The Stamford Historical Society Presents
Pride and Patriotism: Stamford’s Role in World War II
Daniel Burke Sr. and the Celotto family, and friends
Daniel Burke Jr. contacted the Stamford Historical Society, related the information below, and lent us WWII related family photos. As related by him:
The Celotto family
Ralph Sr. came from Castellamare, Italy, not far from Naples. Blanche Twardy Celotto came from Galicia, Poland, which at the time of her birth was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
They had eight children. Two died as babies in the 1930s and one, 16 year old Harry, drowned at West Beach in 1945 while his brothers were coming home from the war in Europe (Joe) and Pacific (Bucky).
Joe Celotto had a buddy named Pat Panapada. Pat joined the US Navy. He was assigned to the Destroyer USS Benson. He became good friends with his new shipmate, an Irish boy from Western Massachusetts, Danny Burke. Daniel Bernerd Burke was the third child of John Burke of Galway City, Ireland and Delia McKenna Burke from County Kerry, Ireland.
The USS Benson came in to Brooklyn Navy Yard for refitting before heading to the Pacific.
Pat Panapada was close enough to home in Stamford to make a visit. He invited Dan along.
In Stamford Pat introduced Danny to his brother Bill Panapada. Bill introduced Danny to his girlfriend Marie Memoli. Marie in turn introduced Danny to Catherine Celotto, who became my mother in 1948.
There's a family story of how a guy was pursuing Catherine romantically and blew his stack at being rejected. We were told that he yelled at her “You think you're going to find your own Robert Taylor.” 54 years later in 1999, when Danny died, Mom admitted it and said “I did find my own Robert Taylor.”
Post war, Danny worked in brother-in-law Ralph’s restaurant, The Old Kings Highway Inn.
Joe and Bucky worked there too, as did Catherine.
Danny retired a Captain in the Stamford Fire Department after 30+ years of service.
Daniel Burke Sr.
Daniel Burke had never seen the ocean prior to enlisting in the US Navy after Pearl Harbor. He served aboard the destroyer USS Benson in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean, seeing heavy action during the landing at Salerno, where the Benson was attacked by dive bombers and suffered 37 casualties. From there they went to the Pacific, but on the way stopped for refitting at Brooklyn Navy Yard. While there his shipmate, Stamfordite Pat Panapada, invited Burke to Stamford on a weekend pass during which Burke met his future wife Catherine Celotto. Burke returned to sea in time to participate in the invasion of Okinawa and was in Tokyo Bay for Japan’s formal surrender. He reached the rank of Quartermaster 1st Class and was a ship’s navigator. He was awarded four Bronze Stars. Photos
The Celotto boys, Joe Celotto, Albert “Bucky” Celotto, and Ralph Celotto
The story is Ralph, the oldest, lost an eye playing football and broke his neck in a diving accident. Both accidents came in the 1930s. Come Pearl Harbor, and Joe and Bucky enlist. Ralph went too, but they turned him away because of the glass eye. He raised so much hell
with the Army that they took him. He became a boxing instructor of all things with the Army Air Corps. His son Ralph III served in the US Army, and his grandson Matt was gravely wounded as a US Marine in Iraq. His heroism earned him an appointment to the US Naval Academy.
A 1939 graduate of Stamford High, Joseph Celotto went overseas with the 10th Armored Infantry Division in 1943 and served in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. He attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and won a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts. Photos
A 1933 graduate of Stamford High, Ralph served in the US Army Air Corps in Texas as a physical fitness instructor and boxing trainer. He returned home as corporal. Photos
Albert “Bucky” Celotto
A 1936 graduate of Stamford High, Albert Celotto was a well known local athlete at the time and went to Villanova on a basketball scholarship. He served with the 49th Signal Battalion on Iwo Jima. Photos
Celotto Cousin George Mrus
A 1938 graduate of Stamford High, George Mrus was the son of a WWI veteran. He served in the Pacific.
Other Veteran Family Friends
Howie Iello, Joe Iello (Aiello?), John Memali, Mike Obzud, Mike Petrucci, Stanley Spisinski.
Howie & Joe Iello (? spelling)
John Memali & Mike Obzud
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