Sunday, May 24, 1998
The monument to Cpl. Walter J. Fufidio, which has come to serve as memorial to those who served in World War II and the other wars that have followed, stands almost nondescript most of the year in the square named after him.
It will be spruced up in time for Memorial Day, for those who want to remember.
But for the surviving Fufidio brothers, the monument is a shimmering beacon to the good old days, to the values of sacrifice, family and community that typified that old Hunts Point neighborhood in the Bronx, something current and future generations can take lessons from.
Arthur, the oldest, went into the Air Force. Walter came next and he couldn’t wait to join up. He was in the Marines. Michael followed, joining the Navy in August 1945, but the war ended three weeks later. And George, the baby of the family, was too young to fight.
“We belonged in World War II and everybody knew it,” Michael Fufidio, now 71 and a resident of Melbourne, Fla., said. “A lot of us volunteered and for a small neighborhood, we sent a lot of people off to that war.”
In scenes that were probably repeated in every neighborhood, block, or corner in the city, kids played seemingly endless games of stickball in the streets one day and the next day their families were seeing them off to go fight in a distant war.
Michael Fufidio, their father who himself fought in the World War I a few short years after arriving in America from Italy in 1914, would take three of his sons over the Spofford Avenue hill to go to the Longwood Ave. station.
Walter Fufidio, an artilleryman, would participate in the campaign that came to symbolize the United States Marine Corps: The bloody invasion of the volcano island of Iwo Jima and the planting of the America flag on Mount Suribachi.
Nearly all of the 21,000 Japanese soldiers defending Iwo Jima were killed. Among the 6,821 Americans killed was Cpl. Walter Fufidio. In the waning days of that campaign, Marines undertaking a mop-up operation were pinned down by shattering shell fire from a fortified Japanese position.
As his posthumous Navy Cross Medal, second only to the Medal of Honor in American military honors, described, Walter was without cover when he delivered a steady stream of neutralizing shell fire against the enemy position, enabling his infantry unit to charge and wipe out the resistance.
“He galantly gave his life for his country,” the citation read.
George Fufidio said his mother took the loss very hard. Anna Fufidio, now 96 and living in a Throgs Neck nursing home, visited her son’s grave at St. Raymond Cemetery on Tremont Ave. for many years afterward.
“She’d go up there and she’d wipe the snow off the grave,” George Fufidio, who is 62, said.
In the years after the war, Michael would serve 20 years in the New York City Police Department and Arthur and George each served 20 years with the city Fire Department.
Arthur Fufidio was reflective when asked what lessons should be drawn from his brother’s monument. Government officials make wars and call on regular folks like him, his brothers and the other boys they grew up with to fight, he said.
“We were meant to serve and that was it,” Arthur Fufidio said. “It doesn’t seem like the world is in any different position now. That was supposed to be the war that ended all wars but we seem to live under a constant threat of war.”
Sunday, May 24, 1998