John D'Antonio PHOTO BY JIM FRANCIS
The Greatest Generation
Thank you for your service, John D’Antonio
By Harris Green
At the beginning of the dramatic final year of WWII, 17-year-old John D'Antonio left his Brooklyn home to join the Navy. He served as a radioman aboard a destroyer in the Pacific. It had a huge radar mast. The ship's assignment was to "picket" for a naval task force, to alert the rest of the ships of incoming kamikaze planes or other Japanese offensives.
In August, 1945 his ship was one of the many escorts for the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay, where General Douglas MacArthur signed the terms of surrender with the Japanese Empire. Later he and his shipmates were given liberty in Tokyo. He said they didn't worry much about being there because they understood and admired the intense self-control of the Japanese people.
During his civilian life, John worked as a teacher, lead teacher and administrator. He helped launch the field of special education along the way. His final years before retiring were spent working as an administrator with the city of Atlanta and later with Fulton County
Still quite energetic at ninety, he has enjoyed a wide range of hobbies, which include riding motorcycles, flying airplanes, and sailing (and living aboard) his motor cruiser.
He only recently gave up tennis and still plays golf occasionally with the ACEs. When I asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, he said "younger."
He was married twice and has one daughter by the first wife and three sons by the second. I have met his daughter and her daughter, and both are attractive and charming. John's granddaughter is a big fan of her Papa and comes often from NYC to visit.
His sons in Atlanta recently gave him a huge ninetieth birthday party that was attended by friends and relatives from New York and neighboring states. A second, slightly smaller party was given at the Black Bear Pub by and for his Big Canoe friends. He was very pleased with both celebrations and very much wants to thank everyone involved with the planning and attending.
You can easily run into John in the Black Bear Pub, as he developed a great fondness for pubs while growing up in NYC (as did his granddaughter). If you see him, stop by and tell him how young he looks. Then thank him for his service as one of the last of those Americans we humbly refer to as the Greatest Generation. Then buy him a drink.