Joseph James Raia

Joseph James Raia, of Trumbull, CT, peacefully passed away at 98 years of age at St. Vincent's Hospital in Bridgeport, CT on Saturday, November 10th, 2012.

He was born April 22, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York, the second of nine children, 5 sisters and 3 brothers, who survived to adulthood out of the thirteen children born to Anna Guzzardo Raia and Filippo Raia.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 76 years, Carmella Raia, age 95, the second of three daughters born to Rosa Occhiogrosso DiChiaro and Pietro DiChiaro. They were married on July 5th, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York.

Joe's first job was at the National Can Company in Brooklyn, NY. In 1944 he became a machinist working as a federal employee at the Naval Clothing Depot in Brooklyn, NY.

Although his three brothers, Willie, Santo and Tommy, were drafted, he enlisted in the Navy at 30 years of age, married with two children, because he wanted to defend his country. He was assigned to amphibious forces in the Pacific Theater and Australia, serving as engineman on ships delivering invasion troops to the islands.

He survived the bombing of three successive ships in one week. In each instance, he and his fellow crewmen treaded water for hours among circling sharks until they were recovered. Injured during the bombardment of Borneo, he was awarded the Asiatic Pacific ribbon with 1 star, the Philippine Liberation ribbon, the American Theatre ribbon, and the Victory ribbon with an honorable discharge from the United States Navy in 1946.

Upon his return he joined the Naval Reserves and went to work at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn where ships were still being built. He was reactivated during the Korean War and was stationed on the USS Calvert as a Motor Machinist's Mate Third Class. He received an honorable discharge from the United States Navy in 1951. Joe was commended for outstanding service rendered in connection with the U.S.S. Constellation fire on December 19th, 1960 at the Naval Shipyard. As a Leadingman Machinist Marine service in the boiler room, he performed valuable support services in minimizing the tragedy that took 50 lives that day and caused multiple injuries and barely escaped with his own life.

After the war, Millie and Joe bought a house on Main Street in Flushing, where they added two more children, a boy and a girl, to the two children they already had. Joe became an engineering technician working for the FAA, maintaining landing and approach lights at John F. Kennedy Airport and in Brooklyn.

When Joe retired from the FAA after 41 years of government service, he and Millie moved to Trumbull, Connecticut to live with their youngest daughter applying his mechanical genius to the domestic arena to the delight of family and friends.

He is deeply mourned by their children, Ann Colaneri of Rye, NY, Philip Raia and Judy Kemp of Hallandale, FL, Dr. Peter Raia and his wife, Stavroula Raia, of Southampton, NY and Rose De Vita and her husband Gene, of Trumbull, CT. He is the cherished grandfather of John Colaneri of San Marcos, CA, Jessica Raia-Long of Tampa FL, Jane Brown of Southampton, NY, Jean Baker of Land o Lakes, FL, Joseph Raia of Southampton, NY, Nicholas De Vita of Trumbull, CT, Allegra De Vita of Trumbull, CT and Christopher Raia of Southampton, NY. He is the beloved great grandfather of Steven, Zachary, Gabriel, Tommy, Gina, John and Payton. He is also survived by his loving youngest sister Mary Guarisco of East Islip, NY, sister-in-law Harriet Raia of Mt. Sinai, NY and many nieces and nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, November 16th, at 10am at St. Jude Roman Catholic Church, 707 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe. Interment will follow at Calverton National Cemetery, Calverton, NY. Visiting hours will be held on Thursday, November 15th, 2012, from 3 to 5pm and 7 to 9pm at the Spadaccino and Leo P. Gallagher & Son Community Funeral Home, 315 Monroe Turnpike, Monroe, CT.

Online condolences may be made by visiting