Joe Librizzi, a WWII submariner who survived missions that took him within sight of the Japanese mainland, and remained a driving force among local veterans organizations until the end, died Tuesday morning at South Nassau Hospital near his home in Oceanside.
Librizzi, 90, who for 17 years was president of a local chapter of the national U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, succumbed to heart problems, said his son, Michael.
Librizzi was twice elected president of the United Veterans Organization, a consortium of some two dozen veterans groups in Nassau County. During his tenure, he was credited with helping ease hurt feelings among area Vietnam veterans, who sometimes felt snubbed by veterans who served during World War II’s clear-cut victory.
“When we came home they didn’t want us in the VFWs and the Legion posts,” said longtime veterans activist Pat Yngstrom, who served as a paratrooper during the Vietnam War, and later as director of Nassau county’s Veterans Service Agency. “Joe changed that for me.”
During a 2015 interview, Librizzi told Newsday he was a small 16-year-old when he joined the Navy, and was one of about 80 sailors stationed aboard the USS Balao for the 310-foot submarine’s final WWII voyage during the summer of 1945.
The sub’s principal mission was rescuing American aircraft crew members downed off the coast of Japan — a mission he recalled with evident pride.
”When they would see us, you would see them jumping up and down in their rubber boats,” Librizzi told Newsday. “They were enthusiastic about seeing us.”
Librizzi worked as an electrician after the war, and retired in 1991 after 20 years teaching for Nassau BOCES.
Michael Librizzi said he grew up hearing war stories from his father, but more so in the past 10 to 15 years.
“It was absolutely the proudest and defining moment of his life was serving in the Navy during World War II,” Michael Librizzi said.
“Hearing the stories and seeing how he was so proud, I joined the United States Army,” said Michael Librizzi, who was a Reserve solder from 1978 to 1984. “He said ‘Why would you do that? They treat you much better in the Navy.”
In addition to his son, Michael, of Henderson, NV, Librizzi is survived by his wife, Rose, of Oceanside; another son, Paul, of Franklin Square, and daughters Diane Librizzi, of Rochester, NY, and Justine Weisel, of Yardley, Pa.
There will be a viewing Thursday, 7-9 p.m., at Towers Funeral Home, in Oceanside, again Friday, 2-4 p.m., and a 7-9 p.m. Friday service with military honors. He asked that his ashes be spread on the ocean, family members said.