Ninety-nine-year-old Martin W. McAleer Sr., a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge in the 103rd Infantry, was due to be honored at the Garden City Park VFW Hall on Sunday.
He died on Thursday.
So, instead, there will be a wake to memorialize McAleer — a Purple Heart recipient, lithographer and lifelong New Yorker.
He died of cardiorespiratory arrest at the Ozanam Hall Nursing Home in Bayside, Queens, according to his daughter-in-law Patricia McAleer.
The Battle of the Bulge, which took place from Dec. 16, 1944, to Jan. 25, 1945, was Germany's last key offensive campaign on the Western Front and sealed the country's fate.
“It was pouring rain, and he remembers laying in the mud and then staying by a fire to keep warm,” Patricia McAleer wrote in a remembrance of his military service. “He developed frostbite in his hands and feet and spent 32 days in the hospital."
Later, he was sent to the former Dachau concentration camp to guard German prisoners.
“He actually saw the Jewish Holocaust survivors being led out in trucks,” she said, “and he said that they were just skin and bones, a sight he will never forget.”
Martin William Slattery McAleer Sr. was born April 4, 1920, in the family’s home in Brooklyn to Agnes McIntosh McAleer, a housewife, and Francis (Frank) McAleer, a chauffeur. The family was of Irish and Scottish ancestry. The couple had as many as 16 children, although their descendants aren't sure exactly how many.
His parents couldn’t take care of him during the Depression, and at age 9, in 1929, he was sent to St. Malachy's Home for Boys in Rockaway Beach, Queens, to be raised by nuns. There he met Yankee players Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and lived there until age 17, and returned to live with his parents.
He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served four years until the end of World War II.
“He remembers being in the bathroom shaving when he heard the news about the attacks on Pearl Harbor on the radio,” the daughter-in-law wrote.
After basic training, his assignments included rifleman, ammunition bearer, mortar gunner and cannoneer, according to a separation qualification record provided by his family. The record said he served in France and Germany.
Before being sent overseas, McAleer had been at Camp Edwards in Massachusetts, Camp Carson in Colorado and Fort Jackson in South Carolina.
McAleer served in the Army of Occupation and served in Paris, Berlin and Holland.
He was honorably discharged Feb. 27, 1946, at the rank of private first class, according to a certificate provided by the family.
In addition to the Purple Heart, he was awarded the World War II Victory Medal, the Bronze Star Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, according to an enlistment record provided by his family.
A lithographer by trade, he married the former Frances Devers on Aug. 11, 1946 — the two were dating before he went into the Army. In 1958, they bought a home in Glendale, Queens.
Frances died in 2001 of a heart attack.
McAleer worked for his aunt as a lithographer before going to work for a lithography company on Varick Street in lower Manhattan. He retired in 1981.
He is survived by children, Timothy Martin McAleer of Breinigsville, Pennsylvania, and Martin William McAleer Jr. of Garden City; six grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.
McAleer's wake will be Sunday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. at New Hyde Park Funeral Home, 506 Lakeville Rd. The funeral is Monday at 10 a.m. at St. Anne Church, 35 Dartmouth St. in Garden City, with burial to follow at Pinelawn Memorial Park.