Retired BMC Joseph Triolo, Navy veteran and one of the area’s last survivors of Pearl Harbor, passed away due to natural causes at his home in Zion Jan 11. He was 97.
Born in Monaville, West Virginia to parents John Triolo Sr. and Mary (Azzer) Triolo on March 3, 1920, he was raised in a coal mining community. After trying to work in mines, he realized he wanted to do something else, so his father gave him some money and he ventured off to a recruiting office to join the U.S. Navy. He enlisted in 1937.
After an initial assignment to the USS Oklahoma, he transitioned to a seaplane tender, the USS Tangier where he saw the attack on Pearl Habor unfold on Dec 7, 1941.
Although his ship that survived the attack, Triolo watched in horror as his former ship, the Oklahoma, was torpedoed and capsized, killing more than 400 sailors that were trapped inside the hull.
On the Tangier, Triolo manned a machine gun, firing on Japanese planes as they attacked American ships with torpedoes during the battle. The Tangier was credited with three aircraft kills that day.
In 2013, he told interviewers for the Library of Congress’’ Veteran’s History Project that it was a rude Sunday morning awakening.
“I took my time because (I thought) it was just another drill to me, so I got out of my bunk, went up there, went all the way back and when I got to top side, I saw a Jap plane coming up the channel, and I had been on the Asiatic Station. I knew it was a Jap and I immediately went up to my gun...” he recounted.
He had a 21-year career in the Navy and retired as a chief boatswain’s mate.
He told people that joining the Navy was a practical decision.
“In those days you must remember it was the recruiter, the depression was on,” Triolo told interviewers. “And it was really someplace to sleep, someplace to eat with pay. You couldn’t beat that.”
“Joe lived a long life, and I believe it was a life well lived,” said Naval Station Great Lakes Commanding Officer Capt. James Hawkins. “He was a great sailor and teacher, and he will definitely be missed.”
After his enlistment, Triolo enrolled in Lake Forest College at the age of 38 and received a Bachelor’s Degree and furthered his studies at Roosevelt University. Upon graduation, he was hired into the North Chicago School District where he taught and was a counselor for 21 years.
He is survived by his loving wife of 63 years Katherine (nee Despot) Triolo and one sister Angeline Triolo of Logan, West Virginia. Triolo died just short of his 98th birthday.
Services were held Jan. 16 at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in North Chicago. His burial will take place with Military Honors at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Logan, West Virginia today (Jan. 19.)
He was preceded in death by an infant son; brothers: Melvin “Mel” Triolo (1992); Tony Triolo (1994); John Triolo, Jr (1949); sisters Catherine Triolo (1943); Helen Triolo (2014). He was also preceded in death by father, John Sr., in 1962, and his mother Mary (Azzer) in 1965.