In a poignant turn of events, 102-year-old American World War II veteran Robert Persichitti passed away en route to France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Persichitti, a resident of Fairport, NY, died after suffering a medical emergency while traveling to Normandy, a place where he hoped to honor the memories of his fallen comrades.

Persichitti’s journey was tragically cut short last Friday when he fell ill on a ship off the coast of Normandy. Despite the efforts of those around him, he was airlifted to a hospital in Germany, where he later died. The Navy veteran had been traveling with a group affiliated with the National World War II Museum, eagerly anticipating the commemorative events.

Reflecting on his excitement before the trip, Persichitti, who had a history of heart problems, shared his enthusiasm with WROC-TV. “I’m really excited to be going,” he had said, looking forward to paying tribute to the brave soldiers who participated in the pivotal invasion on June 6, 1944, which marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

In his final moments, Persichitti found comfort in the voice of his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra. Al DeCarlo, his friend and travel companion, recounted to 13WHAM how a doctor played Sinatra’s music on her phone as Persichitti peacefully passed away. “The doctor was with him. He was not alone, he was at peace and he was comfortable,” DeCarlo said, highlighting the serene atmosphere in Persichitti’s last hours.

Sadly, Persichitti was not the only veteran who did not make it to Normandy. Canadian WWII veteran Bill Cameron, aged 100, also died before his planned departure from Vancouver. His daughter, Donna Roy, shared her disbelief, noting that his bags were already packed for the journey.

During World War II, Persichitti served with distinction as a radioman second class on the USS Eldorado, witnessing firsthand the iconic raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. This moment, captured in one of the most famous photographs of the war, was a testament to the courage and sacrifice of countless American soldiers. “I was on the deck,” Persichitti recalled in a 2019 interview with Stars and Stripes. “When I got on the island today, I just broke down.”

Persichitti’s service extended beyond Iwo Jima to Okinawa and Guam, where he saw the horrors of war up close, including injured Marines and numerous burials at sea. His dedication to remembering the fallen was evident in his personal tradition of wearing a red sleeveless T-shirt every Friday to honor the bloodshed during the war. “Every Friday, I put that red on, to represent all the blood that was lost during World War II,” he said in past interviews.

After the war, Persichitti became a public school teacher in Rochester, continuing to educate future generations about the war and his experiences. Pastor William Leone, a friend for four decades, praised Persichitti’s zest for life and his dedication to sharing his story with children in local schools.

Persichitti’s contributions were recognized in 2020 when he was inducted into the New York State Senate’s Veterans Hall of Fame. His passing is a profound loss, but his legacy as a dedicated patriot and educator will continue to inspire. As we remember Persichitti and his remarkable life, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation and the enduring importance of their stories.