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VANDERGRIFT, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — A Vandergrift veteran whose World War II service earned him France's highest honor has died.

Paul P. Petrarca, 99, died Wednesday surrounded by his family.

He served with the Army Air Corps after graduating from Vandergrift High School in 1941.

In 2020, he received the French Legion of Honor. The medal is the highest honor that can be conferred on a French citizen or a foreigner who has performed eminent military or civil service for France.

For Americans like Petrarca, the honor is approved by the French president following a nomination process involving the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and a review by a special commission in Paris.

A member of the VFW and American Legion posts in Vandergrift, Petrarca was among local World War II veterans who traveled to the nation's capital in May 2004, visiting the National World War II Memorial days before its dedication.

In civilian life, Petrarca worked as a laborer for many years at Joseph F. Finch Co. (Schenley Distilleries) in Gilpin before retiring in 1971, according to his obituary. He also was a partner in PPG Restaurant and Bar in Vandergrift.

He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, St. Gertrude Roman Catholic Church and the church's Men's Club.

When not volunteering with Vandergrift Meals on Wheels, he enjoyed making wine, gardening and playing cards at the former Parks Township Senior Center.

A snowbird, Petrarca spent winters in St. Pete Beach, Fla.

At his request, there will be no public viewing. Friends will be received from 10 a.m. until the Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. Monday in St. Gertrude Roman Catholic Church. Military honors will be accorded by the Vandergrift Veterans Honor Guard.

Interment will be in St. Gertrude Cemetery, Vandergrift.

Brady-Curran Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Vandergrift is in charge of arrangements.

Memorial contributions may be made to St. Gertrude Church or to Vandergrift Meals on Wheels.

jhimler@triblive.com

(c)2021 Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

Visit Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) at www.triblive.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

The French Legion of Honor is the highest honor that can be conferred on a French citizen or a foreigner who has performed eminent military or civil service for France.
The French Legion of Honor is the highest honor that can be conferred on a French citizen or a foreigner who has performed eminent military or civil service for France. (Facebook)

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