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Long Island

A soldier draws from WWI, and leaves powerful legacy

In September 2017, Salvator Cillis, a young Italian immigrant who had grown up in Manhattan, boarded a train for Yaphank where he and hundreds of other draftees would be trained for battle because the United States had entered World War I about six months before. Cillis carried with him a talent for sketching and an ability to write. He kept his friends updated with illustrated letters that depicted drilling, camp life and ultimately battle. After the war, he returned to his trade, sign-painting, and eventually moved to Central Islip. He died at age 72 in 1966 and is buried in Long Island National Cemetery at Pinelawn. In 1946, well before his death, a friend donated a collection of 19 letters and eight postcards from him to the New-York Historical Society where they are on display as part of an exhibit through Sept. 3, 2017,  “World War I Beyond the Trenches.”


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