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Remembering Malverne's Andrew and Cleo Renzullo

Long-time Malverne couple passes away just days apart.

Andrew Renzullo, a WWII Navy veteran who called Malverne home died Wednesday at the age of 91, just 26 days after his wife Cleo, 84, passed away.

An American Legion Fraternal Service was held Friday in Renzullo's honor at Flinch and Bruns Funeral Home in Lynbrook. After his funeral Mass Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Malverne, the Inwood native was buried at St. Mary Star of the Sea Cemetary in Lawrence, where his wife had been laid to rest on Sept. 12.

Although this reporter grew up on the same block as Andrew and Cleo Renzullo, it wasn't until an assignment in November 2010 that I had the pleasure of sitting down with the couple inside their Cambridge Street home. Gathered around their kitchen table, retired Chief Petty Officer Renzullo recounted a morning in December 1941 that he would never forget. The world knows it as the attack on Pearl Harbor.

When the then 21-year-old Renzullo was awakened by loud blasts on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 while aboard a submarine at the U.S. naval base, he first thought it was friendly fire.

"The army base nearby usually shot off cannons every morning when they raised the flag," Renzullo told Patch just months shy of his 90th birthday. But he soon learned otherwise when he peered outside.

"All of a sudden we saw these rising suns," he recalled. This was the moment he realized the base was under attack by Japan. The two-hour bombardment that followed was a blur of mass chaos, confusion, sounds of men trapped inside submarines screaming for help and images of young lives ending much too soon.

Renzullo had only been in the service for 11 months when he found himself in the middle of one of the most defining moments of World War II, the attack that spurred the United States to enter into the war. He had enlisted at the age of 20 as an electrician's mate after his uncle suggested he join the Navy to pursue his aspirations of becoming an electrician.  He was assigned to the USS Plunger-179 submarine with a crew of about 85 sailors, who helped rescue a Naval Aviator, sunk more than 50 Japanese ships, and became the first U.S. submarine to be depth-charged by Japan.

After six dedicated years of service, Renzullo returned to his home in Cedarhurst, where he began working as an electrician with the Local Union No. 3 and fell in love with his dream girl.

"I met a beautiful girl and got married, " Renzullo told Patch while looking over at his wife Cleo. The couple moved to Malverne in the mid-1950s, raised their two children, Patricia and Ernest, here, and were later blessed with two grandkids, Jessica and Raymond, who Cleo proudly presented photos of.

"I love this place," Renzullo said of Malverne. "It's a nice community, it's safe and it hasn't changed."

As an active member of the local American Legion Post 44 and commander during the late 1960s, Renzullo devoted more than 50 years to helping other veterans.

"We're just very fortunate he came home from the war," Cleo had said. "He was one of the lucky ones."

A moment of silence was observed for the couple at Wednesday's Malverne village board meeting.

Share your memories of Andrew and Cleo Renzullo in the comments space below.

Tom Grech October 09, 2012 at 06:30 PM
very nice story of the greatest generation....well done, tara!
Brenda Gio October 10, 2012 at 11:02 AM
Andrew was my father's first cousin, and Andrew and Cleo are the reason that I live in Malverne. Many years ago they called with the news that a home was for sale in their neighborhood, and we bought it. They made a lovely home, and their children have raised beautiful children of their own. As so many members of that greatest generation, my parents included, leave us, it leaves a huge void. I will always think of them.

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