Senator O’Mara will honor local WWII Navy Veteran: The late Paul C. “Digger” Vendetti selected for induction into the NYS Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame

May 20, 2019

“So many veterans served our nation courageously and honorably, and then returned home to lift the lives of our local communities," said Senator O'Mara.

“So many veterans served our nation courageously and honorably, and then returned home to lift the lives of our local communities," said Senator O'Mara.

The Senate Veterans Hall of Fame is just one more way to give a local veteran a well-deserved and well-earned expression of our gratitude and admiration.

Elmira, N.Y.—Approaching this year’s Memorial Day observances across the state and nation, Senator Tom O’Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) today announced that he will induct a World War II United States Navy veteran, the late Paul C. “Digger” Vendetti – an Elmira native and longtime caretaker at Woodlawn National Cemetery -- into the New York State Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame.

The formal induction takes place at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 24, 2019, in Hearing Room B of the Legislative Office Building in Albany.  O’Mara selected Vendetti from among nominations he received from throughout his 58th Senate District. Vendetti will represent O’Mara’s district and be among approximately 60 veterans from throughout the state inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.  Senators select one inductee annually from their respective legislative districts.  

The Senate established its online Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2005 and, including this year, has inducted more than 400 veterans.  The Hall salutes New York veterans for their service in the United States Armed Forces and their civilian accomplishments.  

O’Mara said, “It is my great privilege to help ensure that Paul Vendetti will be remembered for generations to come as one of New York State’s outstanding veterans.  His induction into the Senate Veterans’ Hall of Fame salutes his life of service to our local community, our state, and the United States of America.  He served our nation as part of the Greatest Generation and then came home to Chemung County where he devoted a life’s work to caring for the final resting places of thousands of his fellow veterans at Woodlawn National Cemetery.  It was a life well lived, and Paul earned and deserves this tribute.”

O’Mara added that he has fond memories of Vendetti, whom he met on a few occasions over the years, the last time being at a Veterans Day ceremony at the Center Street Elementary School in Horseheads in November 2017, where the district awarded Vendetti an official high school diploma as part of the state’s Operation Recognition program.  Born in Elmira in 1926, Vendetti joined the United States Navy in 1944 before completing high school.

Susan Pirozzolo, Community Information Specialist at the Horseheads Central School District, nominated Vendetti for the Hall of Fame induction.

Pirozzolo said, “Our community is blessed with so many men and women who served our country selflessly, and when I saw that Senator O’Mara was seeking nominations, Paul Vendetti immediately came to my mind. Digger was such a special person with a wonderful outlook on life. It is a privilege to call him my friend. We were honored to present him with an official Horseheads High School diploma in 2017, making him a Horseheads Blue Raider for life.”

Vendetti served in WWII as a U.S. Navy Seaman First Class in the South Pacific.  He received numerous military awards including the Asiatic Pacific Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon, American Theater Medal, and the Victory Medal. 

Honorably discharged from Navy service in 1946, Vendetti returned to the Elmira area, settled in Horseheads, and raised three children with his wife of 72 years, Rosemary.   

He spent 40 years as a dedicated caretaker at Woodlawn National Cemetery where he proudly tended to the final resting places of thousands of his fellow veterans.

Vendetti was a member of American Legion Post #442 and a great fan of the New York Yankees.  Family, friends, neighbors, and fellow veterans are quick to recall his always-ready sense of humor and unforgettable laugh. 

Vendetti passed away last summer.  He was buried in Woodlawn National Cemetery, with Military Honors, on August 30, 2018.

O’Mara has inducted the following area veterans into the Senate Veterans Hall of Fame:

Philip C. Smith, a highly decorated Korean War combat veteran and well-known figure in Schuyler County government and veterans’ affairs as the former director of the Schuyler County Veterans’ Service Agency;

J. Arthur “Archie” Kieffer, longtime Chemung County historian and a World War II combat veteran;     

> Steuben County native, former Painted Post Mayor, and World War II combat veteran Roswell L. “Roz” Crozier, Jr.;

Anthony J. “Tony” Specchio, Sr., a lifelong Watkins Glen resident and a fixture in civic and veterans affairs; and

P. Earle Gleason, a lifelong Yates County resident and the former, longtime Director of the Yates County Veterans’ Service Agency; and

> Warren A. Thompson,  a lifelong Steuben County resident and farmer, and a stalwart in civic and veterans affairs in the county.

Other area veterans who are Hall of Fame members are Frank C. "Fritz" Pesesky, a veteran of World War II and former director of the Chemung County Veterans Service Office (2005); William K. Kastner, a Vietnam veteran and longtime director of the Steuben County Veterans Service Agency (2006); and Robert Laskaris, a highly decorated combat veteran and well-known figure in Chemung County veterans’ affairs (2008).

View the Hall of Fame HERE.