Salvatore Badolato, a World War II Army veteran who landed on Omaha Beach in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, and was later recognized as the “most inspirational” athlete at the National Veterans Golden Age Games despite a long history of heart issues, died Dec. 24 in a nursing home in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania.
The longtime Bay Shore resident was 92.
The cause of death was respiratory insufficiency and cardiac arrhythmia after a heart attack in October, said his daughter Mary O’Connor, 65, of Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania.
Born Aug. 10, 1924, in Sicily, Badolato and his family moved to Brooklyn when he was about 2 years old.
He’d hoped to enlist in the Army at 17, but his mother wouldn’t hear of it. “You want to die?” his mother asked him. “Well, I’ll kill you,” O’Connor said the story was told.
He was drafted at 18 and would run communication wires for the Army’s telephones as part of his time in France, Germany and Italy, O’Connor said.
Badolato, a private, served under Gen. Omar Bradley during the D-Day invasion and was part of a later wave of soldiers storming the beach. He couldn’t watch war movies such as “Saving Private Ryan” and never showed people the medals he’d received, his daughter said.
“For many, many years, he never talked about it,” O’Connor said.
But he felt at ease at the Northport VA Medical Center, where he trained for the National Veterans Golden Age Games. He competed in swimming, golf and shuffleboard and won multiple gold medals. In 2011, the games named him their George Gangi Inspiration Award winner; the games’ official publication cited his comeback after a recent stroke and military service in the D-Day invasion for the honor.
He had a series of health problems, including the stroke, diabetes, multiple heart attacks and two open-heart surgeries. His first heart attack forced him to retire before age 50 from his job as a supervisor for a shoe manufacturer in Manhattan, O’Connor said.
“If anyone had seen his health records, it was a miracle that he lived as many years,” she said.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Emily.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include son Peter Badolato and daughters Linda Rostky and Gloria Carpenter, all of Bay Shore; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A wake was held Thursday at the Claude R. Boyd-Spencer Funeral Home in West Islip. The funeral was Friday at the Parish of St. Patrick in Bay Shore and Badolato was buried at Calverton National Cemetery.