OVIEDO, Fla. – Joseph Spadaro, who is kindly referred to by family and friends as “Papa Joe,” turned 100 years old Thursday at an Oviedo restaurant surrounded by loved ones.
Born March 31, 1922, Papa Joe said he served in the armed forces during World War II.
“I knew when Germany marched into Poland that we would eventually be involved and I was my last year in high school,” the 100 year-old said.
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Spadaro recalled in 1939, at 18, signing up for the Army’s signal corps unit. The father of three said he was in North Carolina when Pearl Harbor was attacked and soon after was deployed overseas.
“I felt I was very fortunate to get to Australia,” Spadaro said.
The New York native’s family and friends celebrated his momentous day at Mission BBQ in Oviedo, a restaurant known for honoring and supporting veterans and service members. Every day at noon, the national anthem is played throughout their 116 restaurants around the country.
But it was the kindness and salutations from fellow veterans, strangers and Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma that took Papa Joe by surprise.
“I hadn’t expected it, I don’t think. I don’t feel that there should be much fuss over me, I’m just an ordinary person,” Papa Joe said.
It was a special day, too, for Larry Ingrassia who had never met Papa Joe but said they have a special bond in the fact that he too is a veteran.
“You don’t get to meet these hundred year old veterans too often so it’s, you know, I hope I make it but a WWII veteran, I treat them with utter respect. They deserve more than what we can give ‘em,” Ingrassio, a Navy veteran, said.
Karen Spadaro, Papa Joe’s daughter-in-law told News 6 that the love and care her father-in-law gets from those around him has made all the difference in helping him make it to this memorable day.
“I feel very blessed to have him in our life. A few years ago, we almost lost him, so he was on hospice. I really believe that he’s living today because of gratitude and appreciation for everything around him. I need him to know you are so special. The world is grateful for you,” she said.