WWII veteran turns 100, surprised by parade in his honor
MANILIUS, N.Y. (Tribune News Service) — Anthony Pircio, a World War II veteran, received a happy surprise for his 100th birthday on Friday.
A parade of family, neighbors, firefighters, politicians, police officers and volunteers from Honor Flight Syracuse and the Manlius VFW celebrated Pircio’s 100th birthday with a “Centurion Salute.” Fayetteville Fire Department led the drive-by parade, with sirens blaring and horns honking.
Admiral John Paddock presented Pircio with a flag from Rep. John Katko, which had flown over the U.S. Capitol, along with a package of birthday cards from local students and Boy Scouts. An oak tree donated by Cross Creek Nursery will be planted in Pircio’s honor.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Pircio, after the group of well-wishers sang “Happy Birthday.” “Thank you all for showing up and showing me a great day.”
During World War II, Pircio was a commissioned officer in the Army Air Corps, which was one of the combat arms of the Army until the U.S. Air Force was established in 1947.
He served as a weather officer in 1943 with the 8th Air Force in England and Northern France, assigned to the 7th Photo Reconnaissance Group. Pircio was honorably discharged as a captain in 1946.
Pircio married Mary Smercak in 1946 and remained together for 68 years until she passed in 2014. They had three children: Nick, Mary Beth and Nancy, who all attended his birthday celebration on Friday.
It was a happy family reunion after Pircio received both of his Covid-19 vaccine doses.
“He’s in better shape than many of us,” said his daughter Nancy Sobieck, who traveled to Syracuse from Pennsylvania. “He was always eating healthy, drinking red wine and taking walks every day.”
Pircio flew to Washington, D.C., on Honor Flight Mission 05 in 2015 and regularly attended reunions of the 8th Air Force Historical Society, most recently in St. Louis, Mo., in 2019.
Pircio, a native of Tarrytown, N.Y., graduated from Washington Irving High School in 1938 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry and doctorate in pharmacology, from Fordham University.
After World War II, Pircio began his pharmacology career, most of which was spent with Bristol Myers. He worked on the team that developed Excedrin and led the research team that developed the post-operative pain-relieving drug Stadol.
Pircio spent his last career years at Bristol Laboratories before retiring in 1983.
His secret to a long life?
“Be happy ... [have a] glass of red wine every day,” Pircio said, motioning to a nearby jug of Carlo Rossi Paisano. His dachshund, Teda, sat nearby.
“And a dog helps a lot.”
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Anthony Pircio of Manlius, N.Y. turned 100 on Friday, March 5, 2021. His family and neighbors surprised him with a parade of visitors to celebrate.
KATRINA TULLOCH, SYRACUSE.COM/TNS