SOUTH PORTLAND – Rocco Gedaro, a decorated World War II veteran and longtime postal carrier for the Portland post office who gave generously to the community, died on Wednesday. He was 87.

If you knew Mr. Gedaro since he came home from the infantry in World War II in 1945, chances are you’ve heard his story.

He landed in Normandy on June 8, 1944, two days after the invasion, as one of the first replacements for the 90th Infantry Division, Company C 357 Regiment. He fought in every battle — Normandy, northern France, Rhineland and then Ardennes.

Months later, during the Battle of the Bulge, Mr. Gedaro was sent to the first aid station with a severe case of frostbite that caused him to be hospitalized in England for three months. While he was waiting to be evacuated, the Germans counter-attacked and he found himself again on the front lines.

At some point during the war, Mr. Gedaro got promoted. But he never got his sergeant stripes. That is until September of 2002. Among 30 or so of his relatives and closest friends, then Pvt. Gedaro, was formally promoted to Staff Sgt. Rocco Gedaro.

“He never thought he would get his stripes,” said his daughter Theresa Gedaro-Fox of Cape Elizabeth, thinking back to that day. “He was totally shocked. He was speechless. He had tears in his eyes. It truly meant everything to him.”

Soon after the war ended, he began working as a special delivery driver for the Portland post office. He delivered packages to homes in the Portland area for more than 30 years. He also had a side business fixing televisions at his home on Boothby Avenue in South Portland.

He was married to Betty Jane Gedaro for over 35 years. The couple raised five children.

Another daughter Mary Lou Mundy of Gorham said her parents shared a great life together. She remembered on Friday the summers she spent at the family camp on Little Sebago Lake in Windham. She said her father loved it there.

“He would throw us all in the station wagon and we went to the camp,” Mundy recalled. “He was a loving family man.”

Every Sunday morning for the past 15 years or so, his five children have descended on his home at 9:30 a.m. sharp for coffee and breakfast.

“If we weren’t there, it was very serious,” Mundy said. “We had to have a good reason. He just loved having his children around.”

Also important to Mr. Gedaro was his dedication to the community. He volunteered for several local nonprofits, including the Boys & Girls Club, the Salvation Army, and the Coats for Kids campaign.

“He had hundreds of jackets hanging up on a clothes line around his garage, and he invited people to pick out what ever they needed,” said another daughter Kay Mallory of South Portland. “He was a very giving man.”

He was a dedicated supporter of the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life. He recruited his relatives every year to walk in memory of his wife, who died of breast cancer in 1992.

Mallory said her father felt strongly about giving back to the community because of the hardships he endured growing up. He was one of six children. His mother was an immigrant from Italy. His father died shortly after the family arrived in America. They didn’t speak English.

“They never had anything,” Mallory said. “He sold newspapers in the street when he was really young. He wasn’t a wealthy man, but he always wanted to give back and do what he could for others.”

Mr. Gedaro suffered a heart attack Tuesday. He seemed to be improving, but he died the next day after another heart attack.

“I’ll miss having him there and being able to talk to him about anything,” Mallory said. “He was always there for you. He was there for all of us.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]