Uncle Al joined the Army when he was 18 and fought in France in World War I. His mother and my grandmother Maria, received the following telegram from the Army. It is faded but one can make out the message : DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT PRIVATE ANGELO DEGREGORIO INFANTRY IS OFFICIALLY REPORTED AS KILLED IN ACTION OCTOBER FOURTEENTH ( The Armistice was November 11 )
Maria didn't believe the message. Her priest was trying very hard to console her but she didn't need
it because she was certain he
was still alive. The family and the priest told her the Army wouldn’t send
a telegram like that if it weren’t true. She told them...
"My son Angelo told me the Army doesn't do anything right ".
The women, except Maria, were wearing black. Maria went about her daily
routines and especially enjoyed telling everyone
how proud she was of her two sons, Emilio and Angelo , who enlisted in the Army and
were in France. The parlor on the
second floor tenement on Saratoga Street , East Boston , was the gathering place for the mournful.
Maria wasn't mourning
and she was determined she wasn't going to wear black. Her sisters pleaded with the parish priest to intervene
explain to Maria about the death of her son. She wasn't having any of it.
" Angelo is alive and he will be coming home.....wait
and see!. "
"Here, try some of my wine. The grapes came from California on the train and I bought them at Haymarket Square.
here knows I make the best wine in East Boston."
The telegram Maria was waiting for arrived. The Army made a mistake and informed her
that Angelo was alive.
One day Angelo came home. He had no knowledge of the telegram and just walked down the street in
East Boston, glad to be home. When
Maria saw him she took him by the arm and brought him to the rectory
to see the priest. "Didn't I tell you?"
When Angelo was wounded
by shrapnel on his forehead , he was thought to be dead. He later received a Purple Heart .
In the hospital the Army told him that
he was so severely gassed his lungs were in bad shape and he had at
the most, six months to live.
He got a job on the Boston Police
Department and later as a Postman. He walked his route for about
thirty years, retired and lived to be ninety-nine years old. If “the
Army couldn’t get anything right”,
Maria and Angelo surely did.
The following May 23, 1919 , the Army sent an official Death Certificate
which was supposed to close
the Angelo DeGregorio case. Angelo and Maria enjoyed showing it to family and friends.