JOSEPH DE LUCCIA, age 98, of Saddle Brook, passed away on January 5, 2023.
Joseph served in World War II as a member of the U.S. Army 8th Air Force, 457th Bomb Group, 750th Squadron stationed at Glatton, England. He flew 32 bombing missions in a B-17 Flying Fortress over France and Germany from June 18 to October 13, 1944. Joseph’s rank was Technical Sergeant, and he served in the Radio Operator and Gunner positions on the B-17. Although Joseph spoke little of his military service in the early part of his life, his service would come to dominate his thoughts and activities in his later years. Memories of the daily losses of his fellow airmen would bring him to tears when he finally opened up about his wartime experiences. Yet he felt extremely fortunate to be among the few Americans who survived so many missions in a B-17. Joseph in his later years located all the members of his crew who were still alive and visited them, regardless of where they lived in the U.S. Joseph was the last surviving member of his B-17 crew before he passed away.
After his honorable discharge from the military, Joseph worked for several companies primarily in the areas of electronic design and testing until his retirement in 1986. He was a high achiever throughout his career, and he was particularly proud of the fact that many of the products he worked on were for U.S. military customers. He contributed to the national interest even as a civilian.
In the latter years of his retirement Joseph became active in veteran groups and served both as a Director and Vice President of the 457th Bomb Group Association. While he was able to travel internationally, he participated in the biennial reunion of the 457th Bomb Group Association held in Peterborough, England, as well as the Madingley Memorial Ceremonies conducted at the Cambridge American Military Ceremony in Cambridge, England. Joseph regularly participated in local Memorial Day and Veterans Day events and served in 2013 as Grand Marshal of the Saddle Brook Memorial Day Parade.
Joseph’s greatest passion in his later years was to give invited educational talks about his World War II experiences. He was very proud to have given over 50 such talks at libraries, high schools, colleges and before military groups, including two talks at West Point. Amazingly, Joseph gave his last such talk, entitled “Veterans Day Event: The Air Force in World War II with Joe De Luccia”, at a Haverstraw NY library on November 1, 2022, about two months before his death.
Joseph is survived by his son Frank Joseph De Luccia, son-in-law Bill O’Connell, daughter Marie Lukac, grandson Liam Riva-O’Connell, Liam’s mother Laura Riva, his nephew Emil and wife Mary Ann, their daughter Katelyn, and many other nieces and nephews. Joseph is also survived by his beloved and devoted companion of more than 30 years, Dolores Newman. Joseph and Dolores traveled to many beautiful places within the US to hike and indulge in their common passion for observing the wonders of nature. Joseph is also survived by his dear friends and neighbors Gregory and Tracey Surjadnov and their children, as well as Ines and Branko Radman, who looked after and helped Joseph on a regular basis, so that he always felt supported and comfortable living alone in his home. Joseph is also survived by his dear friend Rick Feingold.
Joseph is predeceased by his wife Gilda De Luccia (nee Malizia), brother Emil De Luccia, sister Ida De Luccia, sister Angelina Barrychuck (nee De Luccia), father Francesco De Luccia, mother Teresa De Luccia (nee Vosa), and son-in-law Carl Lukac.
Joseph’s wife Gilda’s untimely death came at the young age of 49 in 1973 after a long illness. In the years that followed, Joseph’s family life became bicoastal, as he frequently visited Frank and Bill at their home in California, and Frank and Bill frequently visited Joseph at his home in New Jersey. These visits often included local sightseeing trips, as well as international trips to Italy where Joseph was able to find relatives of his parents, who were born in Italy. Joseph and Dolores also celebrated Joseph’s beloved grandson Liam from his birth, joining milestone celebrations including his graduation from Mission Viejo High School, California, in 2011, as well as Liam’s graduation from Boston University in 2015. Similarly, Frank, Bill and their extended family would celebrate major birthday milestones for Joseph, which included a train trip across Eastern Canada for his 90th and a surprise dinner for his 95th that was attended by about 50 guests from both coasts.
As Abraham Lincoln said, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Joseph De Luccia was very fortunate to have lived both an amazing 98 years and to have filled those many years with so many extraordinary life experiences.
A private service will be conducted at the time of Joseph’s inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery, planned for May 2023. Donations may be made to Families of World War II Veterans at https://www.familiesww2veterans.org/
and may be designated in memory of Joseph De Luccia.