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 World War II veteran Vito Pellegrino is the 2018 St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade grand marshal.

World War II veteran Vito Pellegrino is the 2018 St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade grand marshal.

Photo provided by Greta Rubello

Veteran, special education teacher honored as parade grand marshal

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 9, 2018


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Organizers of the 66th annual St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade are getting ready with the announcement of this year’s grand marshal, Vito “Bill” Pellegrino.

The 93-year-old man has lived in St. Clair Shores for about 60 years. 

“I was drafted right out of high school and then went into the cavalry when they still had horses,” he recalled. “At the end of my 13-week training, I got called in to ask if I wanted to go into the Air Corps program as a cadet or the Army specialized training program.”

He remembered picking the Air Corps because the casualty rate was lower, but at the time he entered military service, “we didn’t need as many pilots.”

“I ended up going to radio school in Wisconsin. Then I got sick and tired of that and, like a fool, I wanted to get up in the air, so in order to do that I had to (try) to fail my exam.”

Pellegrino trained on B-24 bombers in Boise, Idaho, and was matched with his crew. He recalled getting hit on the head with a 100-pound training bomb and “saw a few stars.” Just before Christmas, he and his crew were shipped out to England. 

Two weeks later, tragedy struck. Five members were killed in a mid-air collision while they were being checked for combat readiness.

“Four of us were on the ground at that time, and that was the first time we had been separated,” he said. “Once you get nice and close to a crew the way we were trained, you just don’t ever let yourself get that close to anybody again. You sort of protect yourself.”

After World War II, Pellegrino took advantage of the GI Bill, getting his degree in teaching. He taught special education first in Detroit and then in Lakeview Public Schools; he was director of special education for the district, as well as a driver’s education instructor.

He was a member of Shorewood Kiwanis for 40 years and worked for 15 years with the Detroit Historical Society. Pellegrino had seven children and seven grandchildren. He became a great-grandfather four months ago. 

“We couldn’t have found a better choice in St. Clair Shores,” said Dave Rubello, entry chair and fundraising committee member for the parade. “This guy exemplifies service to his country and St. Clair Shores.”

The theme for this year’s parade is “Never Forget Their Sacrifice.” 

The biggest fundraiser of the year for the parade is the St. Clair Shores Memorial Day Parade Committee spaghetti dinner fundraiser 4:30-8 p.m. March 15 at Assumption Cultural Center, 21800 Marter Road. Tickets cost $12 for adults and $5 for children 10 and younger; they are available from Parade Committee members, at the cashier counter in St. Clair Shores City Hall and at the door. 

“It allows us to continue to do what we do, and it’s also a great time,” said Parade Committee Chair Cheryl Furdos. “The food is fabulous. Marchiori (Catering) does a great job.” 

Anyone with questions about the fundraiser can call (586) 944-2629. 

Furdos said they’re happy to have Pellegrino as grand marshal.

“He is (someone) that we, as a committee, are thrilled to have as a grand marshal ... (because of) his accomplishments and his dedication and his service to his country,” she said.