A World War II Navy veteran was being mourned Thursday following his death while en route to France to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a trip friends said he’d talked excitedly about making.

Robert “Al” Persichitti of Fairport, New York, fell ill during a stop in Germany last week and died in a hospital, his longtime priest and friend, the Rev. William Leone, said. Persichitti was 102.

“He’s been to most of the World War II remembrances down in Washington and Louisiana, and he wanted to get to the D-Day remembrance ceremony, too,” Leone, pastor of the Church of Saint Jerome in East Rochester, where Persichitti attended Mass every week, said by phone. “But the Lord took him in Germany. He was on his way to France, but he didn’t make it.”

A friend who was traveling with Persichitti said a doctor was with him when he died on May 30.

“She put his favorite singer, Frank Sinatra, on her phone and he peacefully left us,” Al DeCarlo told WHAM in Rochester.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans called Persichitti a “longtime friend.”

After enlisting in the U.S. Navy in 1942, Persichitti was assigned as a radioman to the USS Eldorado and in 1944 sailed to the Pacific where he took part in the invasions of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, according to the museum. He was in the harbor at Iwo Jima to witness the raising of the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi, and had returned there in 2019, just before his 97th birthday.

In an interview with WROC in Rochester before he left for Europe, Persichitti said he’d been in his cardiologist’s office when he learned about the trip.

“And he says, `Go!’” he recalled his doctor telling him.

“I’m really excited to be going,” he said.

A retired public school teacher, Persichitti regularly spoke about his wartime experiences in schools and community gatherings, Leone said. He also wrote an autobiography for his family in 2015.

Persichitti led the Pledge of Allegiance at this year’s Memorial Day remembrance in East Rochester.

“He wanted,” Leone said, “to keep the memory of the sacrifices that had been made alive.”

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