Florida veterans step up after WWII veteran widow worries few mourners will attend husband's funeral
By KEVIN D. THOMPSON | The Palm Beach Post | Published: February 8, 2019
LAKE WORTH, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — For his services on a submarine chaser for three years in the Navy during World War II, Ralph Anthony Mercurio will be honored at his funeral Friday, February 8 with a Naval Honor Guard and flag ceremony at the South Florida National Cemetery.
It will be a glowing tribute to the 93-year-old Greenacres man who passed away Jan. 16 from cancer.
But Ralph's 92-year-old widow Virginia "Ginny" Mercurio's did express a bit of concern — that there would be very few mourners at her husband's funeral because the extended family lives in New York.
Not to worry, assured Donald Lanman, who's on the Florida Veterans Foundation's board of directors.
"We take this very seriously," he said.
Lanman told Ginny that Palm Beach veterans would do their best to show respect by supporting Friday's services.
"This is an ongoing effort we have to honor and support all of our veterans who have passed on so they are properly treated," he said.
Along with veterans, family will also be present.
Diane Merovitch remembers always looking up to her father, a somewhat crotchety sort with a dry sense of humor.
"He always knew where he stood on the issues," said Merovitch, 68. "He was a straight shooter and when I was a little girl, it was a little intimidating but I always knew he loved me. There are times I've had important decisions to make and in the back of my mind, I'd be asking, 'What would dad do?'"
Barbara Mercurio, Ralph's 65-year-old daughter-in-law who lives in Broward County's Coconut Creek, remembers Ralph as a loving family man.
"He was married for 72 years to the same woman and he loved his six grandchildren and three great-grandkids," she said. "My younger daughter, who is now 32, from the time she was 3, until she turned 31, she'd crawl into his lap and just hug him. That was the kind of guy he was."
Ralph was born in Brooklyn and lived their for decades before moving to Greenacres in 1994. He ran RM Trucking, a business in New York for 30 years. When his kids were born, Barbara said he changed the name to RMS Trucking, with the 's' standing for sons.
George Mercurio, Ralph's son and Barbara's husband, remembers his dad always being opinionated. "But he always listened to yours, but he would dismiss it at the end," he said. "But at least he listened."
George, 66, said his father was a different man when he was younger because of the many worries on his mind. But as his business started making money, George said he grew closer and closer to his father. "I never knew a day without my father and my mother," he said.
Jokingly, George called the submarine chaser his dad was on a "glorified row boat." But his son always knew his father was in danger.
And his dad was afraid, especially the first time he was called to the battle station, but did what he had to do.
"He didn't know what he was going to do the first time," George said. "Then, he said, everybody just stood up and ran to their stations and did the same thing. It was something he was most proud of."
Barbara called Ralph an All-American boy. "This was his goal," she said. "He was going to do this."
Ralph could still be seen driving around Greenacres five months ago. But age caught him and George said he finally stopped. "If he had to go far, he'd ask me to take him," George said. "He relied on me a little bit more and we'd reminisce."
Barbara said she is going to miss the political conversations she used to have with her father. "We'd be watching something on television and I'd say 'Do you believe so and so?' and he would say the same thing," she said.
Merovitch lives in Somers, N.Y., so she didn't see her father that often. She came to visit him last year and saw him twice the past few months. "I didn't see a lot of him, but his influence on me was really enormous," she said. "I always knew he was around if I needed advice or to bounce something off him. I'm really going to miss him."
Before Friday's ceremony, there will be another service at 10:30 a.m. at St. Mathew Catholic Church, 6090 Hypoluxo Road in suburban Lake Worth.
The South Florida National Cemetery is one of the country's 136 national veterans cemeteries, including nine in Florida. Situated on 313 acres along State Road 7 just south of Lantana Road, it is home to nearly 28,000 memorials. A spokesperson for the cemetery said there are generally 2,800 burials per yer.