World War II veteran Vincent James DePalo, of Bethpage, at...

World War II veteran Vincent James DePalo, of Bethpage, at the American Airpower Museum in East Farmingdale on Dec. 4, 2021. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Vincent James DePalo's World War II veteran hat was "practically glued to his head from the moment he woke up each day until bedtime," his family said. An accomplished person,  he was most proud of two things in life: his time in service, and his family.

DePalo, who went by the name "Jim," died of natural causes on May 27 at the age of 100.

He was born on Aug. 3, 1923, in the Bronx to Italian immigrants. The first in his family to attend college, he graduated with an electrical engineering degree from Pratt Institute and a master's in engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn.

At the age of 18, DePalo enlisted in the Army Air Forces, where he would serve his country from 1941 to 1945 as a technical sergeant. He flew 47 missions on a B-24 bomber as a flight engineer and was the only member of his flight crew to survive the war.

"Dad received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with Two Stars, Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal with Four Stars, as well as three Presidential Unit Citations," said his son, Steve DePalo of Bradenton, Florida. "The honor of my life was taking him to Washington, D.C., on an honor flight with Long Island Honor Flight a few years ago."

DePalo met his wife Mary Florence "Flo" DePalo, who died in June of 2023, at a Bronx soda shop in 1947 upon his return from service. They dated for six months before getting married on Aug. 16, 1947.

"Mom was not only the love of his life, but the strength behind the man," said daughter Linda DePalo of Seattle. "It broke Dad’s heart that she passed first."

Together, the couple raised four children: sons, Joe, 74, of Port Jefferson, Jim, 68; of Ruskin Sun City, Florida; and Steve, 60; and daughter, Linda, 71. The DePalos moved to Long Island in 1952, first to Wantagh and then Farmingdale where they lived for many years. The family settled in Bethpage after DePalo's retirement in 1989.

DePalo worked as an electrical engineer at Long Island Lighting Co. for seven years, before moving on to Sperry Corp. for several years. He then worked for the Navy contracting company PRD Electronics (later Harris Corp.) for 20 years before retiring.

"People who worked for him had great respect for him and thought of him as the ultimate boss," said his son Jim.

As a father, DePalo was a kind, loving, intelligent man who encouraged his children to get a college education. He was very involved in his children's sports and music interests and coached his sons' youth baseball teams for several years. As a grandfather, he treasured every moment with his grandchildren.

"My two children were born in California and then we moved to Texas. It was hard on my parents to be so far away from their grandchildren, but my dad made sure to send gifts for every birthday and special holiday," said Linda. "He loved getting to spend time with them on vacations and visits."

DePalo's No. 1 passion was jazz. He enjoyed listening to big bands such as the Dorsey Brothers and Glenn Miller.

"As a teen, he saved nickels by selling his lunch every day so he could eventually buy a saxophone and learn to play jazz," said Steve. "While raising a family he did not have much time to pursue his love of music but when the kids were older he took it up again."

DePalo started playing at Farmingdale High School's adult education program and after playing for many years in the Garden City Orchestra, he started his own band called the Jim DePalo Big Band in the 1990s.

In addition to his four children, DePalo is survived by four grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. A funeral Mass was offered on June 14 at Holy Spirit R.C. Church in New Hyde Park. DePalo received full military honors including a motorcycle escort and a bugler for taps at Long Island National Cemetery in Pinelawn, where he was buried.

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