lung disease at his Dundalk home. He was 82.

Born and raised in Little Italy, he attended St. Michael parochial school and also delivered ice and milk. One day he told his mother he was going out to buy cigarettes. He lied about his age and enlisted in the Army at age 17. He was assigned to the Schofield Barracks at Honolulu.

"He was the bugler, and he was sounding reveille that morning and heard the bombs in the distance," said his son, Gino Cardinale, who owns the City Cafe on Eager Street. "At first, he thought it was practice, but as soon as the ground was strafed, he looked around and he realized it was not a drill. He looked up and saw the rising sun on the wing of a plane."

In recent years, Mr. Cardinale appeared at Pearl Harbor Day remembrance ceremonies aboard the Coast Guard cutter Taney in the Inner Harbor. In 1991, he was the recipient of a congressional medal honoring Pearl Harbor survivors on the 50th anniversary of the attack.

Mr. Cardinale spent four years in the Pacific and fought in the Philippines, New Guinea and Leyte Gulf. An Army Ranger, he participated in the liberation of several Japanese prisoner of war camps in the summer of 1945.

After the war -- and recuperating from malaria -- he became a letter carrier.

At his 1986 retirement, he estimated he had worn out 84 pairs of shoes walking a six-mile route in 22 years in the business heart of Dundalk.

"One thing I can proudly say: I've never lost a check," he told an Evening Sun reporter who covered his last day on the job, when Mr. Cardinale was honored by people he served with cakes and bottles of champagne -- and many kisses.

"I'm serving the third generation on that route," he said. "There's four families where I've served the mothers, and they've had daughters, and now they have children."

Mr. Cardinale also worked part time for 20 years at the former A&P grocery store on Belair Road. After his retirement from the postal service, he worked for several years with the Chaimson food brokerage.

Mr. Cardinale was a life member of the Order Sons of Italy in America and was a three-term president of the organization's Dundalk Lodge. He also helped run the Italian Festival at Rash Field and the Dundalk Heritage Fair.

"My father strongly believed that popular culture often portrayed Italian-Americans in an inaccurate and negative light," said his son. "He was very proud of his Italian-American heritage."

A Democrat, Mr. Cardinale was a precinct captain for several Baltimore County politicians.

"My father believed that good and honest elected officials were crucial elements to a functioning democracy," his son said.

Mr. Cardinale was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Nation Association of Letter Carriers. He was a Baltimore Colts season ticket holder and owned a section of a Colts' goal post.

A Mass was offered Thursday at Our Lady of Fatima Roman Catholic Church, where he was a member. He was buried with military honors at Oak Lawn Cemetery.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, the former Patricia V. Dombrowski; two daughters, Pamela Cain of Baltimore and Judith Cardinale of Los Angeles; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

Also surviving are four brothers, Thomas Cardinale of Berlin and Pasquale Cardinale, Joseph Cardinale and John Cardinale, all of Baltimore; three sisters, Theresa Dragunas of Jarrettsville, Domenica Thornton of Fallston and Margaret Ruiz of San Antonio, Texas.

A son, Richard Cardinale, died in 1989. Another son, Vincent Cardinale Jr., died in 1995. Three stepsons he raised also died: James Darda in 1996 and Bruce Darda in 1995. Another, John Darda, was killed in a 2001 robbery of the City Cafe.

A marriage to Rebecca Davis ended in divorce.

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