Last WWI Vets Dying, Get You Thinking About Your Family

| | Comments (1)
by Shelomo Alfassa

I read with silent somberness about the passing of France's last surviving veteran of WWI, an Italian immigrant who fought in the trenches with the Foreign Legion, a man that died at the age of 110. What a life this man must have had, one that started in 1897!

As a very patriotic person who frequently attended parades and military events growing up, I recall many WWI survivors in attendance, but today, we have less then five living WWI vets left in the USA. Now that France lost their last, it makes you wonder if there are even a dozen men left world wide. That got me thinking of my great uncle, he too was a WWI vet.

My uncle Chelibi "Charlie" Yerushalmi was born on the Turkish Island of Rhodes. In 1912 Italian troops took the island over with the rest of the Dodecanese Islands. The Italians later demolished the houses that were built on and around the old city walls during the Ottoman era. They also turned the Jewish and Turkish cemeteries into an international 'green zone' surrounding the old Medieval Town. The Italians then destroyed all Ottoman buildings. During the Italian period, uncle Chelibi (a Turkish name of honor commonly used by both Turks and Jews), departed Italian occupied Rhodes for France via Italy, where he settled in Bordeaux. There, among the fertile green countryside, he met the daughter of a French winemaker, but it was not to last. He voluntarily joined the Armee de Terre, the French army, during World War One, and went on to battle in the Great War.

Upon his discharge, he migrated to New York City, moving to the great Spanish speaking Sephardic community on the East Side (today, known as the "Lower" East Side), which existed in the general area around Broome, Allen, Delancy, Chrystie and Eldridge streets. He eventually found work as a baker through FDR's 'Works Progress Administration' (WPA), which sought to find people gainful employment. He later moved to the Bronx like many Sephardim did. In his old age, he spent some of his time looking out the window at the streets below. His brother Sam (Shelomo), also from Rhodes, and his sister-in-law Rosa (from Turkey), would often come to visit him from Williamsburg, Brooklyn (another place many Sephardim lived). Today, uncle Chelibi eternally rests in the Brotherhood League of Rhodes plot located in the beautiful Mt. Hebron Cemetery in Queens, New York.


Michelle said:


Usually I like a story with a good plot, but a plot with a good story is nice too!


Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Shelomo Alfassa published on March 13, 2008 11:47 AM.

New Book: A Window Into Old Jerusalem: Observations about Jerusalem and the Holy Land 1820-1920 was the previous entry in this blog.

Origins of Noise Making to Wipe Out the Evil Name on Purim is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.01