Frank Joseph DeVita, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, neighbor, Knight (of Columbus), American Hero, died peacefully in his home Saturday, March 12, 2022. He never acted or looked his age, even at 96 years old.
Frank was born into a loving Italian family in Brooklyn, New York, May 15, 1925 – 05/15/25 – son of Daniel and Elizabeth (nee Rocca) DeVita, the third of four children with siblings Agnes, Silvio, and Daniel, with whom he was always close.
He married his lifelong sweetheart Dorothy Guardino – to say the love of his life is an understatement; married 64 years, they raised their three children in Newark, New Jersey, before residing in Bridgewater, New Jersey for the last 39 years.
Dorothy was the “cook” in the family, with Frank grilling and not being able to boil water. After Dorothy passed in July 2013, Frank discovered his own joy of cooking – milk shakes, raviolis, pasta fagioli, chicken & rice, pizza, salmon, sausage & peppers.
Frank loved the Jersey Shore, ice cream, baseball especially the New York Mets, sitting by the pool and playing Bocce, and big pasta dinners with family, friends and neighbors.
Frank worked in the fashion industry, following in his father’s and brother’s footsteps. A patternmaker by trade, he worked for McGregor Sportswear for decades and ended his career with Bidermann Industries with its licensees Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Yves Saint Laurent, and Daniel Hector.
Frank served honorably in World War II; however like others of his Greatest Generation, once home, he never spoke of the war. When Dorothy passed, Frank experienced a late life renaissance, opening up about his experience in the War, starting with an interview with NBC’s Tom Brokaw regarding the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and America’s declaration of war in 1941, Frank, like so many others, badly wanted to serve his country. Only 16 , his mother was required to sign off on his enlistment, which she declined until Frank could at least finish high school. Two years later, having enough credits to graduate, Frank along with 22 other seniors left high school early to volunteer and serve; at the age of 18, Frank joined the US Coast Guard as it was the branch that would send him out to defend his country the fastest.
Frank served as a Gunner’s Mate Third Class on the USS Samuel Chase (APA-26), a Coast Guard manned US Navy attack transport, for almost three years, in both the European Theater and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, and in the Occupation and China Service in the Far East following WWII.
During both the Normandy and Provence campaigns of the Liberation of France, Frank crewed a Higgins landing craft (LCVP) on repetitive landings, with the task of lowering the boat’s ramp. On the June 6, 1944 D-Day Invasion, his Higgins boat – a part of the first wave - made 15 trips onto Omaha beach in Normandy, France, ferrying solders to the fight and returning with wounded or dead.
After the first round-trip to the beach, Frank was offered the option to sit out the rest of the day, yet he remained steadfast and courageous, not wanting to place another Coastie through the hell he just experienced. The horror of the War stayed with him; he could never scrub his hands hard enough to remove those memories or the guilt of surviving.
Frank returned back often to Normandy with family and veteran groups, often staying near St Marie Eglise with his new friends from Denver. He would always say it was easier than the first visit.
Following the 70th anniversary of D-day, Frank became passionate about sharing his story – “so that the men in the cemetery would never be forgotten” and future generations would know the lengths to which others sacrificed for their country. He spoke at high schools both in France and the US, including Columbine in Colorado, and had the honor to address the cadets at the United States Coast Guard Academy. He was also a recipient of the French Légion d’Honneur.
His ethics and morals were rock solid, an example to all; along with his great sense of humor and infectious smile. He made friends easily, and kept them, all over the world. He was an inspiration to and respected by all – family, friends, community, church, and the military. The Tip of the Spear of the US Military all would take a knee, be it active enlisted to the highest Admiral.
Frank is survived by his daughter Elizabeth DeVita McDowell and her husband Robert, sons Frank and Richard, grandchildren: David and his wife Sandra, Jason and his wife Kara, Frank Daniel, Christine, Mary and Anthony, and great grandchildren Haley, Connor Joseph, Daniel, Isabella, and Zakary.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations made in Frank’s memory to: D-Day Leadership Academy, The DLA promotes values of character, ethics and leadership to youth by sharing with them stories of D-Day and taking them to visit historic sites in Normandy, France. The organization was very close to Frank's heart; he traveled with them multiple times, and through them was able to tell his stories with thousands of people, and connect with numerous families in the Normandy area. Frank was dear to the organization as well; DLA's headquarters in Sainte-Mère-Église where young people stay is named “Maison Frank DeVita”. The flag flown in his honor at the US capitol on his birthday is proudly displayed there, and every student who passes through MFD’s doors learns about Frank's remarkable character, bravery and kindness. The D-Day Leadership Academy is a program of Denver PAL, a 501(c)(3); donations are tax-deductible. You can make donations at https://www.ddayleadershipacademy.com/ or a charity of your choosing that represents your memories of Frank.
Visiting hours will be held Thursday, March 17, 2022, from 2-4 pm, and 7-9 pm at the Bridgewater Funeral Home, 707 Main Street, Bridgewater, New Jersey. The funeral mass will be offered 10 am, Friday, March 18, 2022, at Blessed Sacrament Church, 1890 Washington Valley Road, Martinsville, New Jersey. Burial will follow at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Flemington.
D-Day Leadership Academy
664 South Galena Street, Denver CO 80247