14 March 2008

RIP: Lazare Ponticelli

Lazare Ponticelli
7 Dec 1897 - 12 Mar 2008

The last French veteran of World War I is gone.

ZUI this article from The Times:
With the death of Louis de Cazenave in January, Lazare Ponticelli assumed the mantle of le dernier poilu. Now, less than two months later, Ponticelli too is dead, the last of the French Army veterans of the Great War of 1914-18.

He was in fact born Lazarro Ponticelli in northern Italy in 1897 in a small mountain hamlet near Bettola in Piacenza province. He was one of seven children in a desperately poor family: his father was a jobbing carpenter and cobbler, his mother tried to scratch a living from the family vegetable plot and three times a year left home to go down to the Po valley to work on the seasonal rice harvest.


When war came in August 1914 he lied about his age and joined the 1st Régiment de Marche of the French Foreign Legion, where he found himself a comrade in arms with one of his brothers.

But in 1915, with the entry of Italy into the war on the Allied side he was told he must join the Italian Army and was discharged. Refusing at first to be parted from his French uniform, he was firmly escorted by two gendarmes to Turin, where he joined a regiment of Alpinieri for service on the Austrian front.


Ponticelli held both the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille Interalliée for his services in 1914-18. More recently, like all surviving veterans of the First World war, he had been appointed a Chevalier, Légion d'honneur.

Those who read French can find more here. (Those who don't can look at the pictures.)

According to Wikipedia, M Ponticelli is the sixth WWI veteran to die this year; there are thirteen still living. Germany's last veteran died on 1 Jan 08, but the Central Powers are still represented by two men, one from Turkey and one from the Austro-Hungarian Army. From the Allied forces, there are six British (including the last known female veteran of the war), two Italian, one Australian, one Canadian, and one American.

The Gerontology Research Group's list of validated supercentenarians (people who have reached their 110th birthday) currently includes 79 people - 69 women and 10 men - ranging from Edna Parker of Indiana (born 20 Apr 1893) to Charlessa Wiggins of Illinois (born 9 Feb 1898). 24 of them live in Japan. Only one of them, Clementine Solignac (born 7 Sep 1894, and the world's fifth-oldest person), lives in France proper, though another lives in Guadeloupe, a Caribbean island which is an overseas département (state) of France.

1 comment:

Mega Munch said...

Wow, that dude lived to see THREE different centuries. Amazing.