Emilio Joseph DiPalma, 93, passed away on April 8th, 2020, at the Soldiers Home in Holyoke, MA. Born on June 3rd, 1926, “Leo” grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, the son of Italian immigrants, the late Nicola and Josephine DiPalma. He was predeceased by his wife, Louise Ann (Catelotti) DiPalma, and 2 sisters, Rose Bertone, and Anna DiPalma.
Leo is survived by four daughters, Donna DiPalma of Ellington, Ct., Joanna DiPalma of Scarborough, Maine, Emily Aho and her husband George Aho of Jaffrey, N.H and Marianne Pender of Portland, Oregon. He also leaves nine grandchildren, Jessica Bickley and her spouse Stan Cho, Miranda (Bickley) Skryzniarz and her spouse Rich Skryzniarz, Emily Capaldi, Daniel Capaldi, Caitlin Capaldi, Ian Pender, Derek Pender, Marek Chetkowski, Hannah Sibley-Liddle and her spouse Jason Sibley-Liddle and four great grandchildren, Stella, Elsie and Isabell Skryzniarz and Benjamin Cho.
Leo was a hoisting engineer for Ley Construction Company, Springfield, MA/Hartford, CT, for many years. Before his retirement he was employed by the Hall of Justice in Springfield, MA as a Superintendent of Maintenance engineer.
A member of “The Greatest Generation," Leo was drafted into the army in 1944 to the front lines against Nazi forces in Germany. At war’s end in 1945, nineteen year old Sgt. Emilio DiPalma found himself in Nuremberg, assigned to help prepare for the “greatest trial in history” making photo static copies of captured German documents and photographs that recorded mass murders and other Nazi crimes. He was then appointed to serve as sergeant of the courtroom guards for the first trial of Hitler’s top officers. Leo stood guard at the witness stand, while Nazi criminals such as the infamous Hermann Goering, Nazi “philosopher” Albert Rosenberg, Hitler Youth leader Baldur Von Schirach, Navy Admiral Doenitz, “Jew-baiter” Julius Streicher, and others were tried and met their fate through the International Military Tribunal, the first of its kind to try for war crimes against humanity.
Post war, Leo started a family with his beloved late wife Louise. For decades, he worked to support them, while continuing to serve his fellow citizens as a volunteer firefighter in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Leo enjoyed hunting, fishing, golf, and traveling. The entire family enjoyed many summers in Niantic, CT. He and Louise spent their winters in Summerville, SC until Louise passed away from ALS in 2006.
After publishing his memoirs in 2002, Leo continued his mission to thwart such atrocities by breaking his silence, sharing his experiences with people of all ages all over the world. He conducted interviews for BBC, military museums, and appeared live at the NY film festival debut of a restored wartime movie in which he appeared.
In 2009 he was presented with the Legacy of Nuremberg award by the Virginia Holocaust Museum, while at the same time his life-size likeness was unveiled, forever to stand guard at the witness stand in the museum’s mock Nuremberg trial Courtroom 600. Leo’s dedicated, later in life involvement exemplified the museum’s motto - “Tolerance Through Education.”
Leo was also given the distinction of becoming an honorary member of the Department of Justice, Office of Special Investigations, presented by the director, Eli Rosenbaum, who befriended Mr. DiPalma after discovering his memoirs online.
Leo’s message, his hope, his reasons for sharing his experiences were fulfilled. He felt had done his part, and now leaves the world his legacy, lest we forget.
Services are entrusted to Forastiere Smith Funeral & Cremation and due to current circumstances, a memorial service and celebration of Leo’s life will be held at a later date. The family requests that donations made in Leo’s name go to ALS Massachusetts Chapter, 685 Canton Street, Suite 103, Norwood, MA 02062 or Alzheimer’s Association, 408 Pleasant St., Watertown, MA 02472. To see the full obituary and leave a message of personal condolence, visit www.forastiere.com.