Samuel A. Nalbone Sr., 97, of Moorestown, a decorated World War II Army veteran and later an RCA supervisor for 27 years, died Wednesday, Oct. 28, of metastatic lung cancer at his companion’s home in Mount Laurel.
Mr. Nalbone was run over by a truck at age 6, leaving one arm deformed. Doctors wanted to amputate, but his mother took him to a second physician who saved the arm. The recovery required a six-month hospitalization. But he endured and later went on to graduate from Trenton High School and then tried to enlist in the Army and Navy. Both rejected his application.
Mr. Nalbone enlisted in the Army again, and this time succeeded by doing the required number of push-ups with one arm, proving “he could do anything anyone else could,” the Sun Newspapers reported in June 2019.
Mr. Nalbone, an infantryman, was deployed to North Africa, and from there to fight in Anzio and Cassino, Italy. In 1944, he helped save the lives of 12 American soldiers who lay wounded in a minefield in Cassino, by walking back through the mines to ask for help from another infantry divisionnearby.
The infantrymen initially thought he was the enemy, but he convinced some of them to go into the minefield with him to rescue his fellow soldiers. For that courageous action, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
He also received a Purple Heart for three injuries sustained in battle and the European-African-Middle Eastern Service Medal, with one Oak Leaf Cluster, according to his discharge paper. In June 2019, he was honored by the Quilt of Valor Foundation, a civilian nonprofit dedicated to thanking veterans for their service by giving them a handmade quilt.
“Dad was a hero way before he was our hero,” said his daughter, Sandy Nalbone Menaquale, at the presentation ceremony, the newspapers wrote. “I am my best self when I am my father’s daughter. I’m so proud of him. He taught us by example, and I am so happy that I get to share this experience with him.”
Mr. Nalbone served in the Army from April 1943 to November 1945 and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant.
After the war, he graduated with a certificate from Philadelphia Wireless Telegraphy school, and worked for eight years at Philco in the city on missile guidance systems and as a civilian instructor for Navy radar technicians.
In 1956, he began working at RCA in Moorestown as a test-methods supervisor, monitoring quality control and calibration of equipment. He also did technical coordination of major electronic aerospace radar programs. He worked on a lunar exploration module and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.
Born and raised in Trenton, he was son of Colegero Nalbone and Josephine Ferrara, Sicilian immigrants who spoke only Italian. His four siblings had to leave school early to help support the family, but Mr. Nalbone was allowed to continue through high school.
In 1949, he married Ray Itzcowitz, a family friend. They raised four children in Haddon Township but later moved to Moorestown. She died of cancer in 1996.
“Ray and Sam had very strong values,” the family said in a tribute. “They taught by example how to respect others, serve their communities, and to work hard and value education.”
Mr. Nalbone liked to study at the local library. He also enjoyed gardening and photographing birds and other animals. He could fix almost anything.
In 2000, Mr. Nalbone found love and companionship with Betty Gambal. They played cards and enjoyed his garden.
Besides his daughter, Sandy, and his companion, Betty, he is survived by children Sharon Nalbone Richardson, Sam Jr., and Trudy Nalbone Herman; 13 grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren. All four siblings died earlier.
Burial will be later in Arlington National Cemetery.
The family has established the Sam and Ray Nalbone Memorial Fund. Checks should be payable to Trenton High School to support Pathways in Technology Early College High. Checks can be mailed to Dr. Sharon Nalbone Richardson, P.O. Box 3006, Exton, Pa. 19341.