MANCHESTER – It was a day for celebration, not only for Joseph C. Longo, but for his entire family as well.
There was much to enjoy as Longo celebrated his 105th birthday. He was reunited with his son Larry who lives out of state, brother Peter and many other family members and received a special motorcycle parade by members of the American Legion Riders and a proclamation from Manchester Township.
Longo is one of 12 children born of Italian immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island in 1911. He grew up in Orange, New Jersey and after getting married in 1947, he and his wife Mary moved to West Orange where they raised three children. After retiring from 33 years of service in the US Postal Service, Joe and his bride moved to Cedar Glen Lakes retirement community in Whiting.
After losing his beloved wife of 71 years in 2014, he moved to AristaCare in 2019 where he resides today and where his patriotic themed party was held with red, white and blue napkins and a birthday cake.
“He is a member of the Greatest Generation and a (Private First Class) of the US Army and proud to have served under General George Patton while stationed in France,” said his son Larry Longo, who planned the gathering.
To commemorate his 105th birthday, an Honor Guard of 18 American Legion Riders, motorcyclists who are Legion members from Toms River Post 129 and Brick Post 348, presented the colors and an American flag. Brick Post Road Captain Greg Wagner said, “it was our honor to be here today.”
The Longo family includes his 100-year-old brother Peter who along with his brother and family members watched the Riders circle around outside the front of the building before the festivities moved indoors.
Longo was injured during the war. “He was very young and healthy and it was a superficial wound. He said he marched with General Patton,” his daughter Linda Linder said.
“He has told the story differently over the years. At first it was that he waved to him as he passed through. Then it was that he ran after him to shake his hand. The next thing we hear it will be that he and the General planned the Normandy Beach invasion,” his son joked.
“My father enlisted and he was supposed to come home in February of ’41 and then in December, Pearl Harbor happened and so he was stuck for another four years. His short-term memory isn’t good but his long-term memory is,” Linder said.
She noted that her dad “was an avid bowler, golfer and bocce player. He was a mailman for 33 years and loved the outdoors. No desk job for him. He will tell you the reason he has been living this long is because he was a letter carrier.”
Linder added that along with her and Larry, they had an older brother Vincent who died 11 years ago.
Her daughter Shannon presented her grandfather with his dog tags from his military service.
“There is a lot of people here,” Joe Longo said as he looked out to those assembled from his family, AristaCare staff and others present.
“They are here for you and to honor you and Pete for your service in World War II,” Larry Longo replied. “I want to thank my dad and my Uncle Pete for their service and I want to thank them for what they taught us.”
Larry Longo added, “their children and grandchildren were taught a work ethic. They took care of the family. My dad worked for the Post Office and he put my sister and I through college. He told me many times, my goal in life is to give you a better life than I had and he did. God bless you both, God bless everyone here and most of all, God bless America!”