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WESTTOWN — It has been three years since the Westtown Township started its “Westtown Gazette,” and the Historical Commission submits something focusing on buildings, tidbits, moments and people in Westtown’s history.
What started off as a tip about a longtime resident of the township turned into Joseph Valentino, a World War II veteran, being recognized by the board of supervisors, the historical commission and even the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
“We have an orderly communication with residents and we try to do an article each time,” said Gail Guterl, vice chair of the Historical Commission. “We’re trying to educate all the residents and someone mentioned Joe. While it’s a little different from the colonial and Quaker (things), we thought it would be neat to do something where you could actually hear from the person’s mouth what they did.”
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Guterl visited with the Navy veteran and wrote an article about him for the Gazette, highlighting his life and the memories he holds onto from the war.
If words weren’t enough, Guterl was also able to see Valentino’s collection of Navy memorabilia on his walls.
“I like that when I joined the Navy, I got to see the world,” Valentino said. “Other than that, I would have never been able to see both sides. I do have some stories.”
Serving aboard the USS Oberon, Valentino was involved in six invasions during the war in both the Atlantic and Pacific and saw such varied places such as the Panama Canal, Pearl Harbor, Tokyo, Naples, Glasgow and Algiers in North Africa.
“We highlighted him and a lot of people just really liked it,” Guterl said. “It’s somebody that’s living. We thought it would be a great idea to formally recognize his service and what he had done. Dave (Walter) had the idea of contacting (Dan) Truitt to see if he’d be interested.”
When state Rep. Truitt found out about the article and, more importantly, Valentino himself, he set about getting a citation for the 94 year old.
“I was incredibly impressed with what he accomplished,” Truitt said. “We looked at the list of all the things he did when he was in the military – what he did for our country, the situations he was in and he was able to come back in good health.
“A lot of times when we submit requests for citations in Harrisburg, it’s not uncommon for them to get shot down. They’ll tell us it just doesn’t meet the standard necessary to justify a House citation and this was no problem at all.”
The citation was presented to Valentino in a special ceremony at the beginning of the Westtown Township Board of Supervisors meeting Jan. 19.
“You made a sacrifice to protect the freedom of everybody else in this room,” Truitt said when presenting the citation to Valentino.
“It’s a sacrifice you make to give up your freedom for a few years. It’s something that, no matter what I do for the rest of my life, I’ll never match that.”
Westtown Township Manager Rob Pingar also noted that Valentino has been a resident of Westtown since 1948 – an astounding 68 years.
“I would like to thank him for never leaving us because we love having him as a resident,” he said.
Valentino was thrilled to see the people who came out to the ceremony, and the light refreshments which followed, many of whom were just neighbors or acquaintances of his.
“It was nice meeting everybody here,” Valentino said. “I was at the Downingtown Paper Company for 42 years and then I retired and walked around my development for 30 years. I got to meet all these different people as I walked and said hello to them and talk about the weather.”