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By: John Cuddy – Feb. 2020
Raised in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Ronald Santagati is now dwelling in Salem, New Hampshire along with his spouse (and highschool sweetheart) Joan, to whom he has been married to for almost sixty-five years. Throughout our Saturday morning assembly over espresso and Tripoli cookies in his kitchen, we began with a energetic dialog over who had the most effective fish and chips in Lawrence. Some members of his household imagine it was a market often known as the 5 Star, close to the present Hancock Housing Venture in Lawrence, whereas I, and a few of Ronald’s different members of the family are backing Langford’s Fish Market on South Union Avenue in Lawrence.
Each of us grew up in Lawrence, and each of us at the moment are retired from the US Navy. On a Saturday morning we additionally shaped a bond reminiscing over seeing films on the Warner Theater and bowling on the Lawrence Recreation Bowling Alley. Main Santagati attended St. Patrick’s Grammar Faculty, which was down the road from the household residence and later graduated from Central Catholic Excessive Faculty with the Class of 1951. Whereas at Central, Main Santagati performed soccer, basketball, and baseball. He proudly confirmed me a staff picture on the wall in his den, with him in his soccer uniform as a 150lb fullback and linebacker.
He led his staff as captain as the primary unbeaten-untied soccer staff at Central. Later joking with me that in the present day’s highschool soccer gamers are so huge, that, if he performed now, he would in all probability not be beginning at 150lbs!
His first job as a youth, was delivering groceries for Gallant’s Market, on Parker road, throughout from the place he attended St. Patrick’s Grammar Faculty, (in his phrases) because the “solely Italian child within the faculty”. Typical of the various vibrant, blue collar, younger women and men, who, as soon as given the chance to compete on the extent enjoying area that’s supplied by the US Navy, he excelled within the service. Incomes a BA in Historical past from South East Oklahoma College, a BS in Electrical Engineering from Oklahoma State College, and eventually incomes his MBA from USC, all whereas serving on energetic obligation.
Throughout his second 12 months at Merrimack School, (the school his youthful brother Richard Santagati would later lead as the varsity’s President for greater than a decade) he obtained his draft discover. Relatively than ready to be drafted by the US Military, he joined the Air Pressure as an Aviation Cadet.
He was chosen for Officer Coaching by the Air Pressure, and as a newly minted Second Lieutenant turned an Air Pressure navigator. Main Santagati served from September of 1953 to September of 1973, defending our nation throughout his army profession, which started close to the top of the Korean battle, and ended throughout President Nixon’s withdrawal of US Troops from Vietnam in 1973. Whereas serving in Vietnam, Main Santagati was uncovered to Agent Orange which left him and plenty of others with extreme disabilities. Main Santagati typically jokes that he served in three wars – the Korean Warfare, the Chilly Warfare “when it wasn’t chilly”, and the Vietnam Warfare.
First serving as a navigator on US Air Pressure Transport planes, his den has nice photographs of the plane he served on. These photos seize the spirit of the C-119, the “Flying Boxcar”, the C-130 “Hercules”, and the KC-135 “Stratotanker” in aerial flight.
Later in his profession, he switched gears, and altered from a navigator to an Air Pressure engineer. This introduced him to Southeast Asia, serving in Thailand and Vietnam, and within the skies over Laos and Cambodia. He began to tear up, whereas speaking of the almost 5 hundred unaccounted for US Servicemen, who’re nonetheless lacking in motion in Laos.
Solely 9 of these shot down over Laos, have been returned to the USA after the struggle. Practically all of the American forces lacking in motion in Laos are air crewmen. Solely a handful have been floor troops, and people have been all Particular Operations troopers. Laos returned none after the struggle, and the few that made it again residence have been all males captured by the North Vietnamese Military in Laos.
Main Santagati’s brush with demise, didn’t happen in Southeast Asia. It occurred throughout a flight out of Charleston, South Carolina stateside. On a C-119 mission, he was slated for an plane tail numbered 165, however on the final minute, he was switched to a C-119 tail numbered 164. The C-119 with the tail variety of 165 crashed shortly after departing the airstrip with no survivors.
His greatest good friend was navigating this aircraft, and Main Santagati later escorted his good friend’s physique residence. Having interviewed these heroes in our midst, for over two years for the Valley Patriot, this incident jogged my memory of the same story advised to me by a World Warfare II submariner. That man, on account of an sickness, was switched to a unique boat (what Navy males name their submarines). His second boat (and him) survived the struggle, his authentic boat remains to be lacking in motion, the destiny of the crew is unknown to this present day.
Main Santagati then talked about his two brothers, Chuck, who performed the piano professionally and was the chief of “The Sandsmen” performing within the Merrimack Valley, Better Boston and Salisbury Seashore and in addition labored as a schoolteacher. Richard, who later turned President of Merrimack School, and his sister Nina MacDonald, now retired from the insurance coverage business. Main Santagati and his spouse Joan had a son, Kevin and so they have a daughter Kimberly. Through the interview, I had the pleasure of assembly his daughter and her husband John, who served within the Military and the Navy.r. Ronald and Joan have seven grandchildren, eight nice grandchildren, and a lovable, almost blind canine, named “Buddy”.
After leaving the army service, in his second profession, he labored in contracts for corporations corresponding to Raytheon. Nevertheless it was a memento from his final profession, I noticed hanging on the wall of his den that moved me probably the most. After finishing his third profession as a trainer at Pelham Excessive Faculty, he was introduced an image, now on his wall, signed by the whole Senior class of his final 12 months educating, with every pupil sharing a reminiscence of his service as a trainer.
Greater than as soon as, he praised all of the work and companies the Veteran’s Administration has supplied him, properly earned, contemplating what he has finished for all of us. One of many youthful members of the Biggest Era, his age group is commonly referred to as, the Silent Era, however I feel his final service to our nation, at Pelham Excessive, speaks very loudly to us all.
The Dracut American Legion ask all World Warfare II and Korean Warfare Veterans to name 603-518-5368 and join an Honor Flight to the Memorials in Washington DC!
Please be part of me on the Dracut American Legion on Saturday February 15th at 7pm for a Salute to US Marines Phil and Don Everly with a free live performance by the Neverly Brothers, enjoying the music of the Everly Brothers.
John Cuddy served within the US Navy’s Building Battalions (also referred to as the Seabees) after retiring from the Navy; he earned a bachelor’s in historical past and a grasp’s in economics from the College of Massachusetts on the Lowell Campus. He has been employed in Logistics at FedEx for the final 22 years. If you already know a World Warfare II veteran who would love their story advised, please e mail him at John.Cuddy@Yahoo.com. ◊
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