Wantagh World War II veteran dies at 93

He was Army Infantry Sergeant


Joseph J. Lucca never missed a Wantagh Memorial Day Parade.

For the 34 years that he and his wife, Johanna, lived in the community, they watched the festivities each year — both decked out in patriotic hues and Joseph wearing his signature World War II veteran’s cap.

Lucca served as a radio operator in the Army’s 78th Lightning Division from 1943 to 1946, and saw action in Germany, France and Luxembourg, including the Battle of the Bulge and the Battle of Remagen.

Lucca, a father, grandfather, great-grandfather and retired New York City police officer, died on May 4 at age 93, surrounded by his family.

Over the years, he often told his four children about when he was a solder in the Black Forest in Germany. A few men in his division had shot and killed a deer for food. Lucca noticed that they had left a newborn fawn motherless, so he kept the fawn with him, carrying it on his back for several weeks and sharing his rations with it, until his commanding officer ordered him to leave it behind.

Lucca loved animals, and thought about becoming a veterinarian before he got drafted after high school, said his youngest daughter, Marie Lucca, of Boxford, Mass.

After becoming ill in Europe, Marie Lucca said, her father was told that he could go home. Instead he chose to return to the battlefield, to join his friends and brothers in arms.

On May 9, Lucca was eulogized at St Frances de Chantal Church in Wantagh, where he and Johanna, who were married for 70 years, attended weekly services. Lucca was also a Eucharistic minister at St Francis, his daughter said.

“For as long as I can remember, my dad was involved in serving the community,” she said in her eulogy, “through his career as a patrolman with the New York City Police Department and through multiple fraternal, religious and charitable organizations.” His daughter Marie said her father was a soft-spoken man with a green thumb, a love of sweets and, above all, adoration for his family.

Lucca was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 17, 1924, one of seven children of Italian immigrants Gaetano and Marie Ciancia Lucca. He met Johanna, who’s also known as Jean, in sixth grade at P.S. 26 in Brooklyn, before moving on to the borough’s Franklin K. Lane High School.

When he returned from the war, he and Johanna reunited. They were married on Jan. 4, 1948, during a snowstorm, in a double wedding with Lucca’s twin sister, Ann, and her new husband, Joe LaGrotta. “My mom wore her snow boots to the church under her gown,” Marie Lucca said. “My father thought she looked gorgeous that day, and every day since.”

Lucca was a police officer in the NYPD for 28 years, until he retired. He was active in the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, and was a member of the Knights of Malta, a grand knight and 4th degree knight in the Knights of Columbus, and a volunteer for 25 years at the Hagedorn Little Village School, for children with developmental disabilities, now in Seaford. He was also an avid ham radio operator, and enjoyed speaking to people from all over the world about his military experience.

Fischer said that her father’s cherished fig tree was a legend in their house growing up. “His father, my grandfather, brought a sapling of this tree with him when he emigrated from Italy in the early 1900s,” Fischer said. “That fig tree moved with Dad from Cambria Heights to Little Neck to Garden City and to Wantagh, and now it’s over a century old and reaches the rooftop.” She and her siblings each have a fig tree of their own that their father cultivated from the original.

Fischer said her dad adored her mother. “They were always, always together,” she said. “He made her coffee every morning, was certain to kiss her whenever he left the house and was always available to reach things for her on the high shelves.”

At Lucca’s wake, the Knights of Columbus performed a ceremony, and the NYPD sent an honor guard that carried his casket. The Knights of Malta took part in the funeral mass at St. Francis.

“Such a moving farewell was a fitting tribute to a wonderful husband, father and patriot,” Fischer said.

In addition to his daughter Marie and her husband Curtis Fischer, Lucca is survived by his wife; daughters Lorraine Paretta, of Wantagh, and Judith Shane and her husband, Richard, of Bellmore; a son, Joseph Lucca, and his wife, Lois, of Massapequa Park, eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.