World War II vet to be honored by Veterans Park group
WELLSBURG — A former Marine involved in fighting the spread of communism at the end of World War II will be honored at the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation’s upcoming annual dinner-dance.
Domenic Frio of Follasnbee will be recognized as the group’s Veteran of the Year at the event, which will be held May 5 at the Wellsburg Banquet Hall.
Doors will open at 5 p.m., with the dinner to begin at 6 p.m. and music from Twice As Nice to follow. There will be a Chinese auction and 50-50 drawing. Tickets are $30 each. For information, call (304) 670-6471, (304) 794-6546, (304) 737-1236 or (304) 374-7638.
Between 1947 and 1949, Frio served two tours of duty in the Mediterranean, helping to thwart communist forces attempting to take over Greece and Italy in the chaos that emerged from World War II.
Frio recalled observing mass casualties at the port city of Pyraeus, where Greek nationalists fought Greek communists in a civil war some historians estimate resulted in 100,000 deaths.
“That was the first time I saw all of these bodies piled up. I was just a 17 year old kid,” he said.
Frio had recently enlisted in the Marines, completing basic training at Parris Island, S.C. He recalled sleeping in quonset huts while barracks were being built at the base.
“It was July and August. Boy was it hot,” he said.
Not all of Frio’s military experience was unpleasant. He recalled while sightseeing in Italy, an unexpected meeting with Pope Pius XII.
Frio and several other servicemen were visiting Castel Gandolfo, the pontiff’s winter retreat, when a church official invited them to meet with the pope.
“In those days he didn’t have an audience with anyone,” Frio said, adding, “We never expected that. We just went to look around.”
After Frio kissed the pontiff’s ring, customary for such occasions, Pope Pius XII, a staunch opponent of communism, shook his hand, asked his impression of Italy and presented medals to Frio and the others. A photo of Frio’s meeting with the pope hangs on his wall.
Following his discharge as a corporal, Frio served for a time in the Marine Reserves and having left high school his junior year to enlist, earned a GED. He worked for 37 years at Weirton Steel, where he served as a carpentry foreman and was involved in building the Browns Island coke plant and other departments at the mill.
He and his wife of 54 years, Jean, have three children, Donna Pusateri of Williamsburg, Va., David of Washington, Pa., and Dan of Chicago; and six grandchildren. Frio’s first wife, Virginia, died of cancer when their first two children were very young.
Frio said he’s proud to be named the foundation’s veteran of the year and is impressed by the park, where the names of many fallen Brooke County veterans are engraved.
“It’s beautiful. It’s nice they remember us veterans. Without us, where would our country be?” he said.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)