Oldest Marine Story Finds Even Older Marine
| | October 28, 2003
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. --
At 105 years old, Joseph DiPofi, born April 11, 1898, is the Oldest Living United States Marine.
DiPofi, a Marine veteran who served honorably from 1922-1925, was found following the national release of a story about Eugene Lee, the Marine recently found living in Syracuse who was, until now, identified as the Oldest Living Marine.
DiPofi is nearly a full year older than 104 year-old Eugene Lee.
George Brock, Commandant of the Conrad F. Kania Marine Corps League Detachment brought Dipofi's status as the Oldest Living Marine to the attention of the Marine Corps Oct. 24, during the Centers of Influence Lunch at Harry's Harbour Place Grille in Buffalo, NY, hosted by Maj. Lawrence M. Landon, the Commanding Officer of Recruiting Station Buffalo. The discovery of DiPofi demonstrated the effectiveness of the Centers of Influence Lunch, designed to bring area community, educational, and veterans groups leaders together to share information and ideas about the Marine Corps.
As Landon explained to area influencers that Headquarters Marine Corps recently determined 104 year-old Eugene Lee was the oldest know living Marine, Brock interjected that DiPofi was alive and well at 105.
At age 15, DiPofi, the second of seven children and oldest son of Mary-Joseph and Felix DiPofi, immigrated form his birthplace of El Chicano, Italy to the United States in 1913.
After going through Ellis Island, he spent his first nine years in the United States drifting around with his "pisans" (friends), riding on boxcars, taking up lodging at boarding houses and finding employment washing dishes, doing construction at Penn State College, and working as a prison water boy at the Pennsylvania State Penitentiary.
While working at the prison he witnessed the first execution by electric chair in the State of Pennsylvania.
With a third grade education from the old country, DiPofi enlisted in the Marine Corps on Nov. 10, 1922. "I was young. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to be somebody. I wanted to serve my country," he proudly declared with a thick Italian accent.
DiPofi attended recruit training at Parris Island, SC, where he became a Rifle Expert. According, to DiPofi his expert status earned him an extra $5 a month in addition to his $28 monthly pay.
After earning the title Marine, he was shipped to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he was assigned to the contingent of Marines protecting U.S. agricultural assets. The overall Marine occupation of Haiti lasted from 1915-1934.
When the 29th President of the United States of America Warren G. Harding died in 1923, DiPofi participated in the memorial parade held in Haiti.
Some of the other memorable events DiPofi still talks about from his days in Haiti were his bought with Malaria and the time he met General John A. Lejeune, the 13th Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Over the years DiPofi has regaled his sons Phil, 76, and John, 69, with many stories of his Marine Corps days.
According to John, DiPofi also spent time aboard a Navy ship in the South Pacific at some point during his enlistment before being stationed at Portsmouth, N.H.
On Nov. 9, 1925, DiPofi left active service. He moved to Niagara Falls where he worked for Carborundem till he retired at age 65.
He was married in 1926.
"We had three children. One died of infantile paralysis. I've got six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren," he said with a smile.
For the past 11 years DiPofi has resided at a nursing home in Niagara Falls.
As DiPofi looked back over the span of one of the most progressive centuries in history, he recalled several social problems from his youth that still exist today. He spoke of a friend who was discharged from the Marine Corps after contracting Syphilis. A corporal once told him to steer clear of the opium that was flowing out of China.
According to DiPofi, he avoided these ills and made it to 105 by exercising moderation and discernment. "Life belongs to you, you have to do it your own way."
"I've had a good life. We came over here for a better life. We did this. We made a better life. This is America. We made this country," he said with rising enthusiasm.
"I served my country with Honor," DiPofi proudly stated. "Semper Fidelis!"