Former Army Capt. Mary Ann Galterio, who treated gravely wounded soldiers aboard a hospital ship during America’s first major World War II sea battle with Japan and later raised three children in Garden City with an Army major she married the year after the war’s end, died Friday at a Southampton nursing home.
She was 101, and was surrounded by members of her family. “She was blowing kisses at us when she passed,” said her son, Vincent Galterio, of Rockville Centre. “I guess it was her way of saying goodbye.”
She was born in Philadelphia on Nov 5, 1917, just months after the United States entered World War I, to Margaret and Charles Linn — she a slaughterhouse worker and he a World War I veteran who left when Mary was just an infant.
She attended Overbrook High School, and then graduated as president of her class in 1940 from The School of Nursing of the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
With war raging in Europe, and U.S. military leaders concerned that American forces would face a nursing shortage if the United States were to join the fighting, she joined the Army Nursing Corps in May 1941.
“She said she and her fellow nurses didn’t have a real idea what they were signing up for,” said her daughter Joanne Giacone, of Rockville Centre.
She would become all too familiar with war’s grim reality within a year. Stationed on the USS Solace, a hospital ship that had survived the attack at Pearl Harbor, she treated desperately injured soldiers during the Battle of the Coral Sea, the first aircraft carrier battle in history.
Her children said she rarely mentioned her wartime service, and that they only learned of details when their grandmother showed them an Oct. 5, 1942, copy of Life magazine, which included a photograph of Galterio at an encampment of Army nurses in New Caledonia.
“She wouldn’t speak of it hardly at all, but sometimes would recall the horribly burned soldiers who were brought to the Solace,” said her son, Vincent Galterio. “There were so many of them that they had to lay them in the hallways of the ship.”
She met her future husband, World War II veteran Mario V. Galterio, at Camp Lee, Virginia, in 1945. Married the next year, they lived in Brooklyn, Queens and Connecticut before settling in Garden City in 1954. She worked as a nurse on Long Island before retiring around 1980 and moving to St. James.
She is survived by another daughter, Catherine Moran, of East Quogue. Her husband died in 1992.
Visitation is set for Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Tuthill-Mangano Funeral Home in Riverhead. Burial is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton.