South Park H.S. honors former students who made ultimate sacrifice

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A South Buffalo family will be one of more than a hundred families to accept one of the state’s highest military awards on their loved one’s behalf.

In May, South Park High School will be honoring fallen warriors for a special memorial day service.

Eleanor Petkovsky will be accepting an award for her brother, Salvatore Balestrieri.

Petkovsky still remember the moment her brother went missing in action 75 years ago.

“I remember when the telegram came to the house and a knock on the door and my mother screaming bloody murder. The fact that he never made it, I mean, it was devastating to the family,” said Petkovsky.

The telegram from 1944 is still in tact in Petkovsky’s scrapbook of memories. The telegram reads, “The Navy Department regrets to inform you that your son, Salvatore Balestrieri is missing. Please do not divulge the name of his ship, or discuss publicly the fact that he is missing.”

Balestrieri was just 24 years-old when he died.  He was a US Navy seaman, assigned to the USS Herring (SS-233). In a counter attack, the submarine was shot down by the Japanese and sunk on June 1, 1944. More than 80 men were killed.

“It was very hard, because my mother always said, I have no place to take flowers to. Her heart was broken all those years,” said Petkovsky.

Balestrieri was the oldest brother of five. He came to Buffalo straight off the boat from Italy in 1924 with his parents. Throughout the years, he learned to speak English, played the clarinet and graduated from South Park High School.

“He was the household pride, you know, he did everything, he was athletic, he was smart, he was a musician.”

Over the years, Balestrieri received several medals. He’s also the recipient of the Purple Heart.

On May 23, Balestrieri and 123 other South Park High School fallen war heroes will be awarded the New York State Conspicuous Service Medal. It is the second highest military award in the state.

“My family all over is just thrilled that still after all these years, he can be remembered that way,” said Petkovsky.

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