‘He wanted to do his part': Family remembers decorated WWII veteran, dive bomber
By MINA CORPUZ | The Enterprise | Published: March 28, 2021
BROCKTON, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — During World War II, Brockton native
To his family, he was a golfer at the D.W. Field course and a traveler who had a good personality and liked to have a good time.
"Henry could get along with everyone," said his daughter,
LaBonte died March 17 at the age of 97 and was buried at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
LaBonte fought in the Battle of Midway as a dive bomber on the naval plane Douglas SBD Dauntless. Between 1942 to 1946, he was part of 33 missions.
The plane helped earn a victory in the battle by sinking four Japanese carriers.
Last year, as part of a multimedia project for school, LaBonte's grandson
LaBonte told his grandson that he lied about his age and entered the service at the age of 17 after attending
"He didn't have much thought,"
Before the project, LaBonte didn't talk with grandson much about his military service. It was something that was pretty personal and private to him,
In 1994, LaBonte was awarded the physical medals for his service during World War II: the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. A photo of him when he received the honors hangs in LaBonte's living room and it was displayed at his funeral service.
Military service has carried on in the family. LaBonte's great-granddaughter,
Born and raised in
LaBonte was in the car business for 25 years and worked as a manager and salesperson. His family said his connections in
In the 1960s, LaBonte met his wife Lillian. Both of them were divorced and each had a child from their previous marriages. They married about a decade later and were together for a total of 60 years.
"He was wonderful and that's why I married him," said
They stayed in
She said they went dancing and listened to live music weekly. Sometimes they would drive to
They liked to go on cruises and trips, including to
When they married, she and LaBonte's daughter,
LaBonte was the youngest of eight siblings who have all died.
During the ride to the theater, Kubek and LaBonte talked and she learned that her mother and he were classmates at
"It was such a small world," Kubek said.
Watching the movie with LaBonte felt like she was reliving the battle with him, Kubek said.
When the Dauntless came on the screen, he said that was his plane and put his hands up in the air, she said. As it got more into the war scenes, she saw some tears roll down his face. Later, he cried.
When the film ended, Kubek told people in the movie theater that the Dauntless was the one LaBonte flew on and that he served in WWII. People said thank you to him for his service, including a younger veteran, she said.
LaBonte also showed pride in other ways, like wearing his veterans cap and having plates that showed he was a veteran on his car, his wife said.
LaBonte was sick for the past several years and was treated off and on at the Brockton VA, his family said.
They fought to get him a room at the campus' palliative care and hospice program unit in
"The only place he wanted to go was the
One time when the Pataks went to visit LaBonte at the
The day LaBonte went to the unit, the policy stated that one designated visitor could come to visit for a maximum of two hours.
Toward the end of his life, family were able to visit more often. The Pataks visited him the day before he died on
LaBonte's funeral service was held
He was buried at the
He liked to go in the water and play with the children at the beach, she said, and the family tradition was to meet up at
"He knew how to make people feel welcomed and loved,"