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Antonio "Tony" Pierro (February 22, 1896 (according to his birth certificate) or February 15, 1896 (according to himself) – February 8, 2007) was, at the age of 110 years 351 days, the oldest living man in the U.S. for one month and the world's oldest living World War I veteran (since January 24, 2007). He was one of the last surviving veterans of World War I. He was also a combat veteran, making him an even greater rarity.
Pierro was born in the Italian town of Forenza, the son of Rocco and Nunzia (Dell'Aquilla) Pierro. His birth date of February 15, 1896 was recorded as February 22, 1896 in the baptismal records. Pierro claimed, however, that he was a seven days older and it took a while to register because he was born at their farm home outside the town and when they returned to Foranza his mother then registered his birth. This cannot be officially verified but was typical of families tending to their land. In any case, Pierro was born in February 1896.
Pierro immigrated to the United States in 1914, and lived in Marblehead, Massachusetts and Swampscott, Massachusetts. In 1917 he inducted into the Army, and trained at Fort Dix before being sent off to combat. Pierro saw action in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel, Uise-Aisne and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Pierro served in France with the 82nd Division A.E.F. [American Expeditionary Forces] 320th Field Artillery.
He often told stories of an unspent bomb hitting a tree where he sat and falling down beside him without exploding, and tending to two horses for an officer, marching in a parade in England before King George or helping to find lodging for the company officers in a French town after the war. Tony spoke a little French and was fluent in Italian.
One of Tony’s responsibilities was to drive a horse drawn wagon full of supplies to the front line and bring bodies of deceased soldiers back. On one of his trips, a bomb struck right in front of the horse, killing the horse and saved Tony's life. Tony had been using this horse and wagon for a while and had become attached to the horse, and it was quite disturbing to see this horse, who had become a companion, die.
Tony’s love for horses was only seconded by the young lady Madelina whom he met, after the war, in one of the French towns close to where his unit was stationed. He would take her dancing many nights or talk for hours with the family. He would also bring his ration of cigarettes to her father.
Returning to the U.S. in 1919, he married Mary Pierre in 1920. She died in 1967, however, and they did not have children. In civilian life, Pierro managed a Boston Pontiac body shop for many years and retired from the General Electric jet engine plant in Lynn in 1961. He was a member of the V.F.W. Post 2005 in Marblehead and IUE Local 21. He was a former member of the American Legion "Redmen" in Swampscott. In 2003 Pierro was awarded the Chevalier Legion of Honor madelion from the French Ambassador to Boston.
In 2006, Pierro celebrated his 110th birthday. Since December 30, 2006 he was the second-oldest living person in the state of Massachusetts, and one of the few remaining combat veterans of World War I anywhere in the world. He became the oldest verified man in the United States on January 9, 2007, following the death of 111-year-old Thomas Nelson, Sr., and on January 24, 2007, when 115-year-old Emiliano Mercado del Toro died, Pierro became the oldest World War I veteran and second-oldest man in the world.
Antonio Pierro died on February 8, 2007, just a couple weeks shy of his 111th birthday, in Swampscott. At that time he was living with his now 102 year old brother, Nicholas Pierro.
- Bill Porter (2006-05-30). "WWI soldier, at 110, among last survivors of an era". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-02-09.
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