Descendants of Soldier Killed in Italy During World War II Gather for Dedication of Hero Square

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A hero square in memory of Pvt. Vincent Ranucci, who was killed in World War II, was dedicated down the street from the home on Nichols Avenue where he grew up. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Dozens of descendants of a decorated World War II veteran gathered Monday on the East Watertown street where his childhood home is located to remember him and dedicate a hero square in his name.

Vincent Ranucci grew up in a three-family home at 7 Nichols Ave. as the oldest of nine children. He was buried in a military cemetery in Italy, near the beach where he lost his life in 1944 while serving in a U.S. Army artillery unit.

His nephew Vin said his uncle liked to “play the dogs” at the track and was a Golden Gloves boxer while growing up in Watertown.

“My father Tom and my Uncle Tony, they used to talk about Uncle Vin all the time, and in such wonderful ways, and with respect for their brother,” Vin said. “It was just so nice to listen to them.”

Vin said children used to make fun of his name at school, and he asked his father why he was named Vincent.

“He said, ‘We named you after my brother who was killed in World War II in Anzio,'” he recalled. “I never felt so small in my life, and I never felt more proud.”

A photo of Private VIncent Ranucci, who was killed in World War II, and of his gravestone at t military cemetery in Italy. (Courtesy of Joe Ranucci)

Vin’s uncle Al, who married his aunt Frances, shared the story of what happened to Ranucci. He had joined the Army in 1942 and his artillery unit landed at Anzio in Italy.

“When they landed on Anzio beach, they got their gun down. Uncle Vin’s and four other guys, they had to go to the next unit and get camouflage,” Vin said, describing the events of Feb. 2, 1944. “So, apparently Uncle Vin and the other guys were coming back with the camouflage and Uncle Vin had a couple 2 x 4s. Two Nazi planes came out of nowhere and strafed everything. Uncle Vin and one other guy were killed there, and the other three went to the hospital and died there.”

Ranucci was awarded the Purple Heart for the injuries that resulted in his death.

Family of Vincent Ranucci gathered for the dedication of the hero square on May 19. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Many of the family members at the ceremony at the intersection of Nichols and Bigelow avenues never met Vin, but they heard stories from his brothers and sisters.

“I just want to thank everyone who came here today,” said Joe Ranucci, who’s father Tom was Vincent’s brother. “It means a lot to me, personally. Listening to the stories my Dad used to tell me about Uncle Vin, always used to make me very proud.”

One of Ranucci’s sisters, Lorraine, made it to the dedication ceremony. He said he does not remember much about her brother because she was young when he went into the Army in June 1942. She remembers going to the annual memorial Mass held for her brother at Sacred Heart Church.

Also in attendance was another man named after Ranucci, indirectly. Vin Yannacci came from Waterford, Connecticut, to attend the ceremony.

“My godfather Vinny is named after Vinny Ranucci,” said Yannacci, who is named for his great uncle. “It adds more meaning to my name. I am not just named for my uncle, but for a war hero.”

Vincent Ranucci’s descendants unveiled the sign memorializing Ranucci. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

Joe has visited his uncle’s gravesite at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.

“There are thousands of crosses and when you visit they take sand from the Anzio beach and rub it on the cross so the (engraved) letters stand out, and they put out flags,” Joe said. “

When he visited, very few of the crosses had sand on them, Joe said. With the hero square, the family does not have to go overseas to pay tribute to Ranucci.

“I just had this sadness (at the cemetery). He’s there by himself,” Joe said. “I think now he’s here with us so we can always come by here and know that he’s here, and not over there by himself. If you ever get an opportunity, it is quite an amazing thing to see over there.”

The sign marking Private Vincent Ranucci Square at the corner of Nichols and Bigelow avenues. (Photo by Charlie Breitrose)

The square is the latest one dedicated around town. The squares are named for Watertown residents who lost their lives serving their country. The family must request the creation of a square, said Watertown Veterans Agent Patrick George.

“Joe Ranucci called and asked about the policy. We got it on the (City Council) agenda but by the time it was approved it was winter and nobody would want to come stand out here in the cold,” George said. “It made sense to wait until spring and do it leading into Memorial Day.”

There may be another square dedicated in the near future for a Korean War veteran, George said. He is also working to make sure the signs at all the squares are legible and that the signs have the same design.

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