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Bristol’s last remaining Pearl Harbor survivor dies at 96

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Major Edward J. Riccio Jr.

Bristol’s last remaining Pearl Harbor survivor Major Edward J. Riccio Jr., 96, of Bristol, passed away peacefully at his home on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, six days shy of his 97th birthday on Nov. 29, 2016.

Edward (Rick) was the loving husband of Theresa Ann Riccio, who predeceased him this year on Feb. 10, 2016. Born in Bristol on Nov. 29, 1919, he was the last surviving of the 10 children of the late Edward Riccio Sr. and Angela (Ferrucci) Riccio.

Edward leaves his children, Mark E. Riccio and wife, Amy of Naples, Fla., Eddie Riccio III of Bristol and Jo-Ann Riccio-Larson and her husband, Stephen, who he loved like a son. He leaves grandchildren, Stephanie, Eddie-Joe, Jennifer and Alexandria, as well as many nieces and nephews.

Ed attended Northside, St. Joseph’s and Jennings grammar schools, before moving to New Rochelle, N.Y. He returned to Bristol after the war and operated Ed’s Amoco for 18 years on Route 6 in Bristol and built his own airplane out of balsa wood in one of the bays there, which he kept at Plainville Airport and is now showcased at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks. After closing the gas station, he worked and later retired from Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in Southington at age 65.

Ed’s biggest accomplishment was being a Pearl Harbor Survivor. Ed enlisted in the Army Air Corps when he was 20, about a year before World War II started. He was stationed at Hickam Field, right near Pearl Harbor when the first bomb from Japan was dropped.

He worked night and day on the remaining planes that were not destroyed to get them back into working order. Later in the war he volunteered as a top turret gunner for the Calamity Jane, a B-17 bomber. He was on the bomber above the Fiji Islands when it was hit and the pilot and co-pilot were killed. He had never flown a plane before but he didn’t have much choice.

He missed the landing at Guadalcanal and after getting an American flying escort he landed the plane with one wheel up, one wheel down, and one engine blown out. U.S. forces seized Guadalcanal from Japanese troops and after the battle Ed was approached by two generals in the hospital while being treated for injuries and told them he would like to go to pilot school. The Army gave him a Distinguished Flying Cross even though he was not a pilot.

He returned to active duty in the states after the war ended as a pilot and had several assignments at the Berlin Airlift in 1948 to 1949 where the Russian army had blockaded all entry into Berlin and he flew provisions of food and medical supplies to the people there. Ed served in the Army Reserves for the next 25 years.

Ed was a member of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association and partook of the 50th reunion in Hawaii in 1991 where he was celebrated with other survivors in a parade to honor them. He was also a member of the American Legion. Ed gave numerous discussions of the attack on Pearl Harbor over the years to schools and military gatherings and loved to be in the Bristol parades honoring their veterans.

Calling hours will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 29, his birthday, from 5 to 8 p.m. at O’Brien Funeral Home, 24 Lincoln Ave., Bristol/Forestville. All are welcome to meet directly at the church for a Mass of Christian Burial on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church, 235 Maltby St., Bristol, CT. Committal services will follow in St. Joseph Cemetery, Bristol.

Memorial donations may be made in Edward’s name to New England Air Museum, 36 Perimeter Road, Windsor Locks, CT 06096.

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