It is a milestone birthday and the Village of Mineola made sure that it was one to remember for World War II veteran sergeant and Mineola resident Anthony Catalano with a special car parade last weekend.
During World War II, Catalano served in General Patton’s famed 3rd Army. Over the years, Catalano has shared many stories of his time overseas with one of them being when he and his men were trapped in four feet of snow in the forests of France. With no way to get out and no way for supplies to get to them, Catalano and his men suffered in sub-freezing temperatures. They even had to scrape snow into their canteens to try and melt it for water in order to survive. Catalano even had to wake his men every two and a half hours to prevent them from freezing to death. One of his men, a 19-year-old from Brooklyn, begged Catalano to shoot him in the leg so he’d be sent home as he could no longer take the frigid cold. Instead of shooting one of his own men, Catalano took off his coat and draped it over the shivering young soldier. They were finally rescued by bulldozers who plowed their way to them.
Catalano’s Company was also part of the group that liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp, and to this day he gets visibly shaken when he mentions the horrors they saw.
Members of the community, local elected officials such as Mayor Scott Strauss, County Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello, former village Mayor Jack Martins and others participated in the car parade, which drove past Catalano’s home.
“On behalf of Sergeant Catalano and his family, I want to thank each and every one of you for participating in the car parade,” said Strauss, who organized the event. “Even if you weren’t able to physically join us, I know he felt your presence. He was truly overwhelmed and his family was in awe. From the Scouts lining the streets with flags to the motorcycles, fire departments, all of the residents, business owners, friends and neighbors to the World War II reenactors, it was an absolutely amazing event.”
He added, “A special thanks to Chief Spae and his team from our auxiliary police. They did, as always, a great job coordinating with the county PD and kept everyone in the motorcade safe. Thanks also to Chief Connolly and our firefighters for helping with the staging of the vehicles. And a very big thank you to Jim Lennon and Mike Justin from the Museum of American Armor in Bethpage for bringing their vehicles and soldiers. [It was] a great tribute to a great man from a great generation. Thanks again for everything all of you did to make this most special day that much more meaningful, not only for Tony, but for his family and our beloved community.”
With age being just a number for Catalano, he has been extremely active over the years going to schools, teaching students about the experiences he and his fellow veterans have gone through.
“Tony was surrounded by his large family and was saluted by friends from throughout the community in the parade that featured WWI vintage vehicles, a motorcycle honor guard, emergency vehicles and residents from all over Mineola and beyond,” Nicolello said. “His block was lined with American flags carried by members of Boy Scout Troop 45. Tony Catalano is a real character, who is beloved by everyone who knows him. He is incredibly fit and sharp at 100. Mayor Strauss did an incredible job organizing this wonderful tribute to an American hero and a community treasure.”