Somerton man and family give WWII vet proper burial

Emil Francesco Ragucci, who was killed in World War II, was laid to rest last week. His remains were recently identified thanks to his brother, Dominic, of Somerton.

In loving memory: On Aug. 14, a memorial service was held for Emil Francesco Ragucci at John F. Murray Funeral Home, 1220 Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown. A burial followed at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 3301 W. Cheltenham Ave. in Philadelphia. TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

A memorial service was held last week for Emil Francesco Ragucci, who was killed in World War II and whose remains were recently identified thanks to his brother, Dominic, of Somerton.

The memorial service took place on Aug. 14 at John F. Murray Funeral Home, 1220 Bethlehem Pike in Flourtown.

“This is truly a sacred moment,” said the Rev. Richard Rock, a family friend and Vincentian priest who serves as campus minister for athletics at St. John’s University.

A burial followed at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 3301 W. Cheltenham Ave. in Philadelphia, with a luncheon closing the special day at ​Scoogi’s Italian Kitchen & Bar in Flourtown.

TOM WARING / TIMES PHOTO

Emil Ragucci grew up as one of 11 children in Germantown. He was killed on Nov. 20, 1943 in the four-day Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific Theater. The U.S. lost 1,696 men, but won the battle with Japan. Emil was 19.

Nick Ragucci, brother of Dominic and Emil, was killed in the Battle of Monte Cassino in early 1944.

Dominic Ragucci still has the Western Union telegram that was delivered to the family home to announce Emil’s passing.

Rock said Nicola and Carmela Ragucci, Emil’s Italian-born parents, always wanted their son’s body returned.

The remains were placed in an American flag-draped coffin. Dominic Ragucci and his brother, Victor, joined family and friends at the service.

“This is where he belongs, with his family, buried at Holy Sepulchre,” Rock said. “He gave his life for his country that he loved very, very much.”

About six years ago, Dominic mailed a sample of his DNA to the Marine Corps. A match was discovered in November 2017.

The remains were flown from a Department of Defense lab in Hawaii and arrived at Philadelphia International Airport the day before the service. Pennsylvania State Police escorted the remains to Murray Funeral Home.

At Holy Sepulchre, Rock and the Rev. Sylvester “Sy” Peterka, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Germantown, offered prayers during a ceremony that also included a 21-gun salute and a bugler playing Taps. Two Marines folded the American flag that covered the coffin and presented it to Victor Ragucci, the oldest member of the family.

“The Marine Corps conducted itself very professionally,” Dominic Ragucci said.

Ragucci thanked Jim Kennedy, an aide to U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, for assistance during the process of identifying the remains.

The Ragucci family was pleased with how the service and burial went.

“We have closure now,” Dominic said. “Emil is identified, and we know where he is at. If we want to see him, we have somewhere to go, up to Holy Sepulchre.” ••