Long-time Rocky Point resident and World War II veteran Frank W. Celentano died June 12 at the age of 90, and the father of nine left behind many family members and friends who remember him as not only a hero, but simply a 'very kind man.'
Celentano was one of the few remaining World War II veterans in Rocky Point, and the former Private who lost his left hand in the war was a recipient of the Navy Cross, widely recognized as one of the highest decorations given.
"The only difference between the Navy Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor is that the Medal of Honor calls for a presidential salute, but there hasn’t been a president yet that hasn’t saluted the Navy Cross," said Frank's youngest son, Jack Celentano.
The Celentano's moved permanently to Rocky Point from Woodside around 1966. His son said Frank was a father of nine and grandfather to approximately 32 with a few great-grandchildren as well.
"He was a very kind man to a lot of people," Jack said. "You couldn’t be on the side of the road with a flat tire and he’d pass you up, he’d stop and change your tire while you’re sitting in the car if it’s raining out...that’s the type of man he was.
"He loved kids more than anything. There wasn’t a kid around here he didn’t take fishing, and he had nine of his own but he treated all of them like his own."
Paul Burawa knew Frank Celentano since he was a little kid growing up in Rocky Point.
"I've lived here since I was born in 1955," Burawa said. "My dad was a WW2 vet who also fought in the South Pacific. I know what these brave men gave...I lost my dad in 1975. Anyone who has lived in Rocky Point a long time knew Mr. Celentano, he was also a real character."
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
Jack told the story of how his father lost his hand in February of 1944 at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in Japan. He lost it in hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese Imperial Marine.
"They're actually considered walking kamikazes...they are supposed to go out and not return," Jack said. "He got snuck up on by an Imperial Marine, he did everything he could to get the guy off him and he couldn’t, so he actually pulled a grenade, put it to the guys back and held the guy on his chest...that’s actually how he lost his hand."
His son went on to explain that Frank stayed there for three days before corpsmen (paramedics) got to him.
"He made his own tourniquet," Jack said. "He stayed there for three days without screaming out and endangering anyone else's life."
Frank Celentano never let his handicap get in his way, even becoming a one-armed handball champion and, according to his son, never lost an arm wrestling contest.
"He proved that there was no such thing as a handicap," Jack said. "He always made people smile and showed them what they could do."
A mass was held June 15 at . and interment followed in Calverton National Cemetery. Click here for Frank's full obituary from Rocky Point Funeral Home.