A son of Italian immigrants who grew up during the Great Depression, Anthony J. Germano used steely determination to overcome obstacles with his signature motto: "Never give up."

Germano did not give up in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II's Pacific Ocean Theater, rescuing a pilot from a burning plane.

He didn't quit when he worked two jobs to cover the mortgage of one of the first homes built in Levittown.

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And he didn't relinquish his independence -- golfing, singing standards at a senior center and driving to the library -- until he was 95.

Germano died Jan. 2, at home in East Islip of complications from a stroke, family said. He was 96.

"He was a member of the Greatest Generation, and he was a fine example of it," said his son Guy Germano, of Bay Shore. "These were people that were hardworking, raised their family, went to war."

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Born Nov. 12, 1918 -- hours after the signing of the armistice of World War I -- in the Little Italy neighborhood of Manhattan, Germano was raised by parents Anthony and Josephine Germano, who worked in the garment industry.

He graduated from Bayside High School in Queens in 1937 and worked for his parents' dry cleaning business, said Guy Germano.

In 1941, Germano joined the U.S. Army, and was transferred to the Air Corps. He formally met Florence B. Kollman, who would become his wife for 62 years, at his going-away party for the military after the pair had stolen glances on a bus route, said daughter Kim Phillips of East Islip.

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"She thought he was the most handsome man that she'd ever seen," said Phillips. "More or less, it was love at first sight. Their courtship was the entire war."

Germano, who served in the 348th Fighter Group arming fighter jets and bombers, received a Soldier's Medal in 1944 for risking his life and pulling a pilot from a plane that crash-landed on Gusap Airfield, family said.

He was honorably discharged in late 1945 and married in early 1946. After settling in Astoria, the couple moved to Levittown in 1950.

Germano spent about 25 years working for Standard-Knapp as a sales engineer, designing the layouts of factory machinery for companies such as Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Clairol, family said. He consulted for packaging companies another decade.

Germano was also a dedicated family man. His son Trent Germano of Atlanta, Georgia, recalled poorly pitching for the first time in a Little League game when he was 11 years old.

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"I was very embarrassed, and my dad said it was 'OK,' " said Germano, adding that his father built a pitcher's mound in the backyard that night, and the pair practiced every night for a week until the next game when the younger Germano shut out the same team for three innings.

Germano is survived by his children, 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His wife died in 2008. He was also predeceased by brother Henry and sister Frances Masucci.

He was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.