Having spent most of his tender years from the age of 6 through 18 at St. Joseph's and St. Michael's School for Boys in Scranton and Hoban Heights, Pa., who would have thought that Frank Augustine would go on to live such a rich and full life?
Augustine has had a stellar year of recognition for his lifetime achievements and service to his community and his country that he accepted with calm, grace and humility. He was given a proclamation by Dawn Zimmer, mayor of Hoboken, presented with a Senate Resolution by N.J. Sen. Brian Stack, and given a laudatory resolution by Anthony Romano, chairman of the Chosen Freeholders of New Jersey and his board of directors. As if that weren't enough, last spring Augustine received two Distinguished Military Service Medals and a Citation Certificate along with about 80 other vets in an intergenerational ceremony honoring veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Born on Jan. 5, 1917, Augustine was the oldest veteran to be recognized. The celebratory event was held in the grand rotunda of the Justice Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City, and was made possible by a joint collaborative effort by Hudson County Executive Thomas A. DeGise, JoAnn Northgrave, Chief Community Organization Specialist for the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders. "Our veterans are living reminders that a republic is only as strong as its citizens willingness to defend it, said DeGise, adding, "Our veterans still serve today by the strength of their example." Augustine also received a second commendation from Mayor Zimmer that was presented by her 6th Ward councilwoman and the mayor's chief of staff, Jennifer Giattino, for his seven years of service to the Army. "In 1935, my dad hitchhiked across the country to Texas to join his older brother Joe in the 23rd Infantry and later the 15th Field Artillery at Fort Sam Houston," says his eldest son, Dr. Dennis Augustine from Saratoga, Calif. "While there," he adds, "he served as head cook and personal aide to Army Chaplain, Captain William Walsh, until 1938 when he was honorably discharged. After a brief stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) established by FDR in the 1930s as part of the New Deal program, the elder Augustine returned to military service in January 1941 at the age of 24, once again becoming a personal aide to Walsh at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.
While there he served as the head cook for servicemen patients and the military brass until he received an honorable discharge just before the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan.
After he left the Army, Augustine served in the U.S. Maritime Service for a year and then returned to Hoboken. In 1947 he married Maria Micalizzi, a war bride from Sicily. They were married for 66 years before she died on Mother's Day 2013, leaving behind four children, Dennis, Michael, Stephen and Josephine who look after her beloved husband and their father. Augustine worked as the night shift head of maintenance at Maxwell House Coffee for 25 years, was a Boy Scout leader for 25 years, was named Elk of the Year in 1982, became Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus at the age of 79 for two terms from 1996 to 1998.
"My father has beaten the odds and made a life for himself in spite of being abandoned by his parents due to circumstances behind his and their control," says his son Dennis. After learning that my father had been recognized by all these public officials, Luba his coordinating nurse from Promised Care, a home aide service company confided to me by uttering the following words: "I have a confession to make. I am in love with your father. His strength and positive outlook on life is an inspiration to me. I tell your father's story to those who blame their circumstances for their failures. I have a great story to tell about their future. It begins like this, there was an orphan boy who grew up in various homes but the most important point is what the boy has accomplished and his contentment with life at his age."
His son adds proudly, "As far as I'm concerned my dad not only made the grade as it were, he surpassed it, and I salute him for it and the life and opportunities he has given us." Frank Augustine continues to live in the middle unit of a five flat walk up in Hoboken and enjoys visits by his children and grandchildren and letting the day unfold. If you ask him how he is doing, will answer, "I can't complain, there is always someone worse off than I am."
Spoken like a real trooper. "Cent Anni, dad. May you live to be a 100."