Joseph Muffoletto, 94

Italian sergeant defied Nazi orders

Opinion: Obituaries

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Joseph Muffoletto, 94, resident of River Forest, died on Feb. 15, 2017 in Berwyn. He was born on Oct. 28, 1922 in Gratteri, a small town in Sicily. He grew up in poverty during the Great Depression and began working full time on a farm at the age of 11. 

When he was 17 years of age he was conscripted into the Italian army and stationed first in Rome, then near Monte Cassino, where he rose to the rank of field sergeant responsible for food ordnance. In 1941, his unit was dispatched to Thessalonica, Greece where he learned the Greek language and grew to love and admire the Greek people. 

When the Italian forces in Greece came under German command, Mr. Muffoletto and his troops were transferred to the infantry and subsequently ordered to fire on civilians in a Greek village. 

He led his men in refusing to carry out this order, and the entire squadron was sent to a German POW camp. Many of the men died in the camp. In 1944-45, Mr. Muffoletto and the remaining Italian soldiers escaped and made their way on foot to Italy where they encountered a British army unit, which they subsequently joined. 

On their nearly 1,000-mile trek from Greece to Italy, they were aided by the Greek people who knew of their refusal to fire on the villagers.

The British not only accepted the bedraggled group of Italians, but they used their Italian language skills in the final year of the war. Joseph's contributions were recognized by the Allied Forces through a citation from Field Marshal H.R. Alexander, Supreme Allied Commander of the Mediterranean Theatre. T

The citation recognized Mr. Muffoletto's role as "a member of the Italian Armed Forces who fought with the Allied Armies for the liberation of Italy and who is commended for his service under the allied command and for his contribution to the cause of freedom."

After immigrating to the United States in 1954 with his wife and daughter, Mr. Muffoletto apprenticed as a plumber and subsequently launched his own business, eventually securing a major contract as a plumbing installer with Sears. He also worked for the village of Melrose Park. 

Mr. Muffoletto was the father of Sarina (the late James) Butler; the grandfather of Anne Butler and Laura Butler (James Jaffe); the brother of the late Michele (the late Teresa), Luciano (the late Antonia), Giuseppina (the late Antonino) Mogavero and Giacomo (the late Anna) Muffoletto; and the uncle and a friend of many. He was preceded in death by his wife, Anna Muffoletto (nee Rinchiuso), and his parents, Pietro and Rosaria (nee Sapienza) Muffoletto. 

A funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 20 at St. Luke Church in River Forest, followed by entombment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Hillside.

Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home, Oak Park, handled arrangements.

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